Fran’s Favorites: Storybook Trail & a recipe for the 4th


It’s the Fourth of July weekend and a great time to be outdoors, take long walks, and visit parks.

A couple of weeks ago, early on a Sunday morning Mike and I visited John Bryan State Park to check out their new “Storybook Trail.” In June, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources launched four new trails at different state parks to connect Ohio families with nature while encouraging reading. Each Storybook Trail presents a children’s book in a series of child-height panels. You walk the trail and read the book! The trails are about half a mile long, just right for a child. They really do blend outdoor exploration with reading.

ODNR partnered with us at the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library to pick the books. We really wanted to promote outdoor fun and exploration with the importance of literacy. So we picked some of the books children might be getting through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library that have to do with nature. As ODNR Director Mary Mertz says, “Kids of all ages will find fun and interactive ways to engage with these stories all while discovering more about conservation and the natural world.”

At John Bryan, the book we chose is “As An Oak Tree Grows” by G. Brian Karas. It tells events of 200 years from the perspective of a mighty oak tree. The acorn was planted in 1775, and you get a window into history from the vantage point of that oak tree, with two centuries of change in that one landscape.

We met some of our grandkids on the trail for the walk. It was a beautiful trail through the woods, with lots of birds and butterflies and trees to observe around you, and lots to talk about as you stopped to read each page. We all enjoyed it. The trail is easy to get to, just off the parking lot on the upper level of the park, and close to restrooms and a playground. It was a delightful morning!

Other trails feature different books in various state parks: “One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count With Me” at Wingfoot Lake State Park; “Honey Bees” at Alum Creek State Park; “Miss Maple’s Seeds” at Dillon State Park; and “Where Butterflies Grow” at Maumee State Park. I can’t wait to check these out when we start travelling more.

But for this weekend, I’m going to put up all my flags and bunting at the house. I have a pork shoulder roast in the freezer so I’m going to make some Root Beer Pulled Pork in my slowcooker, just in case any of the kids stop by for a picnic in the yard after our walks. We’ll enjoy nature and our nation’s independence.

Root Beer Pulled Pork

Boneless pork shoulder roast

1- 12 ounce can root beer

1- 18 ounce bottle barbeque sauce

Pour root beer over pork shoulder and roast in slow cooker. Cook on high until pork is tender and easy to shred, about 5-6 hours, depending on your slow cooker. Drain if too much liquid remains. Shred with two forks. Stir in part of barbeque sauce, and leave rest for serving. Serve with hamburger buns.

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Fran DeWine

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.

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