The signage on the hiking trail was hard to resist – “Sassafras Hollow.”
The trail led to the deep ravine manned by Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department staff as part of Feather Fest, a Saturday set aside to enjoy the 110-acre Lindenwood Nature Preserve saved from destruction in the 1980s, said Chuck Reddinger, deputy director of recreation.
The feathers had to do with the free family-friendly birding festival created in 2018 with experts ready to point out many of the 70 bird species found at the preserve.
Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab brought owls with their wide, feathered wingspans to educate the more than 200 people who had already come to hike the trails on a sunny fall afternoon.
Stacie Orellana, who is “almost 7,” was equipped for almost any experience in the woods with her new field kit she got from her grandmother, Tamara Nightingale.
Stacie has visited the preserve with Nightingale and Nightingale’s best friend, Carleen Wood, since she was 3 and had a desire to hunt for dinosaurs, Nightingale said.
At the preserve’s pond along the Trail of Reflection, Stacie said she saw a toad swimming and made the motions of the breaststroke to show Nightingale and Wood. Stacie was sure the other toad she saw is a girl.
“How did you know it?” her grandmother asked, amused.
The knowledge came somewhere in Stacie’s kit with binoculars, a birding book, a magnifying glass, zip-close sample bags and a notebook and pen.
“We come here all the time,” said Wood, wearing a hiking hat with flowers on it.
Wood noted there are three of the seven free fall hikes to look forward to this year. The hikes are from 1-2 p.m. with fall colors hikes Oct. 9 and Nov. 13 and a hibernation hike Nov. 6.
Rick and Arlene Haynie usually find themselves enjoying the Pufferbelly Trail near their home, but they thought it might be nice to check out the preserve Arlene remembered visiting with the Girl Scouts.
What impressed them was the mature forest growth compared to other natural areas in the county.
“I just like the area,” Rick Haynie said. “It’s such an old forest. It’s a fantastic thing to have in the city.”
Reddinger said a lot of people aren’t aware that the preserve is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
“It’s a hidden gem,” Reddinger said. “Many people don’t really know it’s here, a protected natural habitat area flourishing so close to downtown.”