Brukner to the Bog
A Spring Driving & Hiking Tour Along Ohio Route 55 & Back
Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
Ohio Route 55 spans 38 miles and connects Laura in Miami County with Urbana in Champaign County. In another way, the road also connects two of Ohio’s greatest natural treasures—Brukner Nature Center and Cedar Bog Nature Preserve.
These two parks have much in common. They both have boardwalk trails and interpretive centers. They have large displays of some of the first flowering plants of the year. In the spring, there are few places in the region where you’ll find as many wildflowers. And, while the parks are wonderful to visit any time of year, both really stand out in the spring.
With this in mind, the following day trip visits both parks, as well as many other points of interest that can be found when traveling along and near Route 55. To get back home, take U.S. 36 from Urbana to Piqua and see many other attractions. This includes a stop at Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary, which is one of the most noteworthy spring wildflower displays in western Ohio. It also contains a boardwalk trail and, in the spring, the peaceful sounds of tree frogs.
Along with wildflowers and boardwalks (two of which are completely wheelchair accessible), this trip has several other themes that keep popping up. The two most prevalent are small diners and barn quilts.
Starting in Laura with Laura’s Country Diner, drivers or cyclists will pass more restaurants than there is hunger. This includes the Staunton Country Store in Troy, Holly’s Café in Casstown and Loretta’s Country Kitchen in Christiansburg, among others. Not to mention all of the dining options in Troy, Urbana and Piqua.
Barn quilts and unique barn paintings line Route 55 and U.S. 36 in Miami and Champaign counties. Many more are located near the two roads. With little foliage, the bright paintings stand out even more in the late winter and early spring.
Rounding things out, travelers will pass a beautiful waterfall, numerous historical markers, and Miami County’s “other” covered bridge. They’ll also have access to miles of hiking trails and fresh air, which sounds good after a long winter.
This trip can actually be taken two or three times and be a different experience each time. This is because the scenery and the different flowering plants will keep changing between late March and early May. Skunk cabbage and marsh marigold will flower even earlier than this.
A series of hikes between these dates shows how nature returns to life after the long, cold slumber of winter. Starting with skunk cabbage, the forest floor begins to come to life with bright flowering plants. Soon, grasses return to life, mushrooms appear, wildflowers bloom and insects and animals return to the business of life. In western Ohio, there are few places that demonstrate this process more elegantly than Brukner Nature Center and Cedar Bog Nature Preserve.
The following trip starts in Laura and ends in Piqua, with many great stops along the way.
Start the journey with breakfast at Laura’s Country Diner, served at 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday. Route 55 starts off of Ohio Route 571 in Laura and follows Ludlow Creek to Ludlow Falls. This secluded section of road contains redbud trees, which start to bloom in early April. It’s also a chance to see the creek before summer foliage blocks the view.
Ludlow Falls is an impressive waterfall. It drops about 15 feet and carves a deep, wide and beautiful gorge. Ludlow Creek flows over the waterfall on its way to the nearby Stillwater River, which is one of three major rivers in Ohio that Route 55 crosses.
A parking lot for the waterfall is located off of Route 55 in Ludlow Falls. Visitors can view the waterfall from above, or use natural steps to reach the bottom of the gorge for a closer view. Route 55 will then jog south with Ohio Route 48 before continuing east on its own.
POINT OF INTEREST - Fabric Crafts by Rosalie
On the outskirts of Ludlow Falls is Fabric Crafts by Rosalie. Located at a scenic private residence at 2810 St. Rt. 48/55, the business is a full-service quilt shop. They are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Look for a barn quilt on the property. Learn more by calling (937) 698-4066. Follow them HERE.
POINT OF INTEREST - Glacial Erratics on Rt. 55
At the intersection of Route 48 and Route 55, just south of Ludlow Falls, look for giant boulders. They are known as glacial erratics. They are chunks of granite from Canada that were picked up by glaciers and dropped on the ground when the ice melted. The group of erratics here are especially large. Brukner Nature Center has a large number of glacial erratics of all sizes.
POINT OF INTEREST - The Duthouse Springs Resort
Just after Route 55 ends its jog with Route 48, look for the Duthouse Springs Resort. It will be on your left. It’s not really a resort, just a fun barn with interesting paintings and displays on it.
Brukner Nature Center
After crossing over the Stillwater River on Route 55 (note the old train trestle to the left/north pictured above), take the first left on Greenlee Road. When this road meets Horseshoe Bend Road, take a left. The entrance to Brukner Nature Center will be on your right.
NOTE: The entrance is located just before the sharp and infamous bend in the road. Learn more HERE.
After parking and paying the entrance fee, guests can spend quite a while at Brukner. There are miles of hiking trails that explore the unique landscapes and geological features at the park. The interpretive center has an amazing bird watching vista on its second floor. As spring comes to life, so do the birds. It’s a great place to relax and watch it all unfold. As mentioned, in the early spring, the boardwalk trail at the park is lined with skunk cabbage and marsh marigold. A short time later, a series of small but colorful wildflowers appear on the forest carpet throughout the park, followed by vibrant redbud trees in April.
No trip to Brukner is complete without a visit to the log cabin and the ambassador animals that live on the property. Animals include an eagle, fox, owls, crows that love to talk to visitors, and many other native animals that can no longer live in the wild. More animals are located inside of the interpretive center.
Brukner Nature Center is a world-famous wildlife rehabilitation center that “offers help and advice when wildlife and people conflict.” They also care for, rehabilitate and release native Ohio wildlife that is expected to survive in the natural environment. The Rehab Unit accepts injured or orphaned native wildlife daily from 9 a.m. to noon. Brukner is located at 5995 Horseshoe Bend Road, Troy.
To return to Route 55 when exiting Brukner, turn left and follow Horseshoe Bend Road until it dead-ends into Route 55. Turn left. Continue into Troy.
OFF THE PATH - Hobart Urban Nature Preserve
A quick detour from Route 55 on Dorset Road in Troy leads to a lesser-known Miami County Park—Hobart Urban Nature Preserve. Although located entirely within the city limits of Troy, this 80-acre park has 2 miles of hiking trails. It is one of the most beautiful places in Miami County in the spring, especially when the redbuds begin to blossom. Also, look for a barn quilt and metal sculptures along the hiking trails. The park is located at 1400 Tyrone Road, Troy. Look for the barn quilt seen below during your hike.
Troy, Lincoln Square & Ducky's Snowballs & Ice Cream
In Troy, Route 55 becomes Market Street and passes directly through the heart of the community. On the west end of town, highlights along Route 55 include dining at the Lincoln Square restaurant (known for its huge menu) or Ducky’s Snowballs & Ice Cream. The ice cream shop opens in late spring and by chance if the weather is right. Route 55 then makes its way to the historic traffic circle in downtown Troy where plenty of shopping and dining options are available. Very close to Route 55 are the Overfield Museum, Museum of Troy History and Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, among many other points of interest.
After crossing the Great Miami River, look for a set of statues dedicated to Troy’s aviation legends (pictured below). They’re located next to the side entrance to Troy Memorial Stadium and visible from Route 55.
OFF THE PATH - Pizza and History
Just before exiting Troy, Route 55 passes through Staunton.
Staunton is older than Troy and was one of the first settlements in Miami County.
There are three unique points of interest in Staunton. The first is the Staunton Country Store. People rave about the carryout’s sauerkraut pizza and bacon ranch pizza. They also have Kraut Dogs, coneys, subs, a rib sandwich and more.
About 500 feet south of the Staunton Country Store on State Route 202 is a historical marker that marks the location of the first non-native child born in Miami County—Jacob Knoop. (Learn more HERE.)
Located just east of the store on Old Staunton Road is the Staunton Cemetery. A marker at the front of the cemetery displays that this is the resting place of numerous veterans of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.
Casstown & Holly's Cafe & Carryout
Casstown is the hometown of world-famous poet Thomas Harbaugh. A sign at the entrance of town proudly displays this fact. Casstown is also home to a great diner—Holly’s Café & Carryout, located at 112 N. Main St. and pictured here.
Stop in for breakfast, lunch and dinner five days a week 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Friday; and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Enjoy pizza, subs, biscuits and gravy, burgers, sides, appetizers and more.
Before reaching Casstown look for a painted American flag on a barn at a private residence on Route 55. (pictured below)
POINT OF INTEREST Barn Quilts
Watch for three barn quilts located along Route 55 between Casstown and Christiansburg. This includes the barn quilt at The Shepard Place (bottom picture). This wedding and event venue is one of the last properties in Miami County before entering Champaign County on Route. 55.
Christiansburg & Loretta's Kitchen
Another great small town diner is Loretta’s Kitchen in Christiansburg (pictured below, photo provided). However, prior to reaching this point, take note of the historical marker on the edge of town. The marker honors Marion Ross. He was a Union soldier and Medal of Honor recipient who was captured and executed by the enemy during the Civil War.
Another interesting stop in Christiansburg is the Christiansburg General Store. Just like its name indicates, it has a little bit of everything, including spring items.
You’ll also want to see what the Christiansburg Fire Department is up to. They host numerous public events throughout the year. This includes a fish fry, a cruise-in and other family events.
Thackery & Stevens Bakery & Orchard
The little village of Thackery is made up of only a few streets. However, it does have two interesting places to visit located nearby.
Just south of Thackery is the Stevens Bakery & Orchard. On designated weekends in the late summer and fall, the family farm offers u-pick apples and wagon rides. The bakery is open year-round for pre-ordered homemade pies. Options include apple streusel, blackberry, rhubarb, custard, pecan, cream and many others. For hours and orders, call (937) 788-2873. The address is 7344 Thackery Road. (Learn more HERE).
Back on Route 55, and not far from Thackery, is the Pencil Bison Ranch. This local farm invites the public to “stop by to see our herd, buy bison meat, or just enjoy being in the presence of America’s national mammal!” They are located at 6569 Rt. 55.
Terre Haute & On to Cedar Bog
The small town of Terre Haute features a scenic church and cemetery and the humorously named Terre Haute Mall, which offers pizza, a deli and snacks.
From here, follow Route 55 to Bair/Dallas Road and turn right. (This is just before Route 55 reaches Urbana.) Follow the road around its bend until it reaches Woodburn Road and turn left. After another wide bend in the road, the entrance to Cedar Bog will be on your left at 980 Woodburn Road.
Cedar Bog Nature Preserve
Cedar Bog Nature Preserve was the first nature preserve in Ohio purchased with state money. It’s also a National Natural Landmark and known for its great diversity of plants. Visitors can learn about the park in the Nature Center before taking a hike on the boardwalk trail. Interpretive signs along the trail explain more about this unique and beautiful environment.
Just like Brukner Nature Center, Cedar Bog contains a huge population of skunk cabbage and marsh marigold. What is truly amazing about Cedar Bog is that once the skunk cabbage starts blooming in late January or early February, the blooming of unique flowers doesn’t stop until fall. There’s always something new growing along the boardwalk trail.
Admission to the park is $5 for adults; $4 for students; and free for those 5 and under. The Nature Center is open Thursday through Saturday and some Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (937) 484-3744. The trail is open daily.
Upon exiting Cedar Bog, turn left on Woodburn Road. This will dead-end into U.S. Route 68. Turn left (north) on Route 68 and follow it to downtown Urbana.
There are many great restaurants, shops and points of interest in Urbana. Highlights include The Farmer’s Daughter restaurant (try the lime jello salad, pictured below right), Carmazzi’s Candy & General Store, the Johnny Appleseed Museum, and several antique stores and boutiques. After downtown Urbana, head west on U.S. 36 to loop back home.
Just west of Urbana on U.S. 36 is Westville. It was the hometown of major league pitcher Harvey Haddix, who once pitched 12 perfect innings in baseball, only to lose the game in the 13th inning. It’s also home to another memorable small town diner—Studebaker’s Country Restaurant, open seven days a week.
OFF THE PATH - Davey Woods & Barn Quilts
After passing through Westville, travelers on U.S. 36 can take a short detour to visit a little known nature preserve in Champaign County.
Davey Woods State Nature Preserve is located at 7661 Lonesome Rd. and can be accessed by taking Zimmerman Road (right) from U.S. 36. Then take a left on Neal Road, followed by another right on Smith Road. Finally, turn right on Lonesome Road.
The parking lot will be on your left.
The preserve is made up of a rare old growth forest that contains numerous large tulip trees, sugar maple, ash and oaks and “an excellent array of spring wildflowers.” It is located among the rolling hills that dot the region and contains several miles of hiking trails. Something to remember this summer is that Davey Woods does not have mosquitoes!
To return to U.S. 36, continue west on Lonesome Road until it dead-ends into Heck Hill Road. Turn left
and follow back to the main route.
NOTE: There are several barn quilts located along and near Zimmerman Road.
POINT OF INTEREST - A.B. Graham Memorial Center
The A.B. Graham Memorial Center is located on U.S. 36 near Lena. Lena is the birthplace of the 4-H Club founder, A.B. Graham. A sign on the edge of town indicates so. The center hosts a number of public events throughout the year, including dinners, garage sales, BINGO, sports competitions and more.
OFF THE PATH - Fletcher Covered Bridge & Unusual Gravestones
After passing by Poor Farmer’s Campground, Miami County’s “other” covered bridge can be found in Fletcher. From U.S. 36 in Fletcher, turn right on Church Street. The bridge is on the edge of town. It’s a replica bridge, but it’s still beautiful. Across the street from the bridge is a cemetery that contains some unusual headstones. This includes a chair-shaped headstone and one shaped like a log cabin, among others.
Poor Farmer's hosts a bunch of events each year (click HERE for full list), including an Antique Tractor and Flea Market on the first weekend of June.
Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary
The final stop on the tour before Piqua and Interstate 75 is Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary. This is not to be confused with Garbry Big Woods Reserve.
Although these two Miami County parks touch, they have completely different natural features. As stated before, the sanctuary is one of the best places in Ohio to see large wildflower displays. A boardwalk trail takes hikers through this unique patch of woods. In the spring, the ground is covered with trilliums and other wildflowers, as well as scarlet cup mushrooms and wildlife. Tree frogs can get so loud that they drown out any noise beyond the canopy of the woods.
To reach Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary, follow U.S. 36 past Fletcher and then turn left on Casstown-Sidney Road. Take the first left on Statler Road and follow it to the entrance of the sanctuary. Also, take note of the barn quilt located at the intersection of Casstown-Sidney and Statler Rd.
Spring is a very beautiful time to be in Piqua. The Fort Piqua Plaza is especially vibrant with pink foliage and planted flowers, as is the path along the hydraulic canal near Fountain Park. The city’s 12 miles of designated bike trails circle around the community, connecting one vivid display after another. This is a great way to see what is possibly the most colorful city in the region in the spring.