Sarver's Todd Nature Reserve offers a good hike for any season
The trails at Todd Nature Reserve in Sarver are said to be lush in the spring, with wake-robin trillium blooming on hillsides and the sounds of abundant and varied species of birds filling the air.
But spring had yet to truly arrive in Western Pennsylvania as of Wednesday, and with temperatures in the 30s there were more snowflakes than blooms. Icicles lined the banks along Watson's Run and encased the tips of branches that dipped low to the creek.
The only sounds along the two-mile loop trail were from the occasional startled squirrel darting away through dry leaves and the tops of bare trees creaking against each another in the wind.
The trillium and songbirds, it seems, may still be a few weeks away.
But even as a winter hike, Todd Nature Reserve is a nice tucked-away spot for a quiet hour or two.
The first reserve of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, the 176-acre area contains seven trails totaling five miles. The longest is the loop trail, which incorporates parts of several other trails, and the remaining six range in distance from .15 miles to .8 miles.
According to the Audubon Society's web site, its history dates to 1942 when W.E. Clyde Todd, the curator of birds at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, donated a parcel of land to the society.
In the 1880s, Todd studied birds on the land while visiting his grandparents at a nearby farmhouse still visible from the pond located within the sanctuary boundaries.
It is part of Pennsylvania Audubon's Buffalo Valley Important Bird Area program, which recognizes sites that provide critical habitat for one or more species of birds, as well as the Buffalo Creek Watershed Conservation Plan.
A long-distance hiker looking for a challenge won't get much from the loop trail; in addition to being only two miles, the hiking is easy for individuals who are fit and shouldn't take more than an hour.
But the trails are pleasantly rustic and along the way hikers will follow along and rock hop across streams, move through sections of hemlock forest, oak-hickory forest and meadows, in between giant moss-covered rocks and past a pond.
The trails are well-blazed and a map is available at www.aswp.org/locations/todd/trialGuide.html.
To get to Todd Nature Reserve from Butler County, take Route 228 east to Route 356, turn left onto Route 356 north and travel 0.2 miles to Sarver Road.
At the light, turn right onto Sarver Road and travel 3.5 miles to Kepple Road. Turn right on Kepple and travel 1.2 miles to the parking lot on the left. There is no sign to mark the entrance; look for the yellow gate.