Monday, August 4, 2003

Good summer on bike trail

Summer's days are numbered. And this one will be remembered for much more than some streaks of nice weather.

Before fall gets any closer, the Summer Tour stopped people on the Loveland stretch of the Little Miami Scenic Trail to ask them to grade their season of fun in the sun.

Everyone gave the summer of 2003 high marks.

"A+!" exclaimed 11-year-old Tyler Hunt. The Loveland sixth-grader adjusted his helmet and wiggled in his roller blades as he recalled summer's highlights.

"Going to Kings Island," he said, "and being in this tae kwon do camp."

Seventeen other members of the camp, run under the auspices of the Smith Martial Arts Academy, surrounded him. The summer campers stood in the pause mode before taking off down the scenic path that overlooks the Little Miami River and overlaps part of the 1,287-mile Buckeye Trail.

"This summer," Hunt added, "I've just had a lot of fun."

In the summertime, fun happens. No matter what. Even with American troops in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even with chaos in Liberia and a faltering economy at home. Even with personal problems in someone's life.

"Personally, I've had some things happening in my life," said Master Smith Sr., owner of the Smith Martial Arts Academy. He's going through a divorce. But he's still giving summer "an easy B."

Here's why: "In America, things are so good - America is so powerful - compared to the rest of the world, we have had an awesome summer."

Before hoping on a tricycle built for grown-ups so he could catch up with his summer campers and their four adult chaperones, he counted America's summertime blessings. Plentiful gas. Peace on the home front. Lots to eat.

"And the weather," he noted, "has been beautiful."

Maybe the weather is responsible for the high grades.

After all, it was a perfect day to hit the trail. The temperature wasn't too hot. The humidity wasn't too high. Rays of sunshine danced in and out of the clouds. A dozen raindrops fell. Then the sky cleared. And the birds sang hallelujah in happy harmony.

Black-capped chickadees. Blue jays. Cardinals. Goldfinches. Turtle doves. All had a song to sing.

This was one of those days that inspired you to wonder why birds sing. To show off? To serenade each other and humans? Just because they can?

"I'd give this summer a B+++++," Elizabeth Murphy said above the birds' chorus. The Symmes Township artist had just walked along the trail's Clermont County section. A few more steps and she would be crossing the border between Hamilton and Warren counties.

"We've had a very unusual summer climate for Cincinnati," she added. "It's been cooler and less humid. You don't go out in the sun and feel like you're in soup.

"Things that usually are a chore to do outside are now quite pleasant. That lightens the burden of life."

Jim Baumgarten walked alongside Murphy. The retired Symmes township businessman's summer has been "different" from Murphy's.

"It's my first summer of widowhood," he explained. "I lost my wife to ovarian cancer. So, I'm trying to use the summer to boot myself up and start all over again at age 65."

He admitted the good weather has helped boost his spirits. "It's been a gorgeous summer to get outside and enjoy yourself."

And excavate Mayan ruins. Or get married.

That's what Nicole Osswald and Amelia Jamison did, respectively, this summer.

Osswald is a graduate student in the University of Cincinnati's Anthropology Department. The Reading resident is studying to be an osteologist. She digs up and studies bones from ancient cultures.

Jamison, just married July 12, is closing her Kennedy Heights home and moving, with David, her freshly minted husband, to teach math in Caldwell, Idaho.

The best friends were taking a farewell walk along their favorite trail. They were talking about teaching and getting students to learn and behave. Summer has been good to them.

"I spent most of the summer in Belize, digging in ruins that date back to 1 A.D.," said Osswald.

"I stayed here and got married," Jamison said.

"I came back to attend her wedding," Osswald added.

In their books, this summer rated an "A" And then some.

"This is one of the best summers of my life," Osswald said.

"For me," Jamison said, "it's been the very best."

For everyone on the trail, the summer of 2003 means more than a grade. It's a season they'll remember forever.

Cliff Radel, a Cincinnati native, writes about the people, places and traditions defining his hometown. Every Monday, a neighborhood's slice of summer will be served in Metro. Send suggestions to: Cliff Radel's Summer Tour, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; fax (513) 768-8340; e-mail:

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