Dayton bucket list: Rustic hike and gigantic pancake adventure

Built in 1802, the historic Clifton Mill is an operating water-powered grist mill. The restaurant inside the mill offers a wide variety of dishes. Guests can also walk around the grounds to view pieces of history and rustic charm. (Connie Post)

Add this to your autumn bucket list: a beautiful hike along the river that leads to a quaint country restaurant inside the only operating grist mill in the area.

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I’ve hiked the trails at John Bryan State Park in every season, in every month, and my favorite time of all is in September and October.

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Subtle changes are already occurring in the foliage, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources predicts peak color in our area will happen in late October.

Here are 5 things to see and do while you're there:

THE AREA’S MOST SCENIC TRAIL

Amid peak fall color, hikers walk the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Stagecoach Trail in John Bryan state Park that follows the course of the Little Miami River and is wide enough for two people. John Bryan near Yellow Springs is considered by many to be the most scenic state park in western Ohio. (JIM WITMER)

Take the main entrance into the park and go past the camp store. Stay straight and you’ll go down a long winding road to the lower parking lot. From here, hike along the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Stagecoach Trail along the course of the Little Miami River that cuts through the limestone gorge.

The park’s camp store attendant Andi Williams told me this is her very favorite trail in the park. “The whole thing is about history,” she said.

WOOLLY BEARS

(HANDOUT)

Williams also said she’s already spotted a couple woolly bear caterpillars. According to folklore, these black-and-rust-striped fuzzy Isabella tiger moth larvae forecast the coming winter -- the more black and less rust, the harsher the winter.

Be on the lookout for woolly bears and other caterpillars, but remember some species are poisonous, so leave them alone.

BADASS JUMP ACROSS THE GORGE

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, located just east of John Bryan State Park, is a great hiking destination. (DaytonWanderingdotcom.files.wordpress.com)

Then continue on the trail. About 75 minutes from the time you started, you’ll come to an historic marker. This is where in 1778 Cornelius Darnell, one of the men in Daniel Boone’s party, daringly jumped across the gorge to escape the Shawnee who were intent on torturing him to death if they captured him. In a few minutes, you’ll reach the Clifton Gorge parking lot. Follow the road a couple blocks for one of the best country-style meals in the area.

HISTORIC GRIST MILL

Built in 1802, the historic Clifton Mill is an operating water-powered grist mill. It provided cornmeal to federal soldiers during the War of 1812. (Connie Post)

Clifton Mill was built in 1802. The water-powered grist mill provided cornmeal for federal troops during the War of 1812. Stroll around the grounds and check out the covered wooden bridge, wishing well and 1940s Gas Station Museum. During December, people come from all over the region to see Clifton Mill's stunning holiday lights.

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RIDICULOUSLY HUGE PANCAKES

Ever had a cornmeal pancake? Here's one at Clifton Mill. All the pancakes are plate-size. (Connie Post)

Sit in the restaurant and enjoy looking out the window at the waterwheel. The menu is extensive. After a brisk hike, consider the Country Eggs & Cake – two eggs, with one gigantic buckwheat, buttermilk or cornmeal pancake and your choice of pecan-smoked bacon or sausage for $8.49. The pancake is as big as the plate – no joke! I highly recommend the pancake experience. Another of my personal favorites is Clifton Mill’s “Eggs Benedict,” which two poached eggs and old-fashioned ham on a toasted biscuit with Hollandaise sauce for $8.25.Now, it’s time to go back the way you came.

Want to go?

WHAT: Clifton Mill restaurant

WHERE: 75 Water St., Clifton

HOURS: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday; 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday

INFO: 937-767-5501 or http://www.cliftonmill.com/restaurant.htm

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