This week's guest blogger Heidi Shoemaker, naturalist at Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve, tells us about all of the "treats" in store at this year's Halloween Hikes, October 14 and 15. Register for this family-friendly event at (317) 595-3150.

The fall is a great time to be outdoors. The weather is cool and crisp, the leaves are changing colors and you aren't pestered by mosquitoes. These seasonal changes bring increased hiking at Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve and get people thinking about their annual traditions. Looking at busy calendars, they schedule a time to go to the pumpkin patch, they visit a local apple orchard, they plan a hayride and they make plans to attend the Halloween Hikes. For 6 years, these hikes have been an annual tradition at Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve in Fishers. If you have never attended the Halloween Hikes, you will be in for a treat. The smell of the campfire will welcome you as soon as you step out of your car and your tummy will start to rumble at the thought of eating those ooey, gooey, freshly toasted marshmallows. After checking in, you will follow the sound of laughter, music, and excitement down a luminary lined trail to the shelter. If you have arrived early enough, you will have time to grab some warm apple cider and enjoy the campfire and the kids will have time to make a few crafts. If they aren't the crafty kind, let them enjoy dancing to the music and eating a few snacks. If you arrive just in time for the hike, you will have time afterwards to take part in the festivities. So what happens along the trail? Visitors will be guided along a wooded trail where they will encounter characters along the way. These characters - including the animal ones - will talk! When signing up for the Halloween Hikes, you may choose to hike in daylight to get a better look at the costumes or you may choose to hike in darkness and let the jack-o-lanterns light your path. This makes the event family friendly and customizable to what best suits your family's needs. What if you have been in the past? Do you think you have seen it all? No way! The Halloween Hikes change every year. Themes in the past have included Aesop's Fables, how animals prepare for winter, and a not so scary animal theme with a farming twist. This year, we are playing off of A Christmas Carol where you will meet animals of the past, present, and future of Indiana and Ritchey Woods. You will get to meet some friendly ghosts as well, just like Marley. The theme isn't the only change. Even though the characters are always provided by the students of the Lawrence Central Players drama class, the students in the class vary from year to year. Some students graduate and some students join the class for the first time. The crafts are always changing as well. Kids will get to decorate their own canvas trick or treat bag, design a bookmark, and build some silly pumpkin faces. We have one returning craft from 2007 this year. Kids will get to make their own putty. Depending on the color they choose, it could become white ghost putty, orange pumpkin putty, green witch putty, or a variety of other colors and creative names. So now you are wondering, when are the hikes and how can I join? Well, these hikes are not drop in programs. You must pre-register with the Fishers Parks and Recreation Department and be assigned a hike time before you can attend. The fee is $6 per Fishers resident and $9 per non-resident. Children 2 and under are free of charge. Visit or call (317) 595-3150 for more information. All the fun takes place on Friday, October 14 from 7-10 p.m. or on Saturday, October 15 from 6-9 p.m, and you don't want to miss it!