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Cabin Fever: 3 Scarlet Oak Retreats for the perfect winter getaway

Macon Overcast

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Scarlet Oak Retreats marginate some of the most beautiful scenery in Hocking Hills. A business birthed early this decade, all three cabins–La Vigne Ridge, Water’s Edge, and Meant to Bee–of this privately-owned business are within a short distance of pure forested bliss. Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and short, less populated trails can give anyone craving outdoor rejuvenation an escape, right near their lodging as well. What’s even more special: the attention to detail considered by Jason Tate and Amy Brettel Tate amongst their properties. Their passion for hospitality feels like gravity. Our conversation will help you understand why I just might be paying them a visit soon.

(614): While some of the hikes in Hocking Hills are popularly known, beauty isn’t spared anywhere in the park. What are some property features that visitors should know about?

JT: La Vigne Ridge sits in the middle of 10 private acres and is landscaped to resemble an English Garden. Water’s Edge sits in the middle of 15 acres and has a stocked pond. The front and back porch of both cabins have not only gorgeous views, but many woodland creatures (deer, turkey, butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.) that call both properties home. Meant to Bee is located in an upscale wooded area with other rental cabins. Although it sits on almost two completely wooded acres, it too has an abundance of wildlife.

(614): How does the story of Jason, Amy, and Scarlet Oak Retreats begin?

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

AT: Jason and I met while both teaching for Columbus City Schools. He taught special education and I taught (and still teach) gifted math. After a whirlwind romance, in 10 months we were married on Black Friday in 2003. We honeymooned in Hocking Hills and spent our honeymoon in a rustic cabin near Old Man’s Cave. We hiked and went horseback riding— despite the cold temperature. At some point during our honeymoon we talked and dreamed about our future. A seed had been planted… We were going to buy a cabin, rent it out, and eventually retire there.

(614): When in your life did all three coalesce to allow for you to start your business?

AT: As life would have it, we became very busy after our honeymoon. Although we always continued to talk about our dream, we put starting a family ahead of pursuing it. Due to infertility issues, we had a difficult time conceiving until 2007 when I became pregnant with twin girls. Our girls, Elizabeth and Victoria were born 24 weeks premature. Elizabeth weighed 1 pound and 11 ounces. Victoria weighed 1 pound 8 ounces and was with us for only 3 days.

The next several years were spent focusing on Elizabeth—who ended up spending 89 days in the NICU. After leaving the hospital, Elizabeth underwent multiple surgeries and therapies. Because we wanted her to have the best possible care, I took a two year leave of absence from CCS. Needless to say, money was tight. I didn’t return to work full time until the 2010-2011 school year. Although we always looked at properties and visited Hocking Hills, it wasn’t until 2013 that our dream “talks” became a “plan.”

(614): It is obvious—family comes first for you. It is ingrained in your history, inside the business and out. Even now, after being successful and established, how do you stay connected with your guests?

JT: La Vigne Ridge was not a rental cabin when we bought it in 2014. I spent what was left of my summer vacation getting it rental safe. Because we were teaching and living in Columbus, Amy worked on decorating the cabin and hiring a property manager. The night before school started in 2014, I handed over the keys to a property manager. Immediately, I regretted it. I knew I should have managed the property myself.

For two years we used more than one PM company to rent out La Vigne Ridge. With both companies we experienced calls going unanswered. We also noticed that as the management companies grew, the attention to detail and cleanliness fell off. In 2017 we decided to take on full management of La Vigne Ridge. Amy and I knew we wanted to put communication, customer service and cleanliness as top priorities. We want this to show to our guests. Now—we manage the property and answer our clients’ calls. We want to let them know that we are always going to be there for them.

For more information on Scarlet Oak Retreats, or to schedule your getaway, visit scarletoakretreats.com.

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Hunger Games: Wendy’s tabletop RPG is a fast-food fantasy feat

Mike Thomas

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Distracted by the raucous sounds of the festival beyond the garden walls, you almost don’t notice the shrouded figure emerging from behind the old statue. You and your companions turn to leave, but hesitate when the mysterious man calls out to each of you by name. When pressed, the stranger warns of a malevolent force known as “Hunger,” which is gathering its power somewhere deep in the nearby forest. He knows you and your stalwart party of adventurers will do what must be done...

If you’ve spent any time with Dungeons & Dragons or its various progeny, you can probably guess where this is going. A journey into the enchanted forest, traps, treasures, attribute checks and plenty of scribbled notes on pieces of scratch paper. But even if you’re an old hand at the tabletop stuff, odds are your campaign never included golden chicken nuggets and sentient cheeseburgers.

Dublin-based fast food chain Wendy’s has never shied away from the improbable. When nearly all of burgerdom had settled on circular patties, Wendy’s went square. Competitors hocking frozen meat? Wendy’s tackled logistical challenges to serve “fresh, never frozen” burgers. Even in the new frontier of social media, the brand was an early standout in the trend of corporate-tied accounts adopting sassy, comical voices.

The trick with innovation is that it’s hard to stay ahead of the curve. With a Twitter war raging between two Southern-style chicken sandwiches, or Colonel Sanders launching a finger lickin’ good dating app, a witty online presence can only take you so far. In the increasingly polarizing and absurd meta-conversation surrounding fast food online, how’s a brand to stay above the fray? If you’re Wendy’s, you swing for a critical hit by launching a comically overwrought, burger-themed D&D-style table-top game.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

At first blush, the rulebook for “Feast of Legends: Rise From the Deep Freeze” seems like nothing more than a marketing campaign disguised as an absurd extended joke. Upon cracking into the 91-page tome, (made available by Wendy’s as a free downloadable PDF) would-be adventurers will discover that this game actually packs some beef.

If that last pun caused you to cringe, this is probably not the game for you. The adventure depicted here takes place in “the realm of Beef’s Keep,” located in the kingdom of Freshtovia. Ruled over by the good queen Wendy, Freshtovia is locked in an eternal struggle against the wickedness of the United Clown Nations and its Jester king (a thinly-veiled allusion to Ronald McDonald).

In spite of never letting the user forget the Wendy’s angle, the Feast of Legends rulebook is every bit as thoughtful and detailed as many traditional, non-burger-based RPGs. Before tackling the main adventure, the reader can peruse around 25 pages explaining everything from gameplay mechanics to character creation and the various “orders”— think classes in D&D—that a player can elect to join. OK, so maybe the weapons sheet includes sporks and spatulas for your warrior from the esteemed “Order of the Chicken Sandwich” to wield—the fact remains that this RPG seems like it might have some real potential for fun (in addition to the fun of mocking its very existence, that is).

Eager to put this theory to the test, an enterprising group of (614) staff set out on a quest to explore the realm of Freshtovia. Our goal? To put the playability of this bizarre game to the test, and to perhaps uncover why, if for any reason, Wendy’s made the damn thing in the first place.

From the beginning, some members of the party were less than enthused at the prospect of playing a tabletop RPG, let alone one with references to Frostys and spicy nugs jammed in at every turn. By the time the group was confronted with its first puzzle—a riddle scrawled on a statue of the late Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas—all trepidation had subsided. Marketing ploy or not, the players were consumed by the game world.

Playing through an early level of mazes, the absurdity of the French Fry Forest or stumbling upon a golden baked potato was all but moot. By the time the party encountered the game’s first boss—a dreaded monster called “Hunger,” the supplied character sheets had all been personalized with care, complete with detailed portraiture of each player’s imagined warrior. The buy-in was complete. We were actually invested in an imaginary land populated by Wendy’s foodstuffs.

Without question, the minds at Wendy’s marketing department had crafted a game that could hook players and keep them hungry for more. The only nagging question that remained was, why? The intricate rulebook and campaign, complete with countless maps and professional illustrations, was surely the work of hundreds of hours of effort. Would anyone really go to such lengths for a joke with no punchline? Is Wendy’s really that desperate to target the tabletop gaming crowd?

One possible answer comes via the rulebook’s explanation of “buffs” and “debuffs,” or powerups and hindrances that will affect characters during gameplay. According to the rules, eating Wendy’s products in real life will yield various advantages to your in-game character (+1 strength for any cheeseburger item) while consuming competitor’s food produces an undesirable effect.

Whether produced to sell burgers-as-powerups to a select group of fast food and RPG-obsessed basement dwellers, or simply existing as one of the biggest viral marketing flexes of all time, Feast of Legends provides a surprisingly immersive and enjoyable play experience. Will it bring gamers to Wendy’s in droves? Probably not. But if our office’s experience with the game is any indication, it might be enough to hook unlikely RPG players on the tabletop experience—one enchanted burger at a time.

To embark on your own adventure, download the Feast of Legends rulebook at FeastOfLegends.com.

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Getaways

4 cozy cabins in Ohio that’ll make winter your favorite season

Colleen Quinn

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Yes, winter is cold, but with cold comes cozy! 

Picture this: You’ve got your fuzzy socks on, a cup of hot coco in one hand, and a good book in the other. The sound of a crackling fireplace lingers in the background as you glance out to the snow-coated country side and realize…you are in your own little snow globe paradise!

Sounds lovely doesn’t it?

Oh, and let us not forget the best part…hot tubs! There is something so satisfactory about soaking in steaming hot water as the chill of winter wonderland beauty surrounds you, am I right?

No need for winter blues when you can create your own winter oasis at one of the many cozy cabins located right here in Ohio!  

Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls

A perfect place for a relaxing cabin getaway. The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls is tucked away on 75 acres of woodland forest, conveniently surrounded on three sides by Hocking Hills State Park. Enjoy a secluded and relaxing weekend soaking in the whirlpool hot tub, snuggling up by the gas log fire, and enjoying the peaceful serenity provided by the wintery nature around you. 

Freshly-baked cookies always await your arrival here and all accommodations include a hearty breakfast, too.

Oakwood Cabins

Also located in the winter wonderland of Hocking Hills are the cozy log cabins of Oakwood. Each charming yet modern cabin is set in a secluded location, giving you the privacy required for a rejuvenating getaway. Feel the cold breeze on your face as you sink into the screened-in outdoor hot tub and relax away each day by watching old DVD’s. If adventure is calling your name, strap on some winter hiking boots to explore the nearby Ash or Old Man’s Cave!

Murphin Ridge Inn

Escape to the Amish country of southern Ohio this winter by visiting the quaint cabins at Murphin Inn. Marvel at the snow-coated views of the Appalachian foothills, spanning across 140 acres of rolling woodland and farm. Spend the day exploring the Amish-owned boutiques, antique shops, and bakeries in the neighborhoods nearby. Upon return, cozy up by the indoor or outdoor fire pits with a good book and great company. Come morning time, enjoy a bountiful country breakfast with freshly squeezed orange juice. 

Mohican Pines Cabin Rentals

Peacefully located on quiet country roads far from traffic or noise you will find the luxury cabins of Mohican Pines near Mohican State Park. The cabins are far from any town, allowing the stars to shine brighter than ever. Admire the snow covered pine forest and valley from the patio or steamy hot tub and enjoy your winter bliss. 

Grab your loved ones and make this winter extra cozy. Beware, you may find yourself so cozy that winter becomes your new favorite season!

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2 tiny Columbus Zoo babies bring big hope for endangered species

614now Staff

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The newest babies at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium may be small, but they bring big hope for one of the most endangered species on the planet.

On November 1 and 3, reptile keepers at the Zoo’s Shores region successfully hatched two rare yellow-headed temple turtles (Heosemys annandalii), the first ever hatched in an indoor zoological environment. The breakthrough is critical in efforts to boost the numbers of temple turtles, which are facing extinction, according to a release from the zoo.

Keepers note that the two hatchlings are "very active" and "very healthy." They are being cared for in behind-the-scenes habitats as they continue to grow stronger. Right now, the hatchlings are about the size of a racquetball and weigh approximately 80 grams–the same weight as a small tomato. They will grow to be up to about 2 feet long and weigh about 35 pounds.

These two turtles were the only ones to survive out of their mother's nest. Of five eggs, one turtle hatched on its own, and the care team helped another break out of its shell when it was experiencing some difficulties. Two other eggs did not contain viable hatchlings, and the fifth egg did not hatch.

“Our team is extremely proud of hatching these turtles, as well as being able to do so inside the Columbus Zoo’s Reptile House," said Becky Ellsworth, Curator of the Zoo’s Shores region. "This is a wonderful achievement as our Animal Care staff has been able to learn more information about this rare and important species, contributing significant knowledge to the zoological community working to help protect these turtles."

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