One of the things that happens when you live across the country from your family is the necessary combination of vacation and family visits. I was born and raised in NE Ohio, and roughly every two years, I travel back there with or without TBG. (This trip was a “with.”) Unfortunately, we did not have enough time for it to be a cross-country RV excursion, so Essie stayed home.
When you think of great hiking, NE Ohio probably doesn’t top your list of destinations, but there are decent places to get your feet moving, and in the years since I left, the county parks and trails have been majorly improved near where The Folks still reside.
With the family a bit more spread out across the state, we had to visit in waves, with my niece and nephew making the drive north from their homes to connect with us at The Folks’. They were amenable to going on a hike with us, so we got the party started on our first full day there with a visit to Headwaters Park
TBGuide overcomes jet lag.
This is a place we visited as kids, but more for the swimming beach than hiking.
TBG and The Kidz
Look what happened since I left in 1992.
Maple Highlands Trail
They made the Maple Highlands Trail, a 20-mile paved trail. My dad met us there, and rode his recumbent bike along it while the rest of us endeavored to find the more rustic pathways.
Consulting the map.
The map was a bit confusing, meaning small and hard to read, but we were not to be deterred.
Biking, horseback riding, xc skiing, hiking, and…what?!
This is Amish country, and having grown up here, it is perfectly routine to encounter the horse-drawn buggies on the roads, but seeing a buggy sign on the trail marker was new to me.
Non-motorized use authorized!
Ohio had a long snow season, and the white stuff had really only been gone for about two weeks prior to our arrival. But then look what happened:
Spring was quickly making up for lost time.
TBGuide and The Kidz find the Pike Point Trail.
East Branch Reservoir
Ironically, the weather back home was said to be spectacular. Natch.
There are two different access points to the park, and after exploring a bit at the southern section, we piled back into the car and drove up to the northern entrance about two miles away.
The Kidz were excited to find the Eagle Trail.
The day was warming up nicely by then, and the sun was peeking through when we started our walk from the north.
Now that’s more like it!
Cool trail structure.
All in all, we completed about five miles that were filled with great talks and fun. We were so grateful that The Kidz could make the time to meet us and spend it out in nature together.
The next few days were spent around my hometown, with The Folks, and at my BFFF’s house not far out of town. She made her beautifully-appointed basement-level living quarters available to us for the bargain rate of FREE. This not only allowed us quiet early mornings and late evenings (time-change hardships, doncha know) but made room at The Folks’ for other alternating visiting family to crash.
One of the evenings, we went out to dinner with my BFFF and her fella in Chagrin Falls. Look what happened there:
Us, a few months after we were married in 1998 and now, nearly 20 years later. That high bridge seems to be gone, as does our youth.
We went with my mom to another of the Geauga Parks, called The West Woods. It was not our first time to this park, but look what happened since the last time we were there:
My momma’s mural!
We needed to see my mom’s most recent mural completed last year for the Parks Department. Pictures don’t do it justice, but it is very nice, and is loved especially by all the kids who come to visit this (most?) popular park.
We also enjoyed the large viewing window where we could watch for the colorful types of birds we don’t have at home. Well, we have flickers, and the goldfinch is the WA state bird, but I miss the blue jays and cardinals. The other pictured here is a rose-breasted grosbeak.
Main Street, Burton OH
As is our wont, we walked parts of town nearly every day. Look what happened to the fire hydrants:
They painted them pink. They should’ve gone the whole nine years, and painted the parts that look like boobs like boobs. Anysuch, even though I brought along a few of my own Festones to hide, I never remember to look for others. As usual, TBG spotted this one, and it came back with us to continue its journey.
By mid-week, the weather had definitely brightened, and we headed out just the two of us to yet another Geauga Park, Swine Creek Reservation.
Will there be pigs?
We saw neither swine nor the actual namesake creek, which doesn’t run through the largest part of the park.
The “meadow” part should have been our first clue that this was a trail through the grass, but what we didn’t know was that it was very boggy grass, and our feet were soon soaked.
Unlike our feet, these thistles were dry.
The paved Maple Highlands Trail also runs through this park, and our feet dried out a bit as we walked along it to get to the next pathway connection.
Gray Fox Trail
This trail transitions from the meadow to the woodlands.
I finally remembered to place a Festone.
From this trail, we accessed all the other more woodsy trails. Look what I did:
Does my head make these burls look big?
Or do I look like Princess Leia?
A sprinkling of sunshine.
Not Swine Creek
Bridge over Not Swine Creek
I was mere minutes away from posting these pictures and asking if any of you, my dear readers, could identify this plant. I was searching the Interwebs every way I could, with phrases like “yellow and brown asparagus-looking rhizome” with (no kidding) no luck. Then, as I was consulting the little map of the park’s trails, I saw that one was called the Squaw Root Trail, and light bulbs went off all over the place. This yellow and brown asparagus is squawroot. Then I Googled that, and now I know more about squawroot than I ever dreamed I would. You should Google it, too, but after you’re done reading this post so you don’t get sidetracked like I did. Seriously, you really should. It’s pretty interesting.
Red trillium a.k.a Stinking Benjamin a.k.a. Wet dog trillium
Do you think it’s named for a wet dog called Benjamin? Do you think wet dogs stink? I don’t, but, coincidentally, my dad always used to call out, “Wet dog! Wet dog!” if our dog breached the threshold while wet, and we did at one time have a dog named Benji. Curiouser and curiouser.
Lodge Lake Bridge
Squaw Root Trail rings Lodge Lake and, incidentally, is not the trail on which we saw squawroot.
We opted to walk the paved road back to the parking lot because the wooded trail from here to there looked to be pretty muddy. There is a southern section of the park that has a separate access and through which Swine Creek proper flows, but we’d done about four miles, and decided to forgo it.
The following day was split between time with my BFFF and incoming family (Brotherman and Sissy.) We started with a return trip to The West Woods to show BFFF the mural and have a proper walkabout.
Obediently following directions.
But our peace was a bit disrupted because look what happened:
Don’t tread on me.
This ∼5’ black rat snake was actually to the side of the main trail, peacefully sunning itself. TBG was all atingle, as this was the largest snake he’d ever encountered in the wild. They are big, but non venomous and generally non aggressive.
There are lots of cool geologic features in this park. We walked along enjoying the beautiful sunny day, then something else like what happened at Chagrin Falls happened again. Look:
There we are sixteen years ago and now. I like now better, whaddaya make of that?
Then something else happened like at the beginning of the hike. TBG spotted another black snake. Look at us looking:
BFFF just before she ran away.
TBG noticed a weird-looking growth on this snake and declared it had a “tumor or something.”
“It’s not a tuma!”
Upon further investigation by me, I determined it was smack-dab in the middle of shedding its skin, which it completed while we watched it slither slowly through the weeds.
The still-damp shed.
Part of the skin was still rolled up, but it looks like it was another 5-6 footer. Of course, I have been looking up snake skin info, and have just learned that the ecdysis of a snake’s skin was seen as a symbol of healing, and that is why a snake is on the Rod of Asclepius, the medical symbol. It is only fitting that BFFF and I, both in the medical field, would witness this occurrence together. We also saw a big snapping turtle in the creek, so make of that what you will.
Around lunchtime, Brotherman and Sissy arrived in Burton, and the rest of the day was spent in boisterous reunioning.
The plan for our last full day in Ohio was for us all to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park where we would board the train so that those of us who couldn’t walk long distances could tour the park and the visitor centers, and those of us who were able could have a hike or two. The plan didn’t go as well as any of us had envisioned, but I will only highlight what did work, and let those of you who have experienced families, vacations, and family vacations fill in the blanks.
Look at the good parts that happened:
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. We caught the train on time!
The Folks enjoyed the view!
Brotherman and TBG find our hike!
It was a perfect weather day!
The sneaky guides find the trail!
Yes, you can drive most of the way to Blue Hen Falls for free. Shut up.
Blue Hen Falls!
This chapter ends with a terrible traveling experience on the return home, and I’d rather not relive it in the telling, if it’s all the same to you. Let’s once again admire the Ohio state bird and say so long for now:
“So long for now!”