Hers – Garfield Park Reservation

In the complete opposite fashion of last week’s entry, I’m going to start this blog by stating some facts. It’s January. We’re in Northeast Ohio. It’s cold. Like really cold. But windchill be damned, we were going hiking today…and hike we did.

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We chose Garfield Park Reservation. It’s part of the Cleveland Metroparks system and home to the largest waterfall in Cuyahoga County – Mill Creek Falls. We had never visited before and chose it because of it’s proximity to us (just about 25 minutes away).

Before we headed out for our hike, we put on some layers. And by “some” I mean lots and lots of layers. My breakdown included three pairs of socks, two pairs of leggings, a tank top, two long sleeve shirts, a hoodie, an insulated windbreaker, two pairs of gloves, two hats and a scarf. I was ready for the artic tundra that is Cleveland.

We made the drive (not in silence this time, but rather jamming out to some throwback Neyo and Usher) toward downtown Cleveland. Because here’s the thing about Garfield Park – it’s fairly close to downtown. And how do I put this nicely? I love Cleveland and am so damn proud of everything this city has accomplished in the past few years. But there’s still work to do, and this park is located in an area where there is plenty of work to be done.

That said, we pulled into a parking lot after driving through the park a bit, and I got a little nervous about a blue car parked in the back corner, engine running and driver just sitting there with no other cars around. So we drove back down to the main entrance and parked by the welcome center/ranger station.

Say what you will about the part of town this park is in and a few of the park visitors, this area is really pretty. Directly across the road from the center is a gorgeous stone bridge (circa the 1930s New Deal Era park projects) overlooking some minor waterfalls and draped overhead with fallen trees layered with fresh snow. It was beautiful…and cold, so we got moving.

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There are two trails choices – a paved, multi-use trail or a non-paved scenic one. Guess which we chose? My boots were made for going off road, so we ditched the concrete. The path was in really good shape and follows along the stream for a bit. Along the way there were two steep stone staircases that led up a hill to connect to the multi-use trail. We skipped the steps and continued along the path until we came to a bridge that let us cross the stream and climb up the hill on the opposite side. Atop the hill was a recreation area with some picnic tables and basketball courts. It also was the edge of the park, which then led into a residential area. We looped around went back down the other side of the hill.

When we got back to where we started, we decided it’d be best for our frozen extremities to drive to the waterfall (about 3 miles down the multi-use trail). What should’ve been a four-minute drive to the falls turned into a tour around the hood, and while I was ready to call it a day, Casey was determined to find the waterfall. If you never knew to look for it, you’d definitely miss it. It’s down a side road that angles into a random parking lot and the directional signage to get there isn’t the best. We got out of the car – laughing at ourselves and our random adventures – and headed down to the falls. It was mostly frozen (shocker!), but really scenic. There’s a set of stairs that takes you down about two flights, and that’s the closest you can get to the falls.

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We stood long enough to snap a couple photos and watch a critter catch a fish and take it back to his home. Then it was time to head home and thaw out.

I think the aspect that stuck out the most to me today was just how much wildlife we saw in the middle of the city. We were greeted at the park by four deer. We walked the path following in the tracks of some rabbits, and then watched a woodpecker overhead find his spot. At the falls, we saw the little critter (we’re still trying to figure out what he was (otter, lynx, muskrat?) scurry up the rocks. It was proof of the power of nature. We as humans can construct buildings and build roads, but nature is always present. And thank goodness for that because it sure is pretty. And I think one of the best things about the outdoors is that it doesn’t matter what part of town you live in or where you’re from, it’s always there, ready for you to appreciate it.

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