Hers – Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Another weekend, another waterfall! We decided to head to Brandywine Falls for yesterday’s hike. It’s near a ski resort and part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Part of the National Park Service, CVNP is the only national park in Ohio. It essentially stretches from Cleveland to Akron covering nearly 33,000 acres.

Casey and I have explored much of the southern part of the park last summer. Brandywine Falls sits at the northern edge of the park, so I was excited to explore a new area with him. When we got out of the car, Casey seemed a little confused that Brandywine Falls actually meant there was a waterfall. I wasn’t quite sure what else he was expecting, but I assured him there was indeed a massive waterfall.

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We walked along an ice-covered boardwalk down to a viewing area. A lower viewing deck was closed due to the weather, but we still got a really good look. We made our way back to the main parking area, checked out a trail map and decided to head out on the Stanford Trail – a 1.7-mile trail that leads to the Towpath. (For those of you not from Northeast Ohio, the towpath is a multi-use trail that runs for 85 miles along the Ohio Erie Canal.)

Within a few yards of starting on the trail, we encountered the highlight of the entire hike. I mean, sure the waterfall was beautiful and nature is great, but does any of that compare to a pudgy pygmy goat?! Of course not.

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Henry (I have no idea if that’s his name, but it felt right) was enjoying a little snack in his pen at the Brandywine Falls Inn, and it was love at first sight. Casey was able to coax him over, and I got in a quick pet before he realized we didn’t have any food and walked away. But I wasn’t mad. He was the greatest little goat you ever did see, and I was a happy camper.

I should’ve known my euphoria wouldn’t last. The trail took us into some dense woods and down into a valley. The sun disappeared and my ankles became unpleasantly cold (short yoga pants mixed with ankle socks was not a good decision on my part). And then came the mud. At first it was fun to muck through it. Then it became a bit of a chore to try to walk around it. And finally it became a total pain in the ass. It stuck to the bottom of my shoes causing me to lose any bit of traction. Mind you, this was while we were climbing back up the valley and then back down and up again (as we turned around on the trail to head back the way we came). This was not a flat trail in which I wouldn’t have minded a little mud. This was a pretty hilly course, and I could use any traction and lack of exertion I could get.

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So, I did what I typically do when I get frustrated. I sped up. I booked it up the last hill and got to the top with my hamstrings on fire, my lungs burning and Casey panting along beside me. I was rewarded with a concrete trail and snow that let me (kind of) wipe off my shoes. It was a reminder that this is about the time when the things that I used to find endearing about winter start to become a nuisance. February may the the shortest month for most, but for those of us in the Midwest, it’s the longest. Snowfall that once seemed peaceful and quiet is now an unwelcome disruption. Hibernation that once came from shorter days is now adding up to extra pounds. And hiking in the cold that once seemed feasible now seems more like a chore.

But then I try to remember that spring will be here soon, and these hikes give me a sense of accomplishment and an opportunity to explore new areas and see all kinds of things…like goats.

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