John Muir once wrote, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” That’s how I’ve been feeling about our walks together lately. Since starting this endeavor, I really look forward to being in the woods every week. I find solace in the simple activity of putting one foot in front of the other. I enjoy being amongst the wildlife and others who enjoy being outside as well. It’s a weird sort of community. It’s rare to be in the wilderness and run across someone disgruntled and unwilling to share a smile and a “good morning.”
We went to Rocky River Reservation, a park we’ve already visited in the past, but decided to hit a new section that I had never been to: The Forth Hill Loop Trail. With the break in winter we have had this weekend, it had people out in droves. There wasn’t parking to found, dozens of cars filled the lots, people of all sorts were out enjoying the anomaly of almost 60-degree weather and sunshine in the middle of January. Tara had warned me before going to this particular section that we’d be walking up stairs (pictured below). She forgot to leave out that it would be hundreds of feet in elevation change and there was no Rocky theme song playing to help motivate you as you ascended them.
After huffing and puffing like a chain-smoker for 5 minutes and clasping onto the railing as if I were going to fall off the face of the Earth, I was able to take in a spectacular view. The river was raging due to the snow thaw and rain we’ve received in the past several days. After gathering my dignity and the feeling back in my legs, we struck out on one of the muddiest paths I’ve been on in quite some time. It reminded me of the Tough Mudder I did with a few friends a few years back. It was the kind of muck that you’d want to tape your shoes on to your legs so you wouldn’t lose them. Since I was wearing my new blue running shoes that Tara got me for Christmas, I tried to be mindful and pick my way through the soggy trail.
As we walked, we found a weird mound. Tara said to me, “Oh, that looks fun!” I’m not sure she had even finished the sentence before I took off down the steep hillside to scale the secondary mound. It’s one thing I’ve noticed about us… our hiking styles are very reflective of our personalities. She’s a bit more mindful and planned, I’m a little like a bull in a china shop.
As we continued on, we came across a large herd of deer. Five or six does grazing their way down the hillside, seemingly oblivious to the human population around them. We stopped for a while, snapped a few pictures and finished the loop.
The path was pretty consistently muddy, but the terrain was ever changing. We went through swampy areas, densely wooded areas, saw some open meadows, and landed back in the asphalt jungle that grants access to the small piece of nature.
All in all, we did around 2.5 or 3 miles, and it was worth every step.
Overall ratings for the Rocky River Reservation: 4 out of 5: I really enjoyed this section of Rocky River. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, and the only downside about this trail loop, other than a sweet, sweet burn in your legs and ass muscles is the lack of trail markings.
Accessibility: 4 out of 5 – You can get to this park via I-80 or I-480, super easy to find!
Terrain: 4.5 out of 5 – those damn stairs got me good. Muddy trails, plenty of elevation changes, and the little twists and turns made this a very fun and challenging hike.
Cleanliness: 4 out of 5 – For all the people out, I thought it would have been worse, but the trail was very well kept.
Trail designation: 1 out of 5 – There were very little markings on this particular section. At points Tara and I were left guessing as to whether we were going the right way. I don’t mind getting a little lost from time to time, but if you’re in a time crunch – be aware that you might not find your way out in a timely manner. The trails were very well beaten, but the number of offshoots could keep you out there for hours.
Bathroom availability: 4 out of 5 – Smack dab in the middle of the park, at the beginning of the trail, there was a Nature Reserve center.