Hers – Furnace Run MetroPark

 

After spending the day indoors staring at the sunshine and blue skies, I was really ready to get to meet Casey for our walk. We put off going out over the weekend since we had errands and Easter. We decide to meet on Tuesday after work at Furnace Run MetroPark just about 10 minutes from where we live.

As I drove out to the park, and was reminded of when Casey and I first started dating. This is exactly how we would meet up those first few months. We’d find a park halfway between he and I, and would go for a walk in the evenings after work. It made me almost giddy to see him like I always used to feel driving down to meet up.

I also really loved the drive out to this park. It was warm enough to roll the windows down, and I got to take some rural backroads as I admired the houses and green grass. Maybe it’s just because we’ve been entrenched in gray for the past few months, but everything looks so green. Like greener than green. It’s like glowing!

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We met in the parking lot, checked out the trail map and decided to do the two loops around the park, which would total just about 2.5 miles. I loved pretty much every inch of the trails. Everywhere we looked I wanted to take a photo. There were some small creeks, a lake, a meadow, woods, fallen trees and it was all bathed in perfect sunset light.

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Aside from one steep hill, the trails were relatively easy so Casey and I mostly just moseyed along hand in hand – stopping a bit to take silly boomerang videos or to get up close to the wildflowers starting to bloom. It was just a lovely evening walk. (Random side note: Does anyone else always pronounce the word “lovely” in their head with a British accent or is it just me?)

It wasn’t the most vigorous hike, but I think this may become one of my standard parks to visit. It’s close enough and easy enough to head to after work to get some time with nature after spending most the day in an office. I’m looking forward to plenty of summer evenings here.

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Hers – West Creek Reservation

 

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This past week’s hike was a bit different in that we didn’t get out first thing in the morning. I picked up a shift at my second job for a few hours, so we set off around 4 p.m. It was sunny and in the low 60s – weather that automatically puts me in a fantastic mood. We decided to check out West Creek Reservation because it was only 15 minutes from where we live and we had dinner that needed cooked!

With that said, 15 minutes from where we lives tends to be … how do I put this nicely? … a mecca of hillbillies, cheap motels and discount furniture warehouses. So, I was pleasantly surprised when we pulled into West Creek. There’s a pretty large shelter, a watershed stewardship center with wonderful restrooms and a fairly expansive trail system.

Casey and I decided to take the paved trail to a dirt path that would loop us back to the paved trail system. Judging from our previous trail plans gone awry, I had my doubts about this. We started out on the concrete trail, and like always in the first few spring days in Northeast Ohio, everyone and their brother was out. But it’s ok because they all had their dogs with them, so Casey was in his glory.

There was a ton going on on the trail – dogs, telephone towers, lakes that almost look like you can walk across them on planks – so Casey was distracted and pulling me all over the place. It’s ok, I didn’t mind following wherever his curiosity led him…except I put my foot down when he was going to attempt to walk across the pond on the wooden planks. (In my defense, they weren’t connected to the banks of the pond but rather about three feet away, so that you’d have to jump to make it.)

 

We finally got off the paved trail and into the woods. It was a little muddy, but not enough to be annoying. It surprised me a little that once we got off the crowded main trail, there was hardly anyone venturing into the woods. (There’s probably some kind of metaphor here about following the crowd and being afraid to go off on your own and take the road less traveled, but I’m not feeling super philosophical today, so I’m just going to acknowledge it and move on.) There are neighborhoods and roads close by the trail, and you could occasionally here some traffic noise, but for the most part everything and everyone disappear. And that’s one of my favorite parts of taking these walks – no matter if we go near or far, we can always find a little slice of nature where things disappear. It’s nice not to have to hear traffic, see a flood of billboards, and smell the fumes of a city. We get to replace that with birds singing, trees towering and fresh air.

IMG_20170402_164313434It’s this simplicity that has me addicted to these walks. Over the past two years, I’ve been making a huge effort to simplify nearly all aspects of my life (possessions, hobbies, ethics, etc.), and this is really serving as my weekly reminder to keep after that process. Because it takes time and a very dedicated mindset to live simply. I’m glad these walks have turned into motivation to keep following my goal, which is taking a path that not everyone takes or understands, but I’m ok going on a the road less traveled. (Ok, maybe I did get a bit into that metaphor!)

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Hers – Columbia Reservation

 

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Another week, another cold hike. That’s what it was feeling like last Sunday when I woke up. I know, I know. I’ve been complaining about the weather a lot. But it’s nearly the end of March, and I’m completely desperate for spring. It doesn’t even have to be warm, I’ll just take a glimpse of sunshine at this point. We had a pretty big snow storm earlier this past week, and it seems like every day since has been gray and gloomy and cold. Sunday was no exception.

My energy level was way down, and as soon as we got into the car to head out to the park, I couldn’t wait to get back home in sweats to just lay on the couch. We drove 25 minutes west to Columbia Station, Ohio. The drive out helped lift my mood a little as we got out of the city and into some more rural surroundings.

Once we got to the reservation and out of the car, I realized I didn’t dress nearly warm enough. Definitely should’ve doubled up on the pants and socks. It was going to be a chillier walk than I anticipated, and I let Casey know that it was probably going to be a fairly quick one.

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We set off on a paved path and into the soggy gray mist. Columbia Reservation is a wetland reservation, so the path weaves around several ponds and marshes and into dense woods. It was a gray, misty morning complete with fog that hung low. A co-worker of mine calls it “history weather.” It’s the kind of weather you imagine during Civil War battles early in the morning.

But as we kept walking, the “history weather” turned straight up creepy. There wasn’t a soul in sight. The fog made it difficult to see through the trees and the ponds were completely still. The trees themselves were barren and blackened with boney, crooked branches. The only sound was that of crows cawing overhead. It was eerie. This was Edgar Allen Poe weather!

Casey and I both commented on the creepiness of it all. We were walking hand in hand when he abruptly stopped and stared at the ground. He went to reach for his phone when I finally saw what he was staring at. A dead mouse. Smack dab in the middle of the trail. It didn’t look like anything had gotten to it. It was just straight up frozen. I took off in a hurry, while Casey was still trying to dig out his phone. I knew he was going to take a picture, and I literally scolded him to do nothing of the sort. I told him that’s where I draw the line with this blog. (You’re welcome.)

We kept walking, and our imaginations started to run wild. Casey went down the route of vagabonds and sasquatches. I went straight to ax murderers that dump dead bodies in the pond. We made a few jokes about it, but I think it creeped us both out a little bit so we picked up the pace (I was also REALLY cold).

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It was an easy trail loop around the main pond and back to the car (thanks to Casey’s keen sense of direction or else I would’ve been going in circles through the forest). While I’m glad we got out for this hike, I have to say my favorite part was driving out to a new area and seeing a new town, not so much the park itself. I’m really hoping this was our final sendoff to the winter season. I promise guys, once it starts getting sunny and warmer you won’t have to read about me complaining about the weather…until it gets too hot. Kidding! 😀

Hers – Big Creek Reservation

Well, we knew not every hike would be a fantastic one, but I didn’t quite expect our walk on Saturday to be so … ugly.

We decided to check out Big Creek Reservation, which is only 15 minutes away. When Casey suggested it, I checked it out on Google Maps and saw that it ran through some parts of the burbs, but assumed it’d be set back in the woods. I was kind of right.

We started off at Lake Isaac so we could walk the Lake-to-Lake Trail 2.4 miles down to Lake Abram. I had read ahead of time that the trail was a multi-use, so I knew it’d be paved and a bit of an easier hike. What I didn’t know was that I’d be essentially walking on a sidewalk through people’s backyards. (I should’ve tallied up the lawn ornaments. Nothing screams suburbia quite like plastic deer.) We walked along the trail, through a tunnel and over a few boardwalks.

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Along the boardwalks, we got a little set back into a marshland before coming to…a main thoroughfare complete with a busy hospital, movie theater, tanning salon, Panera Bread and a bar. I made a mental note of the bar as we attempted to stay on the trail while navigating the concrete jungle. We navigated really wrong and ended up a half mile down the road next to a high school and fair grounds that was hosting a bead convention. (Guys, seriously. I can’t make this up.)

Once we corrected our mistake and found our way back on the trail, we were pretty disheartened. But nature always likes to keep you on your toes and that’s when we came across…a discarded pair of men’s boxer-briefs. And at that point the whole journey just became comical. (That’s also the point I made up our minds to hit the bar on the way back.) As we traveled along the trail, we discussed the possible scenarios in which one would dispose of ones delicates on the sidewalk. Bath salts seemed the most plausible.

Luckily at this point, the trail started to get us back into the woods and turned into another boardwalk. The walkway led over some dried up marshland, which is when I spotted the sign that read “This is Lake Abram.” Such a blatant sign is needed when there is no water in sight. Despite the lack of H2O, we realized that we had indeed come to the end of the Lake-to-Lake trail. We promptly turned around, laughing at the cruel irony.

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I suppose this is the point where I should say something like “I’m still grateful that even in the midst of a city, people are working to find green spaces” or “It’s encouraging to see these trails pop up in suburban areas to give everyone access to the outdoors.” Instead, I’ll just say what I was really thinking on our hike back – Thank goodness for beer.

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His – Rocky River Reservation – 01/21/2017

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Hers – Rocky River Reservation

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This weekend we’ve been blessed with something almost unheard of in Cleveland. Something so spectacular that everyone is talking about it. Something miraculous. That something is called sunshine. Warm weather and sun tend not to exist here for about four months, so when they randomly appear, you better take full advantage.

The weather phenomenon clearly put everyone in the same mindset. Casey and I – and half of Cleveland – decided to head out to Rocky River Reservation for a morning hike. Parking was painful, but we were lucky enough to snag a decent spot. Most everyone else was left to just park it on the side of the road.

I’ve frequented Rocky River quite often – it’s where I train for half marathons because it has a fantastic paved multi-use trail that spans 13.6 miles across the entire park. This morning, however, we checked out a different part of the reservation and headed to the Fort Hill Stairs. There is something demented about the thrill I get from climbing stairs. It’s always a challenge. No matter how in shape I think I am or how much I work out, stairs always humble me…and I love them. (I know. I told you – demented!)

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The crowds of people at the bottom of the stairs thinned out the higher we climbed. After catching our breath for a minute, we were able to take in the sights from the top. Is there anything more satisfying than an amazing view as a reward for climbing? I think not, and I think this photo is proof.

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At the top we decided to take to the trails. These were unpaved trails, which were incredibly muddy thanks to the snow melt and endless rainy days we’ve had (seriously – we like never see the sun). Part of me imagined diving into the mud, rolling around in it and throwing it at Casey. Sometimes I hate my self-controlled, because that would’ve made for a fun blog post and even more fun photos. Sorry to disappoint, but I merely squished along.

I would love to tell you about the trails we walked along, their names, distances and some of their history, but they were hardly marked. We decided to just go with it and figure it out as we went. Essentially everything loops back to the main Nature Center, so it’s a pretty safe bet to just throw the map out the window.

Most of the trails wound their way through some dense forest, and we even got to check out a gang (gaggle, throng, pack, herd?) of deer down in a valley for a bit. Then we meandered around a creek and back to the Nature Center. Along one of the trails, we found this amazing treasure that someone randomly placed.

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It perfectly sums up what I love about being in nature. See, this morning I was torn between going downtown for the Women’s March or heading out on our hike. (Chill out. This isn’t going to get political.) I chose nature. There’s something about going into the woods, away from civilization and getting back to the very basics of putting one foot in front of the other. It’s simple. It’s calming. Nature doesn’t judge you. It doesn’t care how much you weigh or what color your skin is or who you voted for. Everyone is on an equal playing field on the trail.

His – Bradley Woods Reservation – 01/15/2017

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It’s my belief that hiking with someone and being in love are very similar. It’s a unique feeling. You have moments where you need to work together, times in which you will take the lead or follow, and instances where you are blazing your own path. Ultimately, you need that other person beside you to accomplish more, to push one another, and most importantly – have fun! It takes work, persistence, and an open mind to explore with a significant other; both in the wilderness and in a relationship. Tara and I managed to do all of these things yesterday.

Bradley Woods Reservation is located at 4101 Fulton Pkwy, Cleveland, OH 44145. With a high of 34 degrees, we were a bit bundled up. Bradley Woods is definitely a stand alone in the Metro Parks system. It was thoroughly enjoyable, but eerie at the same time. The trees were dense – even though most of the trees were bare. The trails seemed like tunnels at points in our walk. We passed pillars, demolished buildings, rusted remains of a car (pictured below) and abandoned – half completed – shelters. My imagination, as usual, ran wild with speculations of homeless beer drinkers and escaped inmates on the loose. Tara quickly grounded me and suggested that kids were most likely being kids.

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The thing that surprised me the most was lack of wildlife in these woods. Dense timber or not – there were very few sounds to be heard. That was until we were met by the raciest of love triangles… 3 geese who were quarreling as they descended to the frozen pond.  As we walked three individual trails, there were different highlights to each. The Quarry Loop trail was ever changing terrain. We would be in the woods one minute, a meadow the next, and then walking through the remains of a sandstone quarry – it was rugged and TRICKY (inside joke here).  The Bunns Lake loop was a simple crushed gravel path around a lake (who’d have thunk it?) that made a series of interesting noises when you tossed objects onto it. (Originally, the first stone cast was to test the thickness of the ice, as Tara was sarcastically egging me on to walk out on it.) Finally, the Pin Oak Loop was rather unimaginative, almost an out and back rectangle. On this trail we did find humor in a very precarious tree (pictured below).

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This trip was memorable for me, as Tara and I discussed a ton of different topics. Some more intimate, some silly, but most importantly we talked about LUNCH. I was eating everything in sight yesterday and boy oh boy do I get excited when Tara cooks for me. She down plays it, but she can chef up some tasty and nutritious meals. (Side note: You’d be a bit hungry as well if you played an hour straight of basketball immediately followed by a 2.5 mile trek.)

After running across a ton of friendly walkers we headed on a different adventure… the jungle of traffic lights in North Olmsted, followed by Walmart.  Neither of us are a fan of this store, and this trip totally redeemed that thought. We stood in line, only to be told they were closing one of the three lanes that were open for the 75 patrons. We chose a different line and watched an exotic dancer pay for her $64.00 worth of merchandise in ones. This was capped off by painfully watching the cashier clumsily count the stack of shame and glitter.

The conclusion I drew from our adventure: I’d risk the wild over Walmart any day, especially if it means getting a little further down the path of our relationship.

Overall ratings for the Bradley Woods Reservation: 4 out of 5 – Friendly people, different types of trails that were clearly marked, and a little room to lose yourself made this an enjoyable time. It’s originality in the Metro Parks system made it memorable.

Accessibility: 4 out of 5 – You can get to this park via I-80 or I-480, super easy to find!

Terrain: 3.5 out of 5 – Lots of twists and turns on the Quarry Loop trail. Both the Bunns Lake Loop and the Pin Oak Loop were unimaginative. Definitely take the Quarry Loop trail if given the option.

Cleanliness: 2 out of 5 – This was the one thing I noticed about the park – lots and lots of cheap beer cans spread throughout the Quarry Loop trail. A bit discouraging that people discard their trash like that.

Trail designation: 4 out of 5 – Marked well enough with colorful trail indicators, but not in an annoying way.

Bathroom availability: 4 out of 5 – Smack dab in the middle of the park, your standard hole in the ground.

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Hers – Bradley Woods Reservation

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This may disappoint some of you, but there were no angry car rides or trips to the hood this weekend. There was just some good, ol’ fashioned walking in the woods with nice people and stupid jokes. It was like old times!

Bradley Woods was refreshing. Not just for Casey and I to get back to somewhat normal after a week of illness, but also just to be outdoors with other people who are happy to be outside too.

After a week cooped up with the flu, I was anxious to get out. So excited that I started the day with a chilly 3-miles run before Casey and I headed out to the woods. The reservation is located just 25 minutes from downtown Cleveland on the west side of town. It’s a quiet area, and much of the traffic noise disappeared once we made our way through the park to the main parking area. There’s a massive picnic shelter, some bathrooms, picnic tables and open fields.

We checked out the trail map and decided to do the Quarry Loop Trail (2 miles) and the Burns Lake Loop (.6 miles). The trails were some of the best marked in any metropark that I’ve been to. And yet, we both felt that we didn’t do the full Quarry Loop…or maybe we just walk a lot faster than we think! Either way, that trail was unpaved through the woods and led to some really cool, random concrete structures that became our playground for a bit. We later learned these are remnants from a 1920s sandstone quarry.

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The loop took us back to the main picnic/parking area, so we decided to hit the Burns Lake Loop. It was paved and less wooded, traversing around the central lake, which was mostly frozen over. Casey took it upon himself to throw any possible object he could get his hands on (sticks, rocks) onto the frozen lake because it made a fun noise. While we were walking, three geese kept flying overhead and honking loudly. So we naturally started narrating their conversation. My interpretation went a little something like this:
Head goose: You mother***ers! I told you we’d be late. I told you we should’ve left early, but no, you two wanted to wait two more weeks and now look?! We’re stuck in the cold with a freaking frozen lake.

Casey’s interpretation was something about a love triangle or a dad with his wife and teenage daughter. Anyways, it was fun to be goofy while walking around the lake and there are plenty of benches to sit and take it all in.

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Nature is funny sometimes. Like the Pine Oak Loop trail that we decided to tackle next. It’s less of a loop and more of a rectangle. It took us back through the woods, but literally had us turn 90 degree angles until we made our way back out.

Overall, it was good to get into the woods on some easy trails. The easily marked trails and overall ease of the landscape meant that we could turn our attention to laughing. And I’m glad we got in the laughing when we did, because we followed up our awesome hike with a less-than-stellar trip to wal-mart (my absolute least favorite store in the world where dreams go to die) in which we waited in line for 20 minutes while the chick in front of us paid for her $64 purchase in dollar bills and the cashier counted at about the pace of molasses in the middle of, well, January. We should’ve just stayed in the woods.

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