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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His – North Chagrin Reservation – Squire’s Castle

20170312_103008Frigid, blustery and gray – this week’s hike was very symbolic of my emotions this time of year. I don’t bring this up to a lot of people, but I feel like this is a very appropriate forum to pull the curtain back and give some depth and meaning of my love for the outdoors.  A little over two years ago, on March 7th 2015, I sat in a hospital waiting room and was told that my mom, who was fifty years old, had stage four cancer. Eight days later, on March 15th 2015, she was gone.

Life can never prepare you for those words. To lose a parent at any age is rough. To lose a parent at fifty years old, in what is considered to be the “golden years”, is devastating. Two years later, I still struggle to process what happened. Anyone who knows me on a personal level knows how optimistic I am. This week I’ve been down in the dumps on and off. I think about my mom passing away every day. It’s mentally crippling. For anyone who says it gets easier with time is full of shit. Life continues on, but it never gets easier.

Hiking to me has been an outlet. I didn’t know it until I met Tara, but the outdoors and stomping around in nature really do help ease the soul. I’ve never been a spiritual person. Hiking has given me a sense of reprieve. I walked around angry for almost a year and a half. I didn’t have a proper outlet to clear my head. If anything, hiking, and then this blog, have given me a space to creatively clear the inner workings of my brain. I’m fortunate to have a way to express myself. I’m grateful everyday that I found Tara and we’ve started this journey together.

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Speaking of starting, Tara and I started our hike this week by climbing into Squire’s castle.  It’s essentially a stone shell. It’s a drafty stone structure that has no doors or windows, just frames where they should be. We checked it out quickly and felt a little intrusive as there was some sort of photo shoot taking place inside. (We never did figure out exactly who was being photographed, no one was dressed for the occasion.)

We struck out on the trail. Tara had promised me a relatively easy hike and enticed me with food afterwards… guys I think she’s on to how to motivate me. We went up, and up, and up, and up, oh and then we went up. We were hundreds of feet above the castle at this point and the trail we originally sought to be on wasn’t in sight. It didn’t matter though. One, I pride myself on somewhat of an eidetic memory. Two, I was okay with being away from it all for a while. We wove our way back and forth, deeper and deeper into the forest. The windstorm we had last week toppled so many trees.

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It’s really breathtaking to see the power of nature. What can be the most rewarding thing can also be one of the most frightening. To see these mammoth trees toppled amongst each other while others stood tall was mesmerizing. It left me deep in thought.

I would encourage anyone who is having a tough time to take a few minutes to walk through the wilderness. We all need serenity and time to gather ourselves. Avid hikers can attest, no matter how much company you have, you can always be alone outdoors. The simple task of putting one foot in front of the other and being in the moment allows you to go to another place in your mind. I’m always thankful for Tara being by my side on the trail. However, in between our usual laughter and banter, I was deep in reflective thoughts and memories.

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In our walk, I came to this conclusion; like the toppled trees sometimes you get knocked over. There’s nothing you can do about it. All you can do sometimes is grin and bear it. Sometimes you have to embrace the frigid, blustery and gray weather. Just make sure that you keep working towards the warmth that you know will eventually come.

Hers – Squire’s Castle, North Chagrin Reservation

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I’m a planner. I have to-do lists for everything. There’s a printed monthly calendar hanging on our fridge, and I often text Casey a schedule for our weekends.

The plan for Sunday was to hit up Columbia Reservation about 25 minutes west of us. After a late evening, the “Spring forward” time change, and Casey’s 6:15 alarm going off for his basketball league, those plans quickly went out the window. I was moving slow and just felt drained. It was honestly one of the most difficult days to get motivated for a hike. I could blame the time change, but it probably had more to do with the beers I’d had the evening before.

The temperature had also dropped again – hovering right around 25 degrees. I tried to summon some kind of motivation. I found it in the form of Pho for lunch after our hike. I wanted nothing more than a hot bowl of goodness. Naturally, I completely rearranged our plans to center around food. I suggested that we head to Squire’s Castle on the east side of Cleveland and then stop for Pho on our way back. Casey, who puts up with my neurotic ways and is able to go with the flow, was completely fine with this.

In another act of defiance of my usual ways, I also suggested stopping for McDonald’s breakfast before our hike. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had fast food in the past year, but there was just no other way to satisfy my craving for a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. (There is no more telling sign of a hangover than craving McDonald’s so there, I admit it. I was hungover.) I’m not proud of it, but it was damn good. Luckily we were about to hike some of those calories off.

We drove out to Squire’s Castle, which is part of the North Chagrin Reservation in the town of Gates Mills. The castle was built in 1890 as a gatekeeper’s home for an oil tycoon’s country estate that never came to fruition. The castle is now just an empty shell…but a really pretty empty shell!

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We walked around the inside for a bit talking about living in our own castle. Then we decided to hit the trails. And this is where my planning really goes out the window. Perhaps it’s not the best idea, but I tend to leave directions and trails up to Casey. I literally see a trail and start walking with no sense of where I’m going or how far I’m going. Sometimes I’ll check a trail map and make a suggestion, but I don’t really study it to figure out how to get to the certain places I’d like to go. I start walking and hope for the best. Thankfully, the boy’s got a great sense of direction.

The trail was a rugged dirt path that led straight up a hill for what seemed like eternity.

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But when we finally made it to the top, we had climbed up with the tree tops overlooking the reservation below. It had lightly started to snow, and it looked like a scene from a movie. It was gorgeous.

We kept walking and picked up a few different trails. I think we ended up on three different ones and upon the fourth, we decided it’d be best to just turn around and retrace our steps instead of continuing further. But I really didn’t care about the direction. I was finally feeling back to normal. I suppose that’s the power of fresh, frigid air.

On our way back, we got to make our way DOWN the hill (A rare luxury in hiking. Why are there so many up hills but never any down?!). The snow started to pick up and my pinky fingers were pretty frozen. It was perfect timing to get in the car and get Pho. Except that stupid McDonald’s breakfast meant that I wasn’t hungry at all. So instead, we just went home. So much for all those plans I make.

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Hers – Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation

After being out of town last weekend and dealing with getting back to reality this week, we decided to stick fairly close to home and celebrate Cleveland this weekend. We headed to the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, which is part of the Cleveland Metro Parks system and the start of the Towpath Trail that stretches nearly 100 miles connecting Cleveland to Akron.

It seems only fitting that our very Cleveland hike would feature temps in the 20s, a bit of snow on the ground and some biting wind. We layered up, headed out and started off at the trail head off of Harvard Avenue. It’s a multi-use, two lane paved path that’s very clearly marked along the way. The start of the trail is surrounded by quite a few factories and old industry, but we knew we weren’t going to be immersed in nature on this hike. (I made sure to temper Casey’s expectations so there’d be less disappointment this time!)

The trail is really representative of the city. I like to call it “steelyard chic.” To me, there’s beauty in the rusting railroad tracks and brick smokestacks, and that’s exactly what this trail followed along –  industry on one side, the canal and trees on the other.

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For being centrally located, the trail was surprisingly quiet. We saw a few other joggers, but mostly had the place to ourselves. There was a slight hum of the factories, but mostly just the sounds of birds and geese overhead.

Placed along the path are remnants of the industry that used to make its home along the canal. We saw an old railroad car, different wheels and large fixtures that the Cleveland Metro Parks has done an excellent job of turning into educational art along the way.

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I was feeling a bit under the weather (I swear it happens every time I return from vacation…like the coming back to a snow storm after being on a beach isn’t hard enough, my body also decides that it’s time for a sinus infection), so we decided to walk two miles down and back. The first mile down seemed to blow past, but the second mile was dragging a little bit. I pointed out a train trestle bridge in the distance and told Casey that I’d like to turn around once we got there. It just so happened to be our two-mile mark anyways.

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When we turned around, however, we were immediately hit by a bitter wind. I had just warmed up as we were walking into the sun, but the walk back would be into the wind. I was beginning to feel worse and dreading the walk back a bit. But then Casey and I got to talking about our past relationships and future together and all of a sudden we were back at the car. It’s like our surroundings and time kind of disappeared, and it was just the two of us lost in conversation. I didn’t actually mind the cold one bit.

We fittingly ended celebration of Cleveland walk with a trip to the West Side Market. It’s just a few miles from the trailhead, so if you’re out that way, I highly recommend making a stop and stocking up on amazing local food. It’s a Cleveland staple, so we naturally stocked up on bacon, Irish pasties and plenty of pierogis.

 

His – Erie & Canal Reservation

It was the best of times… it was the worst of t… wait, wrong story. Saturday morning got off to a much different start than last week. Last week we were lathering on sunscreen. We were poolside in our shades and bathing suits. This week we got the full Ohio experience… pouring rain, white out snow, blustery howling winds, sporadic peeks of sun. Temperatures jumping from the sixties to the twenties and everywhere in between. March in Ohio is like playing a game of winter roulette. You spin the dial and hope for the best. However, you have to realize the odds are ALWAYS stacked against you this time of year.

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So there we were, March 4th 2017… Tara and I having a weekend of “nothing to do.” Our weekends where we claim we have nothing to do usually end up jam packed with action and events. Tara was feeling a bit under the weather and I NEVER beat her out of bed, so I tried to exploit the situation. It was 07:00AM and I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. I snuck out of our bedroom and tried to surprise her with breakfast in bed. As quiet as I tried to be, I got about 5 minutes in and my plot was foiled. Tara caught me red handed cracking eggs and making toast. Defeated in my attempt, I made her sit on the couch while I prepared the rest of the meal.

 

My first try at making over easy eggs quickly turned into “fried eggs for Casey” The second batch was a success. We scarfed it down and bundled up to face the frigid day. Outside looked very inviting. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the sun shining a little too bright if there is such a thing. Snow still sprawled across the ground, it reflected every ray cast upon it. We drove the twenty-something minutes down a familiar route to a reservation I’ve never been to before on the outskirts of Tremont.

 

Tara had already warned me, showing me physical evidence that this would be a very urban hike and the greenery would be at a premium. If I had learned anything about urban hiking is that if it goes poorly enough… I’ll end up drinking pints at a bar. When we turned into the parking lot, I feared the worst. Factories all around us and the parking lot was only a dozen spots or so. We were already there, so we went for it. To my surprise, this wasn’t all that bad.

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They had some art along the way. They had a very pristine and glimmering river that also paralleled with the Erie canal. (I am still searching for the answer as to why the canal was dug separately when they could have utilized the mighty Cuyahoga.) The asphalt path was clear and other than industrial noises from time to time, the path was teeming with song birds of all kinds. Now I have to admit, love is a funny thing. You get to a point where you are just brutally honest with each other. This week’s form of honesty came across as “Babe, you have a boog hanging out.” She’s always honest with me…that’s how I know this relationship is going places. Sometimes you just have to cut through the shit and tell it like it is.

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Other than being brutally honest, one of the things I admire the most about Tara is her stubbornness. Now most people wouldn’t find it to be a redeeming quality. However, I’ve seen this woman put her mind to something and she will keep attacking it until the task is complete. She kept telling me she “was fine” however the sniffles and coughing and sneezing told me otherwise. It would have been easy for her to say that she didn’t feel well and we could hike another day, but she didn’t. She made a promise to me that we’d hike 52 times this year. Just like always, she pushed through it – sickness and all.

 

We walked in total about four miles through the bitter biting wind and cold. All the layers we had on were no match for the stinging daggers thrust toward us in the form of Ohio winter winds. It didn’t matter though. We carried on as if we were back on the beaches of Miami, hand in hand – talking and laughing right through the end of our journey.

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Hers – Huffman Park

Casey and I were really looking forward to this weekend, as was the rest of Northeast Ohio. All anyone had been talking about all week – after we dealt with an early week snow storm and biting cold temperatures – was the weather forecast for the weekend. It was going to be in the 60s and sunny. I couldn’t wait. As I mentioned in an earlier post, February is the shortest month of the year, but for those of us in the Midwest and Northeast, it feels like the longest. The lack of Vitamin D really starts to wear on your emotions and mental state.

On Saturday we were planning to visit my parents in Wayne County, about an hour south of Cleveland. It’s home to the largest Amish population in the state of Ohio, if that gives you any indication about where I grew up. While I’m not sure if I could ever live there again, it’s incredibly refreshing to get back for a visit in the middle of nowhere.

Since we planned to head down that way, I mentioned to Casey that we should choose a hiking spot along the way. I did some research about parks and trails near my parents and was a little surprised that there really isn’t that much. Once I started really thinking about it, though, it makes sense. People in rural America don’t need trails or designated parks – they have their backyard, which often spans acres of wide open spaces. Who needs a concrete trail, when you can walk through a field that belongs to you?

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Anyways, we did end up finding a park in Medina County (which is wedged between Cleveland and where my parents live). Huffman Park is home to quite a few soccer fields, some playgrounds, a dirt bike path and a 1.4 mile walking trail. Perfect. 1.4 miles would be just enough for us to enjoy the weather, while also keeping on our time commitments.

We decided to start on the river trail, which actually did run along a river…for about 500 feet before looping us back to where we started. That was a bust, and I was preparing a plan b for us when we found the Huffman Field Trail, which was the 1.4 mile trail we had read about.

As we walked along, we were super excited to see a woodpecker, the sunshine and not much mud. The trail took us back into the woods, over a few plank bridges and even deeper into the woods. Then we came across some mountain bike obstacles. I had read that Huffman Park had a really good mountain bike trail, and Casey decided to tackle the obstacles on foot…while I filmed.

We apparently then got onto the mountain bike trail and serpentine through the woods. And kept going…and going…and going. Ok, this was not the 1.4 mile trail that I was prepared for. I had packed a tasty snack of cheese and crackers for when we finished our hike and my thoughts kept going back to the cheese…sitting in the car that was getting warmer and warmer in the sun as we kept getting deeper and deeper into the woods.

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Oh, and I should probably also mention that this is about the time that the lack of mud I was so excited about earlier decide to turn up with a vengeance. My shoes were once again caked as I slide along the trail. I felt my patience wearing thin and my energy draining, which then makes me mad at myself for not enjoying being out in nature. My emotions are a vicious cycle.

I was just about to ask Casey if we could just turn around and go back the way we came, when we saw three massive white tail deer. And then we saw two bikers. The first sign of life in about an hour was a refreshing sight. We weren’t the only ones braving the muck and we had to be getting close to …something. That’s when Casey was able to spot the park shelter through the woods. I was so excited! I was getting closer to my cheese and crackers!

I picked up the pace and we kept walking … and walking …and walking. Ok, seriously…where the fuck was the parking lot and where did this trail end?! The mud on my shoes was weighing me down and the rising temperature was making me hot. (I know, I know. I just bitched about the frigid temperatures and now I’m complaining about it being too warm. I’m tough to please!)

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We kept onward and passed an older couple dressed in clean clothes and tennis shoes. I think Casey and I both knew this meant we were near the exit. And then we found the end of the trail! We both did an end zone dance to celebrate our victory as we raced through the parking lot to my car. I think Casey was excited to get the mud off his shoes. I was excited for cheese. And let me tell you guys, it was glorious. We sat on the trunk of my car playing some music from my phone, enjoying the sweet delight of crackers and cheese and the sun shone on our faces and lifted my spirits.

Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the hike on Saturday, but sometime the best thing about a hike is when it’s over. When you’re able to bask in your accomplishment. When you can sit with the person that walked alongside you and just enjoy the act of sitting. When you realize that the hike wasn’t that bad and you’re already looking forward to the next one.

His – Huffman Park – Medina, OH

20170218_121130Sometimes in life you just have to wing it. The best laid plans can change in an instant. As our friends and family already know –  I’m the more spontaneous and rambunctious person in our relationship. Tara is the planned and composed one. We often combine our skills to balance each other. When a well crafted plan goes awry, such as this hike, we put those skills to the test.

 

We ventured down to Huffman Park in Medina, a map dot that was right along the way to Tara’s parents house, which was the ultimate destination for the day. I didn’t know what to expect on this hike at all. As much as I’ve been to Medina, (I even lived there for a year) I’ve never been to this particular park. We showed up and the parking lot was almost empty. With the temperature gauge reading over 60 degrees (how lucky have we been this winter in Northeast Ohio?!) I was surprised that the park wasn’t jam packed. With no trail map or sense of where to go we picked the “River trail.” The river trail was about 200 yards of down and back… not sure why there was a grand sign marking this puny pathway.  

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Now Tara had done her research online, and wanted to do the “Huffman trail” – a very manageable 1.4 mile loop, just enough to get the blood flowing but not be a sweaty, muddy mess when we arrived at her parents house that afternoon. Well… it turns out we didn’t choose the right trail and ended up on a very unexpected journey, tromping our way through what seemed to be every square foot of this park. We had accidentally slipped onto the number three mountain bike course in all of Ohio. (https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/692456) According to the website, the two trails total about 8.8 miles. We never left Huffman Park, but to give you a sense of what we took on, check out the northern half of this trail:

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We were constantly challenged with dips, twists, and turns, slowly weaving us back and forth through what seemed like an endless forest. As soon as we thought we were coming to the end of the trail, we’d dive deeper and deeper into the woods. There wasn’t 100 yards straightened pathway on this whole trail. Let me tell you, it was FUN. The mountain bike trail supplied wooden structures out of nowhere. There were ramps, and berms, jumps, and narrow wooden walkways. The inner five year old in me screamed with joy as I played on every last one of them. I even played an old school game of “avoid the lava” – which in this case was the mud the consistency of cake batter. I jumped from embankment to embankment to avoid the “lava”, Tara laughing at me the whole way.

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At one point in the walk our conversation turned dark. We questioned if we somehow had entered into a purgatory of sorts. Tara, knowing my constant hunger while hiking, packed spicy jalapeno cheese and crackers as a reward for completing the hike. We jokingly quipped that it was like Ground Hog day with Bill Murray and we’d never reach our cheese. We were doomed to walk for the rest of eternity through an endless forest, all on the quest for cheese and crackers. It had probably been over an hour since we saw any form of life on this trail. Just as my own worry kicked in, we saw two bikers on the trail. I was relieved to see that there was a potential end in sight.

 

Side note: If you have an option in life, choose to be a hiker not a biker in this world my friends. Bikers are dicks. They don’t say hi, they don’t smile, and they certainly treat you like a second class citizen when it comes to priority on the trail. I’d be lying if my overactive imagination didn’t play out a scene or two where I kicked their bike and watched them flounder in the mud (something like the consistency pictured below.) Hikers almost always exchange pleasantries. Be a hiker NOT a biker.

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As the disgruntled and unfriendly bikers passed, our attention was drawn to the flashing white tail deer that scampered through the woods. I love wildlife. It’s my favorite part of hiking. To see other species thriving in the environment around us is very refreshing. I knew it was another sign that we had to be close to the end. We passed a couple of hikers, VERY friendly might I add, and finally found our way out of the woods. I found us a couple of sticks to scrape the mud off of our shoes. We changed and finally got to enjoy the reward for the unexpected journey we embarked on – cheese, crackers, and country music.

 

As simple as the day was, it ranks up there on one of my favorite moments in our relationship. It was just VERY… us. I think it was very representative of our relationship as a whole. We almost always have a plan, we add in some randomness and spontaneity, we mix it all up and end up on an adventure, together.

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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 – Brandywine Falls – Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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It may have been Super Bowl Sunday, but it didn’t stop our weekly adventure. This week we ventured down into one of the largest parks in our region, Cuyahoga Valley National Park. According to their website (https://www.nps.gov/cuva/learn/historyculture/index.htm) the park has been occupied by humans for over 12,000 years, has more than 125 miles of hiking trails and is comprised of 32,950 acres. We took on about 4 of those miles yesterday.

 
We made the short trip over to Brandywine Falls, near the ski resort, and I couldn’t have been happier. There was an awesome waterfall, half frozen, half flowing, cutting through a deep ravine. We were lead closer to the falls by an iced over boardwalk that made you question your footing with every step. Some of the viewing areas were closed due to the frigid weather we had last week, but there were still a number of ways to get close enough to observe the mighty Cuyahoga river churning through the wilderness.

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After we watched the waterfall for a bit, we wandered our way over to the Stanford trail. Just before westarted our journey we passed a small farm. Tara grabbed me up like we were about to be attacked by a grizzly bear. It turns out that it was a beast of a different kind… it was an overweight pigmy goat. I coaxed it over so we could snap a few photos and Tara could fulfill her love of goats. The goat, which I believe she named Henry, quickly figured out we didn’t have food for him and we parted ways.

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We then started our descent down the Stanford Trail. There weren’t a lot of people out on this particular trail. Tara and I quickly came into realization as to why. Ice, roots, rocks, mud, and snow plagued every step. It seemed like the trail dove straight down into the valley and then straight back up.

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We were challenged with a down and back, there was no loop to follow. I felt a bit under-dressed at points, as the sunshine kept disappearing behind clouds. I was very thankful for the expedient pace we had going for the day.

 

Tara and I talked about upcoming events, mostly about the half marathon we’re running at the end of May. I’m not much of a distance runner. I told her, admittedly, I am a bit of a head case when it comes to running long distances. We’ve both put together a training regimen, and I’m only a few weeks removed from starting. The thing that always makes me feel good about our relationship together is her unwavering faith in my capabilities. She does a great job of reassuring me when I have self-doubt. That being said, she also pretty much told me to suck it up as I was gasping for air on our way back up the
valley.

 

We were able to find some stopping points along the way to admire the various bodies of water. I, of course, had to test the overall strength of the patches of ice. One of these days, I will fall in, Tara will laugh, and I’ll inevitably lose a toe or two to frostbite and hypothermia.

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We trudged our way through muck the consistency of cake batter and made our way back to the car. Other than the muck, the hike was excellent. This section reminded me a lot of my favorite MetroPark – Brecksville Reservation. This trail had challenging terrain, great views, and plenty of playful banter between Tara and I. I really can’t ask for much more.