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.

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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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