His – West Creek Reservation

20170402_160614.jpgWe were back at it again for hike number fourteen of the year. The weather was pristine, the people were out in droves, and they ALL brought their dogs. I’m a huge animal lover; dogs will always have a soft spot in my heart. When I see them, I often tell Tara about how I want to kidnap them and give them a better home. We have a cat, Zooey, who is an only child, so I can’t act on my inhibitions. However, it will never stop me from dreaming of pooch-napping every single one of them… well except small dogs, because those aren’t really dogs.

Tara deserves a lot of credit for her patience with me this week. I was like a squirrel that drank four Redbulls and followed it up with a couple of pots of coffee. Everything caught my eye. Tara’s brakes and maneuverability were put to the test. I really just couldn’t help myself. We usually go a bit earlier, which means lunch is afterwards. I had a full belly and a racing mind. I was overly fascinated and incredibly terrified by my first ever up close look at a couple of cell phone towers. For those who don’t know, the His portion of the blog is deathly afraid of heights. So, looking straight up at something like this causes sweaty palms and raised blood pressure.

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For those who don’t know me, I’m a bit of a country bumpkin in some respects. I don’t wander about in the midst of the city. Towers are just fixtures amongst a city skyline. Other than the towers there were a couple of things I noticed on this hike. One, Western Reserve Creek is not a bad spot. You think a park jammed in between Parma and Independence would lack the charm and outdoorsy rural feel most are looking for when hiking. You’d be wrong about judging this book by its cover. We’ve had our share of urban adventures (please refer to Garfield Heights and Big Creek blogs). This one was surprisingly pleasant.

 

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There were quite a few people out that I wouldn’t expect – (yes, Pokémon Go players are back) but once we made it past the paved portion of trails it was peaceful and serene. It was muddy trails and dense forest. You can tell the trees are on the brink of exploding back to life. The chirping of birds, crickets, and croaking of frogs tell you that spring is in the air. @HisandHerHiking (shameless plug – follow us on Instagram and Facebook) is ready for all the green to come back after 6 months of gray.

The other observation from this week is you need several copies of Rosetta Stone to keep up with all the different dialects. If you want to properly eaves drop and people watch you HAVE to be multi-lingual in this reservation. It always amazes me that even when in the middle of the rust belt you will hear a variety of heavy accents and foreign conversations. All in all, the warm weather brought a longing to go deeper into the woods, escape the wailing sirens and bustling roads, pitch a tent and escape it all. Those days aren’t all that far away. Until then, poor Tara will have to deal with squirrels and their caffeine habits.

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Hers – Penitentiary Glen Reservation, Kirtland OH

Did you ever not want to do something but then forced yourself to do it and it turned out to be a ton of fun? That pretty much sums up my hike on Sunday.

I was feeling a little under the weather in the morning (cough hungover cough) from celebrating my birthday a bit too much. I just turned 31. That’s 10 years older than 21, which means I’m 10 years removed from being able to party like I was 21. I’m not good at math, but I quickly learned that lesson over the weekend.

Anyways, Casey and I both rallied Sunday afternoon to get our butts in gear and out to Kirtland, Ohio. We’ve hiked around this area before, and I’m a kind of in love with it. (So in love that I may or may not be house searching on Zillow.) As we left the city limits behind, I began to feel better and better.

When we pulled into the main entrance, I was impressed to find a pretty large nature center, small amphitheater, farm, gardens and paved trails. There were quite a few cars in the parking lot and plenty of families with kids running around, so I was slightly concerned that it’d be a bit too loud for my headache. Luckily Casey and I chose the Rabbit Run Trail, a 2.6-mile difficult loop that apparently most families don’t attempt. We quickly found ourselves alone in the middle of the woods. (Get your mind outta the gutter, this isn’t that kind of blog!)

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The trail started off very easy, as a crushed gravel path that led into the trees. And then it quickly turned into a dirt trail covered with leaves. And then it quickly turned into crossing fallen logs. Mind you my legs were still slightly shaky and my balance certainly wasn’t on point, so I was a little concerned I wasn’t going to be able to handle this kind of trail in my “condition.” But it’s amazing what some fresh air can do for a person. (A new hangover cure? Drink a bottle of Gatorade, take two aspirin and get your butt outside.)

All of a sudden Casey and I were crossing over downed trees, rock hopping across a steam and climbing up a pretty intense, muddy hill. It was awesome!

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I had also recently downloaded the boomerang app, and we had a blast recording funny videos along the way. (Shameless self promotion time! Follow @hisandherhiking on Instagram!) But the best part? The confetti. I’m a firm believer in buying yourself a birthday present, so I thought there was no better way to celebrate the big 3-1 than to purchase a glitter/confetti popper. (Ok, I also got myself a pair of socks and a bottle of bourbon.) I was saving it for just the right moment, and what better moment for confetti than in the middle of the woods?! Guys … I’ve come to the conclusion that the key to solving all of life’s problems is to shower yourself in confetti once a month. Done. Problems solved. Try it and thank me later.

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I honestly can’t tell you how much fun I had on this hike. I feel like Casey and I needed that. We needed to get back to being our silly selves and just not giving a damn out in nature. Fresh air and a long walk really are good for the soul.

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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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His – Virginia Key Beach Park – 02/24/2017

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Sometimes you get unique opportunities in life and you can’t let them pass by. When Tara asked me to go with her to a wedding in Miami, Florida, in February, I jumped at the chance. I’m a thirty-year-old man and have never vacationed in Florida. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my family never went to Florida when I was growing up. As I have progressed through adulthood, I’ve never really had the opportunity to go either. The overall experience was surreal and almost felt like stepping into another country.

 

On one of our few free days we struck out to a nearby park called Virginia Key Beach. For obvious reasons, our outfits were completely different than any other hike this year. With temperatures in the high seventies or low eighties, I applied my SPF 60. (Yes, I’m whiter than any friendly ghost you may come across.) I threw on some shorts, a T-shirt, sunglasses, rocked those sweet blue Salomon’s too.

 

For those of you not familiar, Virginia Key is an 863-acre barrier island in Miami. We covered about 2 to 3 miles of trail that combed a dense tropical forest and beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. There weren’t too many hikers out, but a strong population of bikers that quickly pedaled along the roadsides. The trail was mostly comprised of a combination of dirt and white sand. As we walked down to the trail, I quickly realized I was out of my element. The plants were very unfamiliar. The trees and shrubbery were dense and seemed to be ancient. There were sounds and signs of wildlife at every turn.

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The thing that pops out to you the most about Miami is the overabundance of good looking people. It seems like it’s a requirement of every resident to be tan with six pack abs and flawless looks. When we dumped onto the first beach, we saw a couple on one of the break walls. The girl sunning herself, the guy putting himself through a rigorous abdominal workout. We continued on the path and saw a ton of bags piled onto a picnic table. I assumed a homeless person setup camp there… I was wrong. We quickly heard two guys speaking Spanish and coaching a young lady as their cameras clicked and flashed. We stumbled on a photoshoot with a bikini clad woman in a shaded grove.

 

We turned around and had decided that we needed to get deeper into nature. Model shoots and ab workouts aren’t my ideal subjects while hiking. I did learn that a new environment puts me on high alert. I quickly remembered that we were in Florida and alligators are a thing. There was a very strong population of small lizards on the island as well. They sounded thunderous as they crashed through the leaves and vegetation. And finally we stumbled on this sign:

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Are you kidding me?! Killer raccoons?! I was ALREADY trying to save Tara from any movement in the forest. Whether it was moving leaves, a weird breeze, or a lizard… in my mind, they were all thirteen foot alligators looking for lunch. Now I’m looking around for rabid raccoons? The weather was sweltering at this point. We continued down the trail until we dumped into a public beach where they were shooting a TV commercial.  Tara wouldn’t let me be a part of the commercial, so we turned around.

 

We did address a VERY important aspect of our hiking… LUNCH! We drove to South Beach to eat at Puerto Sagua, a small mom and pop diner that was packed.  We had the most delicious potato balls with hot sauce and hot homemade Cuban sandwiches. Let me tell you, the Cubans know how to cook. SOOOO good! After we filled our bellies, we ventured out to the ocean. We kicked off our shoes and walked hand in hand in the Atlantic Ocean. I will admit, I’ve never seen so many butt cheeks in my life… guys and girls all trying to minimize their respective tan lines. The ocean was crystal clear with vibrant shades of green and light blue. It was a perfect way to cap off our hike.

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Overall, Miami exceeded my expectations. It was great to get out of my comfort zone, out of our state, and enjoy a new terrain in a new state. I look forward to more out of state and hopefully out of country adventures with Tara, tanned butt cheeks, thunderous mini lizards, and alligators be damned!

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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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