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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His – Lanterman’s Mill – 01/28/2017

What a day! Winter decided to show up again and attacked us in waves yesterday. Even though the day was a bit brisk at 30 degrees, we decided to take our show on the road and headed an hour east to Youngstown. We visited Lanterman’s Mill, located at 1001 Canfield Road, Youngstown, OH 44511.  It’s always difficult for me to be in that section of Ohio. It brings out that particular brand of football fans that I’ve come to despise… Ohio born Pittsburgh fans. As we travelled the roads it became more and more prevalent. You would see houses with flags, cars with stickers, and people adorning that gaudy logo. I swallowed my pride and carried on so we could share our hiking experiences with Tara’s brother Todd and his girlfriend Stacy.20170129_141552.jpg

We drove to their house, jumped in their vehicle, and were off to the park. I was a bit worn out and frustrated after a blowout loss in my basketball league, so hitting the trail was a great way to ease my mind. I will tell you, hands down; this is one of the best parks in Ohio I’ve been to yet. We walked two or three stretches of trails that winded amongst gorges and a river. We gazed upon waterfalls of different shapes and sizes. There were sheer rock walls, thoroughly carved with initials and names, and we found the same markings on a few trees.  I even poked my head in a cave or two. I of course had imaginative stories of homeless people making their dwellings in this pocket of nature. We were constantly challenged by the ever changing terrain; there was seldom a flat section to be found on either the East Gorge or West Gorge Trail.

My ankles have been a bit tender from rolling them in my basketball league. As we walked, what was our greatest aid for footing on the muddy trail also became combative to me – a very entangled and exposed root system in the forest. It definitely slowed Tara and my usual pace. You had to be sure of where you were placing your next step. Even though I tweaked my ankle a couple dozen times on the walk, it was worth it.

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We walked for at least a couple of hours, covering around 4 or 4.5 miles. There were a few others out there, including a chocolate colored dog, which didn’t appear to have an owner. I instantly tried to adopt him, even though he was a hundred feet above us on a different trail. I coaxed him partially down the hill only to have my adoption attempts foiled when his owner started yelling for him.

One thing that’s becoming a growing trend for our hikes is my hunger. Todd, Tara’s brother, had promised pizza at the end of our expedition.  About halfway through the idea of consuming that pizza consumed my thoughts. Luckily, Tara and I had planned ahead and packed some snacks. The only thing missing on our walk was more wildlife.  It was good to have some additional company on this hike. Todd and Stacy filled silences with laughter and observations. It’s always good to see them. As we made our way back to the car, we were pleasantly surprised by the sight of my chocolate colored dog friend. He greeted us with big tail wags and a few sniffs. His owner was still lagging behind the energetic pup.

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After our journey ended, I was rewarded with a Greek style pizza from the Sunrise Inn. We destroyed some appetizers because the pizza takes around a half hour to make, but the deep dish was well worth all the traveling. On the way home we found pocket after pocket of snow, but made it back in reasonable timing. It was a long day and a fun day. I can’t wait to check the park out in the summer time!

Overall ratings for Lanterman’s Mill: 4 out of 5 – Gorgeous views, challenging terrain, and great company. One of my favorite hikes to date. If you have an opportunity to visit this park, GO!

Accessibility: 2 out of 5 – This was a haul from Cleveland. We spent around an hour and a half in the car, but worth every minute.

Terrain: 4.5 out of 5 – Twists, turns, roots, rocks, elevation changes, and a mix of mud! Really fun!

Cleanliness: 4 out of 5 – Clean water and clean trails.

Trail designation: 3.5 out of 5 – Not a ton of signage but the trails were blazed well enough that you know where you were going.

Bathroom availability: 0 out of 5 – Todd will attest – they are closed for the winter!

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