Hers – Gorge Metro Park

There were so many good things about this past Sunday, and the hike Casey and I took was just was the cherry on top. Actually, I take that back. The milkshakes we got after the hike were the cherries on top…but more about that later.

We headed about 40 miles south to the Akron area for this week’s hike. Earlier in the week Casey had sent me a link about some of the best hiking spots near Cleveland, and Gorge Metro Park was on the list. Since we had both never been before we decided to check it out, and I’m so glad we did. I read on the site that the Gorge Trail was one of the most scenic, but also the most difficult being classified as “Primitive” and earning a “Class D status.” (Neither of us knew what Class D meant…but more on that in a minute as well.)

After checking the trail map when we got to the park, we found the Gorge Trail and headed off. Unfortunately, so did most of the other people that were there. The trail was crowded and we got stuck behind a group smoking (One of my absolute pet peeves – I go into nature for fresh air not secondhand smoke. Also, this Earth is not your freaking ashtray. Pick up your damn cigarette butts up. OK, rant over.) and talking about one of their friends – a heroin addict who’s been on methadone for two years with only one slip up, but now she’s on a pretty good track and forming a relationship with her kids. Luckily, I found an opening on the trail and picked up the pace to quickly leave that group in the dust. After a couple comments about the conversation we had overheard, Casey and I were able to regain some focus on the nature around us.

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As we started up an incline, we really began to lose the crowds. We came to a crossroads where one direction was deemed “easy” and the other was deemed “hard.” Naturally, we chose the hard way (is there really any other way?!). Immediately we began to climb in elevation – over rocks and through rock tunnels – until we reached the top of the gorge. We saw what looked like a path down to the river below and started down it. Loose gravel and soil gave way under my feet. I found a slight overlook and stopped for a moment. I told Casey that I really didn’t think it was a trail, but rather just a run off and asked if he wanted to continue. He said he definitely thought we could make it. I took a deep breath and kept going, knowing that after that point there was no turning back. (I think this is probably both of our biggest strength and weakness. We’re both stubborn to the point of possible foolishness.) One of my biggest fears is falling, and I was envisioning myself tumbling down the cliff face we were attempting to scale down. But I didn’t want Casey to see that fear, so I tried my hardest to just get down all by myself. There was one moment that I knew I needed to take his hand, and I’m grateful he was there to help me, but at the same time, I wish I could’ve just done it completely by myself. (See? I told you. Stupid stubborn.)

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When we finally made it down, we darted toward the rushing river – excited that we had finally made it to solid ground. Only then did we look back. My jaw dropped at the sight of the cliff we had somehow just scrambled down. It was so steep, and it was definitely not a path that we took. As we walked along the river, we came up with what Class D could possibly mean. D for “Difficult.” D for “Da fuck you thinking?!” D for “Don’t fall.” (In case you want to know the REAL definition: The Class D designation is for primitive hiking trails with steep, narrow and irregular routes and rocks and roots.)

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We continued on an easy path (anything after that would be considered easy) along the river until we finally came to the major draw of the park – a pretty decent sized waterfall. Casey and I parked it on a rock to watch the falls for a few minutes before making our way back to the car (and back to the crowds). As we were heading out, he asked if I wanted to get a milkshake. We had earned it, and it was definitely the cherry on top of a fun, difficult, scary, rewarding and totally-worth-it hike.

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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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His – Hinckley Reservation

noun

noun: slog; plural noun: slogs

  1. 1.

a spell of difficult, tiring work or traveling.

“it would be a hard slog back to the camp”

synonyms: hard worktoil, toiling, laboreffortexertiongrinddrudgery; More

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This is the word I will use to describe this week’s hike. There are other words that were used on the trail this week. Most of them would make your mother blush and probably would be followed up with washing your mouth out with soap. We knew going into our 52 hikes in 52 weeks challenge that they all wouldn’t be pleasant. Hiking is, literally and figuratively, filled with ups and downs. However, Tara and I made a promise to each other at the beginning of this year that we’d do this together and hold each other accountable.

The weather finally broke this weekend. Saturday was in the sixties and yesterday was in the seventies. It was a welcoming forecast considering we had a freak snow storm only day before. For those who have never been, Ohio can be a bit temperamental this time of year. I think a small contributor to why this hike was a slog this week was the amount of physical activity that I participated in this weekend. Saturday was a 5K at the Cleveland zoo (new PR of 25:39!!!), followed by walking around the zoo. I came home only to leave out again with Tara.

We went to a bunch of stores for a bunch of random items. The highlight of our purchases was patio furniture from Big Lots (I’m very pumped to get my money’s worth out of it this summer). Sunday I woke up early to go grab my golf clubs, followed by basketball, followed by golf, and then our hike. My muscles are were and still are on fire. I was worn out before the hike even started. Tara assured me we could go later in the week, but, I insisted on pressing on.  We made our way out to Hinckley Reservation in Hinckley, OH.

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We probably should have just turned around when we arrived. The rest of Northeast Ohio was at Hinckley Reservation yesterday with us. We’ve hiked it together before so we set down a familiar path around the lake. It turned out to be a poor choice. The path, which is mostly dirt and roots, was drowned by all the melting snow. (Remember the freak snow storm?) Every step was cold, wet, grueling mud. I don’t know if many people know this, but I consider myself an introvert. I need time to get away from people and recharge my batteries. That’s one of my favorite attributes of hiking – peace and quiet in the woods… far, far away from people.

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There would be none of that yesterday. No peace, no quiet, no alone time… People. Were. Everywhere. It just wasn’t my day. Not only were these people out, they were annoying and in the way. One woman in particular was with her daughter and an overweight beagle named Cooper. She had some peculiar habits… she’d speed walk ahead of the daughter and the plump Mr. Cooper and when she lost sight of them would come storming back and scold them for not keeping pace.  This would usually be comical for me, but with how muddy the trail was yesterday it limited your path for walking. The lady (and I use the term loosely) clearly had very little manners and repeatedly cut us off and splash mud on me in the process. I really just felt bad for my chubby friend Coops. He just wanted to be at home dipping into his endless supply of Milk-bones and Beggin’ Strips.

We finally outpaced most of the riff-raff on the trail and got to the asphalt multi-use path. At this point Tara and I agreed that the hike just felt like work this week. We compromised to go home, knock out our chores, cook dinner and drink a few adult beverages. That’s exactly what we did. On the drive home we did confide in each other that the walk was worthwhile, even though it didn’t go as planned. I think we both got what we needed out of the hike this week even if it was slogging through the crowded woods. And to wrap this up, just because I said I would, “Go fuck yourself San Diego.”

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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 – 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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