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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4/9/17 Hers – Hinckley Reservation

This week’s adventure around Hinckley Reservation.

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If we came up with creative titles for each of our blogs, this one would be named “When Nature Doesn’t Work.” Everything was off yesterday and nothing was putting me in a better mood – including hiking.

Funny enough, I started the day at a yoga retreat organized through my second job. My first/main job has been incredibly stressful lately, which of course leaks into my personal life, so I was really looking forward to a few hours of introspection and meditation. But I couldn’t clear my head, and the instant I picked up my cell phone after the retreat, I was bombarded with texts and emails and alerts. Back to being overwhelmed.

When I got home, Casey was in a quiet mood, which is definitely not his usual! He was tired from running around all morning (literally – he ran a 5k on Saturday morning then played basketball and golf on Sunday), and I could tell he would rather lay on the couch than walk a few miles. I would’ve rather done that too, so I suggested we put off the hike. Casey, however, was adamant that we go, so go we did.

I recommended Hinckley Reservation since it’s close by. We pulled in to one of the last spots in the lot along the trail. It was in the upper 60s and sunny – everyone wanted to be outside. It would normally make me happy that so many people choose to get outdoors when the weather turns nice, but yesterday I was annoyed by the amount of people. I wanted a quiet trail where Casey and I could just talk and wander.

What I got was a muddy path overcrowded with obnoxious people.

As I trudged through the gunk, I opened up to Casey and told him that I was feeling weird. As we kept walking, I kept trying to get in a better mindset and force myself into a better mood. The result was me getting even more frustrated with myself. And that resulted in me asking Casey if we could sit at a picnic table where I proceeded to cry my eyes out.

There was really no rhyme or reason to it. I had no specific reason to be upset. I just was, and I just needed to cry. The moment I let all that out, I began to feel better. Never underestimate the power of bawling your eyes out on a picnic table in the middle of a park.

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After that little debacle, Casey suggested we finish the loop around the lake, go home and get drunk. I gladly took him up on it.

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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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His – Penitentiary Glen – Kirtland, OH

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There’s something magical about getting outside and exploring new surrounding areas. I heard a statistic on the radio today: 70% of Americans visit less than ten states in their lifetime. How sad is that? Ever since starting this blog and our quest of fifty-two hikes in fifty-two weeks I’ve been consumed with exploring. It’s easily the highlight of my week, and this week was no exception. Tara had sent me a list on Friday and told me to pick a landing spot (www.naturalohioadventures.com). I scrolled through and found myself in Lake County – an area we already visited last year, but a new reservation to the both of us: Penitentiary Glen.

Overall, this weekend was great. We had such pristine weather for Northeast Ohio – mid sixties with plenty of sunshine. It was also Tara’s birthday!!! (Happy Birthday babe!)  The night before our hike we had a going away party for one of my best friends who is deploying overseas for his first tour of duty as an officer in the United States Army; Bill – thank you for your service and sacrifice.

This could easily be one of my favorite hikes ever. I will admit – I was in a terrible mood going into it. I play rec league basketball every Sunday morning. We were promptly blown out by almost forty points. The other team dropped over one hundred on us. Simply put, I was embarrassed. I was so embarrassed that I just grabbed my belongings and left without saying a word after the game. Yes, I know, its rec league basketball, but the frustrations of only winning one game over the past four months has me thirsting for a win. Sunday, down our best player, felt like we took a huge step back.

Anyway, when I got back to the apartment, hiking was the last thing on my mind. I had half a mind to crack open a beer and park it on the couch all day. Tara and I don’t do well with a day of idleness so we cooked breakfast and got ready to go. We drove the forty minutes to the park and picked the longest trail available – Rabbit Run Loop. This trail sounds innocent, but if you choose this one, be prepared for some serious hiking.

Rabbit Run will at first lull you to sleep. An easy crushed gravel path, relatively flat terrain, and the humming of a nearby road make it seem less than spectacular. I remember opening my big mouth and complaining about the description of – “Length: 2.63 miles / Difficulty: Hard / Trail Description: Best and longest trail in the park. Loop trail that parallels the southern rim of the gorge and descends into it at the trail’s easternmost point.” Tara forewarned me that I’d regret it. I ended up eating crow, and boy did it taste good.

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The description nailed it! It dove deep into the woods. The crushed gravel turned into mud, leaves, and a variety of exciting terrain. We crossed over, under, and across downed trees. We tested our footing and balance in the middle of a stream on some moss covered rocks, and we scaled up the side of a mud filled 100+ foot ascent. The best part about it: all I could hear was nature. Tara and I celebrated the whole way through the trail.

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We’ve recently been messing around with the Boomerang app on Instagram and laughed at some of the crazy videos we created. (Don’t forget to follow us for unseen footage and pictures: @HisAndHerHiking.) We talked and bull shitted our way through the trail and ended up in the Nature Center where we discovered a few woodland creatures on display. As we climbed in the car, we BARELY beat a mid-afternoon downpour and spent the rest of the day on the couch resting and watching basketball.

I did lose the #HisAndHer6packChallenge … those pesky Tarheels won one of the best basketball games I’ve seen in quite a while. This would be a weekend for the scrapbook – if I made such a thing. I encourage all of you to get out and explore. Don’t be a part of the 70% who doesn’t explore the beauty of this country; it’s only a small car ride away.

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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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Hers – Columbia Reservation

 

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Another week, another cold hike. That’s what it was feeling like last Sunday when I woke up. I know, I know. I’ve been complaining about the weather a lot. But it’s nearly the end of March, and I’m completely desperate for spring. It doesn’t even have to be warm, I’ll just take a glimpse of sunshine at this point. We had a pretty big snow storm earlier this past week, and it seems like every day since has been gray and gloomy and cold. Sunday was no exception.

My energy level was way down, and as soon as we got into the car to head out to the park, I couldn’t wait to get back home in sweats to just lay on the couch. We drove 25 minutes west to Columbia Station, Ohio. The drive out helped lift my mood a little as we got out of the city and into some more rural surroundings.

Once we got to the reservation and out of the car, I realized I didn’t dress nearly warm enough. Definitely should’ve doubled up on the pants and socks. It was going to be a chillier walk than I anticipated, and I let Casey know that it was probably going to be a fairly quick one.

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We set off on a paved path and into the soggy gray mist. Columbia Reservation is a wetland reservation, so the path weaves around several ponds and marshes and into dense woods. It was a gray, misty morning complete with fog that hung low. A co-worker of mine calls it “history weather.” It’s the kind of weather you imagine during Civil War battles early in the morning.

But as we kept walking, the “history weather” turned straight up creepy. There wasn’t a soul in sight. The fog made it difficult to see through the trees and the ponds were completely still. The trees themselves were barren and blackened with boney, crooked branches. The only sound was that of crows cawing overhead. It was eerie. This was Edgar Allen Poe weather!

Casey and I both commented on the creepiness of it all. We were walking hand in hand when he abruptly stopped and stared at the ground. He went to reach for his phone when I finally saw what he was staring at. A dead mouse. Smack dab in the middle of the trail. It didn’t look like anything had gotten to it. It was just straight up frozen. I took off in a hurry, while Casey was still trying to dig out his phone. I knew he was going to take a picture, and I literally scolded him to do nothing of the sort. I told him that’s where I draw the line with this blog. (You’re welcome.)

We kept walking, and our imaginations started to run wild. Casey went down the route of vagabonds and sasquatches. I went straight to ax murderers that dump dead bodies in the pond. We made a few jokes about it, but I think it creeped us both out a little bit so we picked up the pace (I was also REALLY cold).

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It was an easy trail loop around the main pond and back to the car (thanks to Casey’s keen sense of direction or else I would’ve been going in circles through the forest). While I’m glad we got out for this hike, I have to say my favorite part was driving out to a new area and seeing a new town, not so much the park itself. I’m really hoping this was our final sendoff to the winter season. I promise guys, once it starts getting sunny and warmer you won’t have to read about me complaining about the weather…until it gets too hot. Kidding! 😀

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.