I had one sunny day set aside for hiking during my Ohio vacation last month, and I started with a mistake. No, the mistake wasn’t beginning with Brecksville Reservation in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was assuming Brecksville was a beginning, and I was going to be going to a lot of places in different locations in the park. Instead I turned into an outdoorsman version of the tourist in Art Buchwald’s “three minute Louvre” column, and in trying to see everything saw next to nothing.
Brecksville is on the west side of the Cuyahoga River, on Route 82. The day I visited the sun was out, the temperature was up, and the park was crowded with families. I started with a short walk to the Environmental Education center, feeling cooler under the trees. The center itself is in an old Civilian Conservation Corp cabin, and has displays geared towards introducing children to the outdoors. After a few minutes there learning just what might be hiding under an old log, I resumed my walk.
The highlight of this part of the park was the miniature prairie. I’ve seen pint-sized wetlands in Pennsylvania parks, but I was impressed with Brecksville’s presentation. I spent a few minutes walking through the fields, observing the bees and butterflies and the flowers. I felt light at heart. At least until I realized I had a schedule. I should have stuffed the schedule in my pocket – carry in, carry out – and spent the day here. Instead, I moved on. Further down the park road by car, when I could have hiked it.
My second stop in the park was along Chippewa Creek. The waterfall on the creek is a popular lunch stop for local residents, as the overlook to the gorge has a half-dozen picnic tables, and all were occupied when I was there. The falls themselves are visible from a distance, hidden under a bridge. There were signs posted warning not to enter the gorge, and I’d not have attempted to scramble down the rock walls.
From the picnic and parking area at the falls runs a wooded trail that leads back to the Environmental Education center. I hiked a mile of it. As usual with hiking in Ohio, the trail surface was a pleasure compared to Rocksylvania. The portion of the trail I hiked ran along the edge of the gorge, and at one pointed turned onto an overlook upstream towards the falls. No picnic tables here, just woods and me. The shade was comforting in the still Ohio heat. I hiked about a mile total along the Chippewa. Time, and the fact I’d decided to try new insoles in my boots and they weren’t working out, cut short my hike. I went back to the car, change to my trail runners, and drove on to my next stop.
I had a good day, and enjoyed everything I saw, but in the end I would have been better served by staying put. My mental rush was partly caused by the length of time it took me to get to the park from my host’s home outside Akron. Had I left early in the morning I’d have beaten the heat as well as northbound traffic and have been able to hike longer. Or I could have left the Tinker’s Creek and other sites for another day.
Also, my old sedentary habits might have been manifesting themselves again. When I am alone my hikes and rides tend to be shorter and easier. All my hiking in Ohio was alone, since most of my friends are cyclists and not hikers. So I rode up to 36 miles at a time in Ohio but had no hike over a mile.
So the long and short of it is that I tasted Brecksville Reservation instead of drinking it deep. Next time I am back in Ohio I need to hike that entire trail along the Chippewa and spend a day enjoying the park, instead of driving all over.