Day In the Valley

horseshoe-pond-sunrise-blue

Since Sunday’s forecast called for copious amounts of rain, my hiking buddy and I decided to postpone our finish to the SMP Spree. Good thing, too: when the rain came late in the morning, it poured, making me grateful I had stayed inside to clean.

Still, I didn’t want to have to wait another week before hitting the trails again. And since my work schedule changed a little this week, I had a whole Monday off to get out and explore. So I sat down with my maps to plot my course.

On my solo hiking days, I’ve focused my attention on the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. While I want to walk the rest of the CVNP portion of the Towpath this year (three segments left!), I also thought that on a full day’s outing I would like to check lots of smaller hikes off my hiking goals list. It sometimes surprises me that I’ve explored so little of the CVNP, but it seems that the more I visit it, the more I discover to explore. Why not spend a day visiting some of those lesser-known treasures?

I’m an early bird by nature, and after watching the sun rise over Kendall Lake a couple weeks ago, I wanted to start my day off with something similar. I arrived at Horseshoe Pond by first light and walked the short path to the main deck overlooking the water. As the sky lightened, I walked the trail around to the center of the “horseshoe,” finding several beautiful views of the sunrise, the reflections of the trees, and the mist rising off the water.

While walking around the other side of the pond, I discovered another, longer trail leading into the woods, so I picked up a trail map on my way back to my vehicle. Like I said, the more I visit, the more I find!

oak-hill-tall-trees

The next stop on my planned itinerary, Oak Hill trail, turned out to be an easy to moderate hike through the woods west of the Towpath. It, too, revealed an additional trail (the Plateau trail) for me to hike on a future visit, though I did take a 1/4-mile round-trip detour onto that outer trail in order to visit Meadowedge Pond.

oak-hill-trail-sylvan-pond-untouched

Back on Oak Hill trail, I followed the relatively gentle ups and downs in a rough circle, ending up at the gorgeous Sylvan Pond before returning to the trailhead. Even though we have passed the peak of fall color here in northeast Ohio, I still found plenty here!

everett-covered-bridge-side

I had never before been to stop #3, the Everett Road Covered Bridge, so it made sense to add it to my itinerary, even though it entailed a very modest little walk. The photos I’ve seen of the bridge always look so postcard-perfect, so I tried to find new ways to see and explore it. I wandered down the banks of the mist-covered creek, climbed the rocks underneath the bridge, and spent more time examining the architecture than the prettiness. It certainly made a restful pause between longer hikes!

After a stop at Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park for a bonus Spree hike — look for that post next — I drove across the river to return to the Virginia Kendall Park unit of the CVNP. When I visited a couple weeks ago, I found out about the other trails in this part of the park, so I decided to put the Octagon Shelter on this day’s hiking list.

octagon-forest-point-edge

Two trails start from this point: the moderate Pine Grove trail and the easy 1/2-mile Forest Point trail. I started with the Pine Grove, climbing to a slightly higher elevation to hike through the woods. Surprisingly, the forest here is not predominantly pine, as I had hoped, but the many colors from the deciduous trees made up for it. Occasionally, the trail meandered closer to the plateau edge, giving me a fine glimpse of the contours and ravines of this area, before looping back to the drive leading to the shelter. After a short break, I crossed the squishy, muddy meadow to the Forest Point trailhead for a mellow walk through more of that beautiful foliage.

By this time — nearly 1 PM and almost 6 hours into my hiking agenda for the day — I was starting to wear out. Still, I had one more place on my list for the day, and I knew I could find the energy for it.

But that took me away from the CVNP for the day — and merits a post of its own. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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