I love having the freedom of a whole day for hiking. While it’s great to be able to squeeze in an afternoon hike somewhere close by, I also like waking up and knowing that the first thing I get to do is drive off in the dark and chase the sunrise on the trail, knowing I can explore for as long as I want.
My big hike days this fall have tended to alternate between the Summit Metro Parks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Since I just wrapped up the SMP Spree, it made sense to return to the CVNP this weekend. I made plans to meet new friends for a hike at Kendall Lake at 9 AM, but that still gave me about two hours between sunrise and then to hit a short trail or two on my own.
I haven’t hiked the Towpath section between Ira Road and Hunt Farm in many years, but after seeing some gorgeous sunrise photos from the Beaver Marsh (located less than 1/2 mile north of the Ira Road trailhead), I decided I would start there. Grateful for multiple layers of clothing and the heat from a steaming latte, I ventured into the frosty morning air and started walking along the Towpath.
The only other people I saw on the trail at that hour were photographers, dressed for warmth and packing in plenty of equipment, so I knew I had made a good choice. The heavy frost added a wintry touch to the wildflowers and grasses along the path, and the mist rising from the silvery, still water added a magical atmosphere. I spotted one beaver gliding along, as well as a gaggle of Canadian geese, but otherwise there was a beautiful hush through the wetland.
I took the obligatory photos of reflections on the water, of course, because the view is so stunning with the morning light dancing across the marsh. But I also stopped frequently for photos of leaves (in varying colors) tipped with frost so delicately that they appeared as etched in glass.
The cold seeped into my bones, though, so I only hiked half of that Towpath segment before returning to the car to warm up. But that left me plenty of time to head up the road to revisit Indigo Lake for more “sunrise at the pond” photos as well as a short hike to Hale Farm and Village and back.
A charming historical site, Hale Farm recreates the farming life of the Cuyahoga Valley of 200 years ago. The restored buildings serve as a living history museum where you can “experience the hand-crafted way of life,” from agriculture to crafts and trades. My parents took me there once when I was much younger, and I have not revisited it as an adult.
The trail between Indigo Lake and Hale Farm is a wide, paved one to accommodate a motorized tram that carries visitors from the train stop at Indigo Lake over the hill to the museum. Early on a Sunday morning, though, things were pretty quiet at both ends of the trail, and I lingered a little while to breathe in the peace of the morning.
But don’t worry — I made it to the next hike on time!