In past years, I’ve tried to start Christmas Day with a peaceful walk in the neighborhood before sitting down to brunch with family and opening presents. This year, though, with no close family left, I wanted to reclaim Christmas entirely for myself, so I spent Christmas Eve with my “second family” and made plans to go hiking on my own today.
I started off with a sunrise hike at Oak Hill Park. Saying “sunrise” is slightly misleading, though: I arrived at the park by first light, but the cloud cover and light mist ensured that I would not actually see the sun rise. Still, I enjoyed the peace of hiking alone along familiar paths, breathing in fresh air and stillness on a quiet morning.
After breakfast and chores at home, I headed out for my Christmas exploring. Having decided that one of my 2017 hiking goals will be to visit all the Medina County Parks and to hike all the trails there, I saw no reason to wait until the New Year to start working toward that goal. And just by driving half an hour north of home, I could visit two parks and get my fill of hiking for the day.
The first stop, River Styx Park, featured three trails. The first, a paved path around the three-acre pond, offered scenic views across the now-frozen water and into the woods beyond. Benches alternated with bushes and other plants along the pond’s edges, with spaces in between where hopeful fishing enthusiasts might cast their lines — or fanatic photographers might capture images.
The paved trail joined up with the dirt (and ice) nature trail leading up the hills overlooking the glacier-formed River Styx Valley. My hiking poles saved me many times as my feet slipped on the icy patches, but I survived the up-and-down trek to emerge from the woods. A short loop trail skirted between meadow and woods, and while the landscape was quiet today, come spring and summer it will burst with colorful wildflowers and vibrant bird song.
Picking up the nature trail once more, I headed back into the woods and down the hill to the parking area. Though the total distance for all three trails noted on the park map came to about 1.5 miles, the route I followed ended up just under a mile (though it felt much longer thanks to the ice!).
From there I drove a short distance to Hubbard Valley Park, a larger park with a similar mix of woods, meadows, and water (a local reservoir). I followed a paved path around the parking area and into the woods, crossing a footbridge and creek to reach the Trillium Trail and the Sugar Woods Loop.
The Sugar Woods Loop took me up into a second-growth woods dominated by beech and maple. Plenty of forest management has taken place here recently, both to remove fallen trees from blocking the trail and to harvest a select few others. This trail meanders a fair bit, but it winds far enough from the road to make it a peaceful hike.
When the loop returned to the Trillium Trail, I followed the longer trail through a similar forest community, passing an area where pines and spruce trees are being cultivated for added diversity. Gradually I caught glimpses of the reservoir through the trees until finally, at a high point on the trail, I walked onto an observation platform for views out to the water. (It also made a great place for a quick yoga break!) The trail finished by looping around the end of the lake, across the earthen dam, and back along the banks to a play and picnic area next to the parking lot.
All together, the trails at Hubbard Valley added almost 2 more miles to my daily total, making my Christmas hiking mileage close to 4.5 miles — more than I would have thought I could do in the icy conditions! The day spent alone in nature was a true gift to myself, for my peace of mind as well as for my exercise.
Now I’m wondering, how might I kick off a New Year of hiking? Must start looking at the maps and planning…