Challenging myself to do the Fall Hiking Spree in the Summit Metro Parks this year gave me the opportunity to discover many wonderful places to wander in the woods or to take a serious cardiac-workout kind of hike. But even by completing all 14 trails on the list, I still only saw a part of what the park system has to offer, and I definitely want to discover more.
This morning, after my hike in the CVNP and a quick visit to Bath Nature Preserve to hike one last trail (completing an unofficial hiking goal, just in time for the New Year!), I drove to Nature Realm to explore a new trail there. The easier trails comprised my last hike for the SMP Spree, so I decided to tackle the “moderate” Seneca Trail, a 1.4-mile loop that also connects with the difficult Mingo Trail in neighboring Sand Run Park.
I started from the nature center and walked first past the now-frozen Seneca Pond. What a change from the fall colors and sunny blue skies from my last visit nearly two months ago! This winter stillness appeals to me, though, and gave me a moment to gather myself before hitting the trail.
As I headed into the woods, I remembered what I like the least about winter hiking: icy paths. The trail led down the slope, and while some areas had good footing, I mostly slowed my pace to avoid slipping too much on patches where sunshine or foot traffic had melted the snow, only for it to refreeze. I gave thanks multiple times for my hiking poles but really started to wish I had changed into my winter-prepped hiking shoes!
Still, the pale sunshine cast soft shadows across the trail, my pace kept me warm but also safe, and I found pure enjoyment in being able to take the time to hike and discover the beauty of the day. These glacier-carved ridges and valleys that dominate the trails throughout the Summit Metro Parks (and the CVNP) are so similar, but they each reveal a little something different as I hike through the seasons. I’m having the most marvelous time discovering the character of these trails!
After the Mingo Trail split off, the Seneca Trail passed through an old stone barn foundation (and there’s a story I want to learn!), then climbed back uphill to a vast meadow and, eventually, the rock and herb garden. I decided to skip heading back to the nature center to complete the loop and headed for my car instead. The clouds were moving in, and I had one more trail I wanted to hike before the rain started.
I’m not sure yet how much hiking I will get to do in the SMP this winter, but from what I’ve seen so far, these trails are just as much of a joy to explore in the snow and cold as they are in peak leaf-peeping season, so I hope I’ll be back soon!