Winter on the Tree Farm Trail

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In reading about the various trails throughout the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, I found the description of the Tree Farm Trail especially appealing. It starts from Horseshoe Pond, a peaceful and scenic spot, covers an easy 2.75-mile path, and was once part of a local Christmas tree farm. The description also indicated its popularity with cross-country skiers.

So naturally I could only imagine hiking this trail in winter, with plenty of snow to set off the evergreen trees and to muffle the sounds of my progress through the woods. And when I started planning my day of New Year’s Eve hikes, the Tree Farm Trail ended up at the top of my list.

As usual, I found myself pulling into the parking lot at first light, with shadows still clinging to the trees and a blue glow cast across the light blanket of snow. Though the temperature hovered in the 20s, I really only felt chilled when the wind picked up and started moaning through the treetops. I startled a few times before realizing that the odd creaks and cries I heard came from the tall old pines themselves, swaying in the frigid wind.

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For the first mile, I watched as the sky gradually lightened and turned a rosy hue before sunrise. That colorful light, seen between long rows of slender but sturdy pines, warmed the landscape and gave me even more reason to congratulate myself on choosing this hike.

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Some parts of the trail follow the paths laid out in the original tree farm, and the even spacing and uniform growth of white pines and other evergreens have made for some stunningly lovely views. One stretch in particular had the feel of a majestic natural cathedral, the tree trunks providing sanctuary while drawing the eye upward to the light. I’ve hiked other trails in the area that feature orderly rows of pines, but this was truly the most beautiful I’ve seen to date.

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After wandering through clearings and small wetlands (as well as more woods), the trail opened onto a hilly meadow that bordered another tree farm (this one currently in operation) before returning to the woods for the final leg. It rambled back and forth, covering a large portion of this parcel of land, and it emerged at last along the dam on the east side of Horseshoe Pond.

Though the trail conditions had been messy in many places — a mire of grass, mud, snow, and ice, all churned up by multiple footprints — the trail itself completely won me over. It made the perfect hike for the holiday season!

 

 

 

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