For over 45 years of my life, I remained unaware of much of my home state’s geological history. Sure, my 7th-grade history class covered how the glaciers advanced to the Terminal Moraine and retreated at the end of the Ice Age, scouring the landscape to flat fields in northwest Ohio and to ridges and valleys in the northeast. But that’s really about all I could tell you.
What I didn’t learn until recently was how the combination of shale and Berea sandstone, created by millions of years of silt and sediments compressed into layers, created not only many of the gorgeous and dramatic waterfalls in our corner of the state but also many formations called ledges. And every time I find out about a ledge trail in the area, it seems there’s yet another one to explore after that.
Probably the most well-known of the ledge trails in the area is at Virginia Kendall Park, within the CVNP, with its stunning overlook of the Cuyahoga Valley. I have also enjoyed exploring ledge trails in two of the Summit Metro Parks: Liberty and Gorge. Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park is on my hiking goal list for the year, as is Whipp’s Ledges in Hinckley Reservation (Cleveland Metroparks).
But Hinckley Reservation features another, less well-known ledge trail that has a unique distinction: Worden’s Ledges not only showcase the beautiful sandstone formations, but they also serve as an outdoor art gallery for the rock carvings of Noble Stuart.
As I’ve seen on almost every trail, trees and even rocks have inspired graffiti through the ages. On the Worden’s Ledges trail, you can find graffiti by the Wordens (former owners of the property) from the latter half of the 19th century, and you can find both obvious and subtle carved artwork dating from the 1940s. Worden’s eldest daughter Nettie took over the estate after her parents’ deaths, and at the age of 80, she married 63-year-old Stuart, an aspiring sculptor. He carved a number of faces, large and small, in the soft sandstone ledges, along with a variety of other subjects, including the mythological sphinx shown above.
As with the other ledge trails, the trail starts from the woods above, winding around until a safe descent takes you to the base of the ledges. These sandstone outcroppings, decorated with lushly green moss and ferns, have a variety of colors streaked through the exposed layers, making them beautiful in themselves. But the added enjoyment of this particular hike comes from examining the stone closely to find Stuart’s many creations.
I looked carefully around me and even scaled some rocks to search hidden corners, and I found four faces, Nettie’s name in Spencerian script, a cross and bible, the sphinx, and a sailing ship, along with basic graffiti from over the years. I am quite certain there are other images I missed, so I know a return visit is in order.
This ledge trail is a little shorter and possibly easier than the others I have hiked so far, though the many rocks make it a hike demanding concentration and caution. But if you’re in the area and want to explore an unusual natural AND man-made wonder, don’t miss this trail!