This has to be the strangest “winter” ever in northeast Ohio. We’ve had comparatively few days with snow or temps below the teens, and we’re looking at a week-long forecast of temperatures reaching highs between 60 and 70F. Trees and shrubs are budding like mad, crocuses and snowdrops are blooming, and lawns (and weeds!) are greening up. It’s mid-February. MID. FEBRUARY. This is not normal.
On the upside, though, it makes for great hiking weather. Area trails are still muddy, but being outside in warmer temps, especially in the sunshine, is heaven.
So there was no doubt in my mind that I would make the most of my day off work today. My hiking buddy finally felt up to joining me for a day of challenging hiking again, so I baked scones yesterday and made some granola for trail snacks, packed extra clothes and footwear (in case we decided to go river-walking) as well as several trail maps (keeping our options open), and dragged him out before dawn.
I decided I had waited long enough to return to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, so we headed first for the Happy Days Lodge parking lot on Rt. 303. Two trails start from this spot in the national park: Boston Run, a 3.5-mile trail into the hills and ravines on the north side of the road, and Haskell Run, a 0.5-mile trail from the lodge to the Ledges trail and looping back. And we decided to hike them both.
We started with Boston Run, walking parallel to the road before descending the hill into the valley. The sun filtered through the still-bare trees as it rose, casting a rosy and then golden glow over our surroundings. We followed the winding trail up and down and over streams running through the woods, stomping through mud and occasionally spotting green patches of ferns, garlic mustard, chickweed, and other early plants.
About halfway through the hike, we spotted a bench with a gorgeous view into a wooded ravine, so we stopped for a tea-and-scone break. (Always good to have a civilized little break on the trail!) Feeling refreshed, we continued the looping trail, finding other lovely views and climbing back up and out of the valley to return to the car.
From there, we walked under the road and picked up Haskell Run trail. It, too, led us down into a valley, though a less dramatic one, and we found more signs of an early spring, including several large clusters of skunk cabbage in a particularly wet patch.
When the path forked, I nudged my friend onto a connector trail for a quick visit to the Ledges. He had not seen this part of the park before, and I had not planned for us to hike the entire trail today. I promised I would bring him back sometime, maybe this spring, so we can explore it some more. Turning back, we returned to the Haskell Run loop and finished up back at Happy Days Lodge.
The two trails combined with a couple of short side treks came to nearly 4.5 miles, a respectable start to the day’s hiking and worthy of another tea break. We consulted the trail maps and decided on our next stop, which took us away from the national park but not out of the Cuyahoga Valley.
But that’s another story for another post, so stay tuned.