Since I had the energy to continue hiking after starting the morning at Portage Lakes State Park, I decided to head to Firestone Metro Park to check off two more trails from my hiking goal list.
The first trail, the Walking Course, is an exercise course laid out for seniors, with stations where they can use wooden benches, steps, and other equipment to stretch and warm up before a gentle hike. I decided to pass on the exercises so I could focus on my hike, though I did give a couple a quick try. The walking portion of the trail led along Tuscarawas Race (an offshoot of the nearby river) and took me through meadows as well as past the bottom of the sledding hill (seen above, with definitely not enough snow for sledding).
A footbridge took me over the Race and along the opposite bank, where the path converged with the Willow Trail. At this intersection, I met this fine-feathered friend, a gregarious chickadee that flew to my feet, hopped closer, chirping all the while. Even when I turned on to the Willow Trail, it followed me, flying from tree to tree as if to ask to accompany me on my hike, before eventually zooming off into the woods.
The Willow Trail follows the Tuscarawas River for a short distance before it meets the Redwing Trail, the trail I had hiked last fall as part of the SMP Spree. It made for a colorful contrast to many recent hikes, with the additional hints of green on the bushes and the blue sky reflected in the river. It perked up the mood of all the folks I passed on the trail, and it certainly added an extra bounce in my step!
Once the Willow Trail meets the Redwing Trail, the two lead across the river and northeast to the fishing pond. This part of the trail was very familiar, even though I was hiking it in the opposite direction this time around. It led back into the woods and finally emerged near a wildflower meadow (still mostly brown, though some bulbs have started to leaf out).
Instead of turning and following the Redwing Trail back into the woods, I followed the Willow Trail along the meadow and parking lot. One footbridge led me back over the river, with another one to cross the nearby race. The Willow Trail (and the end of the walking course) cut off to the side, following the water, but as that remainder of the trail looked pretty muddy, I decided to pass. And once I had crossed that second bridge, I found these sunny forsythia bushes waiting for me — as if I had crossed a finish line and won a race!
Returning to the car, I checked my walk tracking app and saw that I had covered about 1.6 miles in the park — half a mile or more shy of the real total of the two trails, since I skipped the last small portion. But that’s good enough for me to say I have finished hiking Firestone Metro Park.