Well, it took over a month, but I finally built up enough stamina — and had a whole day free — to return to the Old Carriage Trail in the CVNP and finish hiking it.
I started at the Station Road Bridge trailhead for the Towpath, despite it being a slightly longer distance to the north cut-off for the Old Carriage Trail, simply because I really like visiting the bridges. (OK, I had another reason that I’ll share later.) So once I crossed the old bridge, I turned right and headed south down the Towpath for 1.25 miles.
After all the rain we’ve had lately, the Cuyahoga River seemed to fill its banks, flowing swiftly past me, its current dangerously strong. One section of the Towpath had fallen victim to a nearby creek overrunning its banks, as part of the trail had washed away, leaving a few deep cuts in the path. As soon as I turned onto the Old Carriage Trail and saw a dirt path ahead of me, I knew I would find seriously muddy conditions on my hike.
This portion of the trail began the same way as the previous one: with a steep climb up to a ridge overlooking the valley. In fact, once I reached the top, a secondary trail split off, leading me out along the ridge to an overlook where I could see the Cuyahoga Valley on one side and a tributary creek’s valley on the other. Despite the many trees surrounding me, the wind from a passing weather front buffeted me as I walked, so I didn’t linger.
When I returned to the main trail, I followed it in and out around a few ridges and small valleys. Looking down through the mostly-bare woods, I noticed that what were likely seasonal streams now featured rushing rapids and small waterfalls. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get close enough for good views and photos, but I enjoyed the musical sounds they added to my adventure.
By the time I reached the northernmost of the three condemned bridges (Hemlock Bridge) on the trail, I was ready for a break. I rested near the bridge, eating a snack, and listened to the water rushing far below in the hemlock-lined valley. Although I could see a housing development just yards away from the trail, I felt like I had a whole section of wilderness to myself on this quiet, grey day.
After I had rested, eaten, stretched, and taken plenty of photos, I headed back down the trail. The mile and a half back to the Towpath passed much more quickly as I kept my pace steady, focused on getting back to the next adventure.
Which brings me to my second reason for starting my hike at the Station Road Bridge: the hopes of some off-trail waterfall hunting. I’ve seen photos of waterfalls on some of the secondary creeks flowing into the Cuyahoga, and after finding directions for a couple, I wanted to hike back and find Crazy Man’s Hollow Falls or its “impostor.”
I found both of the creeks, but both of the hikes involved more obstacles than I felt safe tackling when I was tired from the long hike, alone, and not wearing my mud boots. Still, I had an adventure, finding new solitary places to appreciate in the park, and I can always try again sometime.
So after about 6 miles of hiking, I returned to the parking area, thrilled at being able to check another trail off my hiking goal list!