Most of my hikes in the Cuyahoga Valley end up happening within the national park, but there are still plenty of trails within the Summit Metro Parks waiting for me to explore. That’s why today I decided to tackle a few of those SMP hikes.
After catching a glorious sunrise at Silver Creek Metro Park, I drove to Cascade Valley Metro Park’s Chuckery area for my first two hikes: the Highbridge Trail, connecting to Gorge Metro Park, and the Chuckery Trail. I started at the trailhead, swerving around the old Indian signal tree, before following the trail along the banks of a wildly rushing Cuyahoga. I know it’s a powerful river, especially just downstream from the Gorge Dam, but it seemed exceptionally strong and rapid after recent rains and snowmelt.
While part of me thrilled to walk so closely to this mighty river, part of me was also relieved when the trail turned inland and headed up the slope to meet the Highbridge Trail. Once on this ridge, it remained level for a short distance before climbing up again and passing under the high bridge carrying State Road traffic over the gorge. Even once past the bridge, the path remained relatively level over to the dam and beyond, with views down into the river valley.
Having walked far enough on that path, I returned, stopping at a bench near the bridge for a breather, and continued on the trail to pick up the rest of the Chuckery Trail. Again, the trail led me up another ridge, but surprisingly it remained there, following power lines along a broad path between neighborhoods and woods. It was, I confess, somewhat dull compared to other trails I’ve hiked in these parks.
Eventually, the trail wound back down through the trees, across the park drive, and toward the river once more. At this lower altitude, I spotted more greenery and wildflowers, including coltsfoot, spring beauties, possibly budding dame’s rocket, and what might have been either hepatica or bloodroot. I’m not as knowledgeable at identifying early wildflowers as I’d like, but I certainly recognized the invasive species of multiflora rose and garlic mustard along the path. It made for a more engaging walk because I kept scanning the ground cover for blossoms and new leaves and challenging myself to figure out what plants I was seeing.
Once I made it back to the signal tree and then the parking area, I had a quick snack and stretched, assessing my physical condition and finding myself ready and eager to tackle one last trail in Cascade Valley. So I hopped in the car, headed north for a mile or two, and pulled into the Schumacher area.
This short (1.2 mile) trail is rated “difficult” for all the ups and downs along the valley, but I must be building up more stamina and stronger knees because I didn’t think it was overly daunting. Certainly it turned out no worse than the trails at Wooster Memorial, and I survived those recently! It also connects to the Valley Trail winding through Sand Run Metro Park, which I will have to try sometime.
By the time I finished this third trail (before 11 AM no less!), I felt well exercised but not exhausted — amazing! I had not brought any more trail maps or considered any other hikes for the day, though, so I simply made a stop at Stan Hywet and wandered around the gardens for about half an hour to cool down.
Now that’s a great morning of hiking!