This week I decided to focus my hiking on state parks and state nature preserves. I have so many of these locations on my hiking goals list for the year that I thought I’d better start making a dent in that list.
Yesterday, I had the whole morning free and decided to return to Portage Lakes State Park to finish hiking the trails there. This time, I started at the north end of the park and followed the Shoreline Trail along the water before turning and exploring a couple of connected trails on my way back to the car. I spotted a couple of fishermen taking their boats down to the launch ramp, but I had the woods to myself (except for the occasional deer).
After checking that park off my list, I headed east to Quail Hollow State Park. By the time I arrived, the overcast skies had begun to clear, adding a little extra warmth to my walk. I started behind the manor house, wandering through the herb garden and admiring the plantings, both those in bloom and those just beginning to turn green.
From there, I followed a trail through a wetland area before climbing into and around the woods. It eventually led me back to the herb garden, and I continued across the grass to the Sedge Marsh and Meadowlands Trails. Being grassy trails around wetlands and woods, of course, they became very muddy in spots, slowing my pace. But since I could enjoy the sunshine along the paths, I didn’t mind too much. (Except when I got stuck.)
Today, with an entire day off work, I decided to drive farther to begin my adventures, heading north and east into Geauga County. I found Burton Wetlands State Nature Preserve down a gravel road in the middle of nowhere, parked the car, and followed a short trail through the woods to Lake Kelso. This kettle lake, surrounded by bog plants, appeared still and peaceful in the morning light. Since I spotted a few water lilies starting to grow and heard a few different bird species singing, I’m sure this place will become even more lively as the weather warms.
I returned to the car, then continued across the road to hike the other trails at Burton Wetlands, wandering first through meadows and then swampy woodlands. At one point, the woods became wetlands right up to the trail, as beavers had built a dam along the forest floor to create an extension of their watery home. And yes, there was plenty of mud on this trail to prove the flexibility of that boundary between ecosystems.
Not far away, Punderson State Park offered me plenty more hiking for the day. I started first at the marina and hiked south along Punderson Lake, crossing the beach before following the Iroquois Trail through the woods, to the lodge, and back to the beach. Somewhere in there I also managed to pick up a portion of the Mohican Trail, full of mud and lined with yellow trout lilies waiting to bloom.
After a light lunch, I drove back toward the park entrance to tackle a couple more trails. The Musher Trail led me west toward Pine Lake, but as it also led through a disc golf course, I soon lost track of the trail markers and ended up a bit befuddled by the choice of muddy paths. When I did find a trail marker, I discovered I had managed to find the southernmost leg of the Cayuga Trail (along the golf course) and thus had a long slog back to the parking area. I’ve never been so frustrated by trails before, but thanks to my studies of the park maps posted elsewhere, I was able to think my way out of the woods and out of that “lost!” feeling. I eventually found the main park road and decided to follow that rather than another mile of super muddy trail.
By the time I reached the car, I was exhausted and sore (having stepped wrong in the mud a few times and wrenching my back and legs), so I decided it was time to head home, making a couple stops along the way to get out and stretch before I really started hurting. But it’s been a successful week of hiking, with four more items on my hiking goals list checked off!