Buckeye Trail Archives

September 20, 2008

Hiking the Buckeye Trail

The oldest needed a five mile hike to complete his Second Class requirements for Monday's court of honor (9/22/2008). So he proposed this (supposed) 4.8 mile hike on the Buckeye Trail. He pulled it out of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area Trail Guide Handbook (a long title for such a little book) which I believe has now been superseded by a newer volume.

I believe that in the newer volume the trail has been moved from all the roads we walked but since the blue blazes are still there, if you're comfortable walking on the burm of the road, go take a hike!

We left cars at both the Everett Covered Bridge parking lot and Botzum Station and got started under cover of the bridge at about 10:15. The route we took takes you south on Oak Hill Road, past Hale Farm & Village and some school. Before you get to the school though, there's a cemetery at the intersection with Ira Road where the road takes on the Ira name. When Martin Road runs into Ira Road, keep a sharp lookout for the entrance of the trail into the woods.

This is the part that we really enjoyed. The trail follows the natural contours of the earth under the canopy of the trees. Oh, the trees! There were species of many kinds in much diverse collections than what we see in our neighborhood or even at Beaumont. Since our main goal was to conquer the miles, we didn't bring any plant or animal guides. Bad decision, that was.

We broke for lunch before 1pm before the meadow. Saw a toad, some neat aphids and some downed trees.

We ended up splitting up at one point, letting the Tenderfoot get his miles. Some of the others took the shortcut (in pink on the map).

What a day and what a hike! The youngest boy has visions of hiking the entire thing in sections over the years. That would be fun: Ohio River to Lake Erie!

October 18, 2009

Boston to Peninsula via Manatoc

Trek Preparation

I'd been asked to plan and lead a backpacking trip for my son's Troop. Oil Creek was initially proposed and when I asked around for backpackers experienced with this area, Tracy Ridge was suggested as an alternative. This was soon dismissed since campsite reservations aren't available and the focus returned to Oil Creek.

Insufficient Adirondack reservations at either of the two Oil Creek campsites quickly scrapped that idea again.

Back to Tracey Ridge, then. A camping permit allows Leave-No-Trace tenting 1500 feet from the treeline of the reservoir and I was assured by two sources that there were plenty of tenting opportunities. As we announced this at the troop meeting, I was taken aside and it was suggested that due to weather (it was supposed to snow), distance to the park (easily a three-hour, one-way drive), the difficulty of the terrain, the lengths of the segments (I was told to plan 10-12 miles Saturday and 4-5 on Sunday), the age of the scouts (most were newer scouts) and the availability of adult leaders (three, two of which were first-timers), we should consider something closer and shorter.

There are hiking trails at GCC's Beaumont, GWRC's Stigwandish, Chagrin Reservation, Hinkley, etc., and all within an hour of home.

Through my OA trail work at Beaumont, I'd been made aware of a long loop in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that passed through GTC's Butler and Manatoc camps. A plan began to form that started us at Boston Store, took us on the Buckeye Trail to Pine Lane Trailhead, over Route 303 to Camp Butler, past Manatoc to the Pine Grove Trail and a part of the Ledges Trail back to camp at Manatoc for the first (Saturday) night. This would be approximately 9.5 miles, a little less than the 10-12 miles I was told to plan for. At 2 miles an hour, we could do 9.5 miles in five hours and have plenty of time for fun (and resting) at the campsite.

The next day would see us hike a different trail out of Manatoc to the Pine Lane Trailhead on the Buckeye Trail and into Peninsula where we'd break to head home.

Saturday Morning: getting started

Saturday morning dawned dark, cold and drippy. We decided to take advantage of the early hour and short drive to have a thorough shakedown. This was valuable but as events would show, was still insufficient.

Follow the Blue Blazes!Cars were in position (one at Peninsula and two more at Boston Store) by 10:00 am when the ranger station at Boston Store opened. We checked in with CVNP Dispatch (they want to know when you're leaving cars overnight), checked out the exhibits and got a recent trail report from Ranger Brady. (Ranger Brady has done a number of Junior Ranger programs for my children over the years and knows me only as "Jamie's Dad".) By 10:30 am we were off on the Towpath Trail headed south and then, following the Blue Blazes, onto the Buckeye Trail.

The Buckeye Trail: Boston Store to Pine Lane Trailhead

Yellow MaplesThe trail leaves the Towpath just south of I271 and heads east into the hills. Soon, except for the distant road noise of I271 and then I80, it was easy to just hike along and enjoy the trail.

The trail is heavenly this time of year (and probably others, as well). The fall foliage left the trail in filtered light of pale greens, bright yellows, crackling browns, fiery reds, shocking pinks and peaches and scores of variations and combinations. The terrain is of medium difficulty with plenty of ups, downs and gentle slopes.

The trail remains nearly parallel to Boston Mills Road, crosses it once and uses it to go over I80. There's a grove of white pines (five needles) at this point and we stopped there for a break, a snack and to adjust packs.

Some packs were poorly sized while others were poorly packed. Almost all were overpacked. Overall, footwear, clothing and raingear were good.Old Pine Tree rows

These pines were reportedly planted by Girl Scouts many years ago and the trail stays among this "pine lane" for a while before turning off into the forest. At one point the trail crosses the Valley Trail (a bridle trail) and while one is aware of not being in the wilderness, the outside world wasn't too obtrusive.

Being a fast walker, I placed myself at the tail to keep from leaving everyone behind.

Deep in the WoodsThe trail continues to wind its way mostly south to the Pine Lane Trailhead. From Boston Store to here on the Buckeye Trail is approximately 4.2 miles.

Here we followed the Pine Lane road east to Route 303, noting the OA trail markers on occasion. It appears that if we'd crossed Route 303 sooner, we would have discovered a trail on the south side of 303 leading to the northwest corner of Camp Butler. At it was, we crossed at the camp boundary and found a trailhead with the OA symbols and markers for their yellow and orange trails.

Camp Butler and Camp Manatoc

Stream CrossingAt this point, we were behind our time and some scouts were beginning to show signs of tiring. It was decided to skip the hike through camp to the Pine Grove Trail and beyond to the Ledges Trail and back to our campsite and instead, find a quick trail to Camp Manatoc and our campsite. The Yellow trail south from this corner of Butler seemed to be the fastest despite the two ravines.

These two ravines could really benefit from some switchbacks and it was here that we experienced our first point of confusion about the route to take: short with two ravines or much longer on paved paths. As we were halfway down our first ravine, we opted to continue and hiked our way through some stunning maples to Camp Manatoc.

Camp Manatoc

Campsite at the endAlthough we had reservations, we didn't know which campsite and upon checking in, we found ourselves assigned to Valley Forge. It was described as "ideal" and "idyllic" but when we arrived, we discovered it was bordered by a full parking lot and had no level surfaces. No matter: when one is tired enough, one simply makes do. And by 9:00 pm, we were all out.

Sunday Morning: Manatoc to Peninsula

From Valley Forge, we followed the White trail southeast to Truxell Road where we crossed and joined the Salt Run Trail (going counterclockwise). This transition (from Boy Scout camp trail to National Park trail) could be made easier. And it was surprising to talk to the campmasters the previous night and hear that they had no knowledge of what was to the south of them.

By the time we reached as far west as we could go on this loop, a spur left the path and connected with the Akron-Peninsula Road. We crossed here headed west and joined the Valley Trail (bridle path) north to Peninsula.

Here we shuttled cars, loaded scouts and headed home.


Overall it was a successful trip. The scouts indicated that they would do it again and there were no injuries. Lake, trees, sky The ability for the plan to be adapted and drastically shortened cannot be understated. Although the original instructions were for a much longer trip, it became very clear that the ability and preparedness levels varied so wildly that a longer trip might well have ended in disaster.

In hindsight, asking a new leader to plan and lead this event was probably the wrong thing to do. I was not acquainted with the ability levels and experience of the scouts. I received conflicting guidance from the scoutmaster and the assistants. My expectations were tempered by another leader present and brought more in line with the experience levels of those attending and it was the modification of the original instructions that led to a successful event.

So many thanks to John for making this trip successful!

October 25, 2009

Toes in Lake Erie

Once we became aware of what we were looking for, we were seeing the blue blazes everywhere in northeast Ohio: on the road to Camp Hi, on the paths and road leading to church and many places in between.

Last week's adventure with Troop 403 logged a few more miles on this circuitous route around Ohio and while the trail felt our feet last year, we hadn't done anything serious since then.

So today we decided to log a few more miles on the trail, this time at the trail's northern terminus near Lake Erie. The trail starts (or ends) in the Headlands Beach State Park (Ohio) Toes in Lake Eriejust north of Painesville on the west bank of the Grand River. So with our toes in Lake Erie, we started east and south toward Burton. Well, almost—we decided to avail ourselves of the picnic tables and have some lunch first.

The cottonwoods that make up much of the trees in this part of the park had already dropped most of their leaves and our feet made a loud rustling sound as we followed the blue blazes.

The trail isn't extremely well-marked at this point and we kept moving forward with a general idea of what we expected the trail to do until we caught up with the next blue blaze.

This took us out of the park toward the park entrance where we decided to continue west and back into the park toward the GC1QCEW geocache (which we found).

Heading north from there reconnected us to the Bedford section of the trail, coming in from the west. The trail is marked along the asphalt path that leads to the Northern Terminus but we chose to walk along the lake.Northern Terminus And pick up beach glass. And chase seagulls. And look out, as if to sea.

The weather wasn't too cold, it wasn't too windy and the sunshine was pretty steady. All-in-all, a very nice Sunday afternoon in late October. After all, it could have been snowing.

There were several other singles, couples and families out today as well. Many of them were collecting beach glass for jewelry, collections and, as one fellow put it, "it beats watching the Browns".

So all six of us got another 2.54 miles of hiking under our soles: most of it Buckeye Trail or parallel to it or very near to it.

Someday we want to sink our toes into the waters of the Ohio at the other end (start?) of the Buckeye Trail. Follow the Blue Blazes!There will be plenty of miles between now and then. And when we do, we'll take another picture and post it nearby. I wouldn't be surprised if all of us, were significantly older then.

And we'll just keep following the Blue Blazes.

November 9, 2009

The Route: Boston Store to Peninsula (via Manatoc)

The Buckeye Trail heads south from Boston Store using the Towpath Trail (map here and other hiking descriptions here). Just south of the I271 bridge it heads east (left) up the valley and into the woods. This ascent may be the steepest of the trail to Peninsula. Once on the top of the ridge, the trail stays there, angling toward Boston Mills road and eventually crossing it, only to rejoin it further on as a way to get over I80. Boston Store to Peninsula via Manatoc

This portion of the trail is quite beautiful but never without the auditory reminder that one is so close to two major highways. From time to time there are quarried stones along the trail, similar to the blocks used in the canal locks a few hundred feet down and some miles away. (No doubt they are different but they do seem out of place on the trail.)

South of I80 the trail returns to the west side of Boston Mills road and enters a pine grove of parallel pines. This is the second of these white pine groves and not the last!

Here also is where the bridle trail crosses the Buckeye Trail and heads separately (and more directly) to Pine Lane Trailhead.

The trail leaves the pine grove for more deciduous limbs of oak, beech, maple, sassafras, tulip and the occasional cottonwood. Crossing a now-abandoned portion of the Akron-Peninsula Road, one is reminded of just how close civilization is before entering the woods again. The trail then begins a staircase descent into a valley where it follows a creek for a short bit. This stepping-stone water crossing is quite simple (although not without risk of damp socks) and on the other side of the creek is another rise back up to nearly the same elevation as before.

View Boston Store to Pine Lane Trailhead in a larger map

The trail then takes a fairly straight beeline south and passes through another pine grove before emerging at the Pine Lane Trailhead.

From Boston Store to Pine Lane Trailhead I measured 3.8 miles by GPS. It's listed as 4.2 in some books. I've hiked this portion once with a full backpack and a patrol of Boy Scouts and again as a family hike with children ranging from 3 to 13. (The three year-old got a back-ride for approximately half the trip.) It's pretty easy to average 1.6 mph under either of these conditions.

There's a small parking lot at Pine Lane Trailhead, making it easy to leave a car here and one at Boston Store.

From Pine Lane Trailhead, one can stay on the Buckeye Trail and head west on an abandoned road for approximately .7 miles to Peninsula. In Peninsula there is more parking, restaurants and access to the Towpath Trail (approximately 2 miles north to Boston Store for a loop) and further south on the Buckeye Trail.

For more details on the trails south of Route 303 shown on this map, refer to this posting of our Scout hike continuing on through Camp Butler and Camp Manatoc.

November 11, 2009

Fall Hike in Bedford Reservation

Note: I'm a Tiger Leader with Cleveland Heights' Pack 4 and occasionally blog on their site. This is a cross post from their latest adventure in Bedford Reservation.

Yesterday (November 7th, 2009) was Pack 4's Fall Hike in Bedford Reservation. We chose to hike a portion of the Buckeye Trail starting at Bridal Veil Falls. Here's a good map of the trails. If you're going to print it to take with you, print it in color! The Buckeye Trail and the Bridle Path join and separate and the path is quite confusing at times. Follow the Blue Blazes!

We started at Bridal Veil Falls (point 3 on this map) and hiked about a mile west to the Tinkers Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook (point 2 on this map).

Certainly the leaves were past peak and even so, it was a beautiful hike. The weather was perfect! I'm not sure how we get such wonderful weather on our outings, but the temperature was warm enough (in November!) for short sleeves.

The Bears made some trail food for the hike (achievement 9e: GORP, without the Peanuts and adding Cheerios and M&Ms), the Tigers took a hike to achieve 5G and the Webelos worked toward their Outdoorsman badge.

The picture is looking upstream from the footbridge at Bridal Veil Falls. The whole afternoon was just full of this wonderful light. The sun is low enough that while the treetops were always lit, the hollows and valleys were largely in shadow. The contrasts were just stunning.

Pack 4! — Do your Best!

November 15, 2009

Follow the Blue Blazes!

Three by the Blaze On one of the last nice days of the year, the whole crew took off from Boston Store to Peninsula on the Buckeye Trail. The route can be found here—it's a duplicate of the one I led the Troop on a few weeks earlier. Only this time the weather was almost too warm!

This first picture is of the smaller ones on the crew right after the first steep climb out of the valley. You can see they're all still smiling and full of energy.

The youngest chirped in my ear nearly the whole way. At one point when we went deep into one of the pine lane sections of the trail, she told me that "it's really dark in the woods, daddy". We definitely had longer shadows than in the summertime.

You can see the deep leaves that we had to navigate. It didn't really make it that much more difficult. Occasionally we'd miss a tree root and stub our toes.

The trail is very well marked; there's really no chance of getting lost.

We learned that only Mom likes walking sticks. The two staves that the oldest brought along got left behind near Boston Mills road at one point (to be retrieved later that evening).

Pine Lane TrailheadAnd this picture is everyone at the end of the trail. They look a bit less energetic, but they're still smiling!

November 26, 2009

Buckeye Trail Segments Hiked

Here's a map showing the segments of the Buckeye Trail that I have hiked.

View Buckeye Trail Segments Hiked in a larger map

Everett to Botzum
9/20/2008, whole family
Boston Store to Pine Lane Trailhead
10/17/2009, with Troop 403
11/8/2009, whole family
1/1/2010, JDG, JRG, EMG, BIG, JMG, DRG
9/18/2010, JDG, JRD, BIG and continued to Tow Path Trail and back to Boston Store
Pine Lane Trailhead to Tow Path Trail (Peninsula)
2/14/2010, JDG, BIG, EMG
9/18/2010, JDG, JRD, BIG
Headlands Beach State Park
10/25/2009, whole family
Bedford Reservation, Bridal Veil to Gorge Overlook
11/7/2009, Pack 4
Bedford Metroparks, Northfield to Richmond
10/30/2009, whole family

May 27, 2010

Fishing along the Buckeye Trail

BT around Shadow LakeThe Buckeye Trail passes along the eastern shore of Shadow Lake in the South Chagrin Reservation. This is in the Bedford Section of the Trail and from here it is possible to hike (north) all the way to Lake Erie or (south) into the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

This little lake is stocked with trout each year and while it may be possible to catch one, we have not. (We have seen them, however!) Perhaps one's luck is better in the winter, ice-fishing.

The lake is approximately 3.3 acres and the trail approaches the lake from the south, passes along the eastern and then northern edges of the lake before turning back into the woods at these steps (pictured).

Katie's First CatchWe almost always catch something here, usually Bluegill Sunfish, Pumpkinseed Sunfish, Redear Sunfish or the odd Rock Bass.

I'm fairly certain that Katie is showing a Redear Sunfish in this picture. There's a barely perceptible red spot on the trailing edge of its "ear" in a close-up picture.

Anyway, Katie is ecstatic with her catch, her first, from casting to landing.

She's using a fly jig with a weighted head and a nice juicy (thick-skinned) maggot. Seemed to work that day since we were pulling them in one after another.

September 2, 2010

Blue Hen Falls (Cuyahoga Challenge)

The HikersThe weather was again perfect today for another hike (third of ten) in the Cuyahoga Challenge.

This hike was at Blue Hen Falls and included a short portion of the Buckeye Trail.

The Buckeye Trail forms a loop around the great state of Ohio with a couple of spurs that allow a hiker to start on the shore of Lake Erie and end on the banks of the Ohio River.

Over the years we've hiked a total of 10 miles or so, some of it contiguous.

I was surprised, though, just how short this particular hike was.

Impatiens capensisYellow JewelweedThe trail leads down from the parking area on an old asphalt road. There's a short leg and a nice bridge and then you find yourself at the falls!

We found two varieties of Jewelweed, an orange (Impatiens capensis) and a yellow (Impatiens pallida).

chipmunkBlue Hen FallsEven the chipmunks and chickadees were out.

And of course, there were plenty of blue blazes!

While there was one other car at the trailhead, we didn't see any signs that anyone else was on this segment of trail.

More hikersIt was a great day for a hike.

The Blue Hen Falls trail (approximately 0.5 miles) (pdf) starts at the Blue Hen Falls parking lot which is located on Boston Mills Road, west of Riverview Road (pdf) in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

September 18, 2010

Buckeye & Valley Trails (Cuyahoga Challenge)

The HikersThe family split up this time to complete our tenth (and final) hikes of the Cuyahoga Challenge (pdf). This entry tells of the boys' trip, starting at Boston Store and heading south on the Buckeye Trail to Pine Lane, then west to Peninsula (still on the Buckeye Trail), then turning north on the Tow Path Trail back to Boston Store.

We've covered the Buckeye Trail segment of this hike to Pine Lane multiple times, with Boy Scouts and fully-laden backpacks, in the fall with little ones and at least once in the snow.

We've even hiked the Pine Lane to Peninsula once (in thigh-deep snow).

So what was left to do but hike the whole thing?

The Cuyahoga Challenge listed this as a loop at around 8.0 miles. Here are our official statistics:

7.26 miles
4.4 mph maximum
3.0 mph moving average
1.9 mph overall average
2 hours, 26 minutes moving time
1 hour, 23 minutes stopped

FungusWhat does this all mean? When we were moving, we moved. And we took a lot of look-around breaks.

We didn't move so fast that we didn't see cool stuff. Here's a tiny fungus growing on a log.

We over-packed and over-planned. We even over-communicated with the NPS folks at Boston Store. Seeing as we'd be out for four or five hours, we thought we'd leave them a nice note telling them who we are, where we were going, what we were carrying, our experience level, cell-phone number and when we'd be back. They seemed to appreciate this when we returned to the trailhead, but I couldn't help but wonder if this would only incite some worry.

Personally, I think this will be the last time I hike this section for a while. It was a busy, busy trail (runners, walkers and hikers) and the Tow Path was a virtual highway of bikes, runners, walkers and dogs. I think I need a road less traveled for my next one.

Boston Store south to TowPath Trail.jpgThe trail starts out flat, but quickly gets steep as it veers off to the east under Interstate 271 and away from the Tow Path Trail. This initial hill rises 242 vertical feet over the first 400 horizontal feet, somewhat unusual for this part of Ohio and it makes for a fun hike. This quick rise also gets the hiker off the Cuyahoga flood plain and into beeches, maples, oaks and sassafras.

Once over this ridge, the trail parallels Boston Mills Road, nearing the Ohio Turnpike (I80) at one point for a dramatic overlook, then nearing and then crossing Boston Mills Road.

The trail stays away from Boston Mills Road for a bit, wandering around a pine wood, then winding among some old home foundations before returning to the road and using it to cross I80 over to the south and another old pine tree farm.

The rows of old pine trees look majestic, almost cathedral and this is a good place to take a break. With the Valley Bridle Trail coming in from the west and crossing here, a loop can be made (on the VBT) back to Boston Store or the VBT can be used as a speed course directly to Pine Lane Trailhead (and Route 303). Choose the longer road through the rows of pine trees, keeping your feet aware of their "trippy" roots (my daughter's contribution to our lexicon).

At the southern end of these pine trees, another trail can be found that reportedly heads to the Hudson system of trails. Stay on the Blue Blazes and meander the ridges to the old Akron-Peninsula road (now abandoned). Also called North Locust, I suppose it's possible to follow this west into Peninsula and the train station.

The trail follows this road east a bit, then south into the Boston Run valley. From crossing the AP road to this valley, you'll hike three-quarters of a mile and drop a good 150 feet to this creek.

Strangely enough, it's another three-quarters of a mile to Pine Lane Trailhead and another 150 feet up to that point.

CVSRThe trail to Peninsula follows Pine Land Road, an old, steep brick lane that drops another 150 feet to the town level. Take the sidewalks on the north side of the street and keep your eye open for the Blue Blazes!

If the train is running, you may get stopped by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. If you're too tired, a few dollars might get you back to near Boston Store.

Otherwise, cross the tracks, head into the parking lot and stay to the south and west. You'll see signs for the Tow Path Trail and Boston Store (but no further Blue Blazes). Head north and stay to the right! This can be an extremely busy thoroughfare!

Canal ruinsMake sure you stop from time to time to understand what you're walking along, on and by.

The Cuyahoga is to your west (left) and the canal is to your right (east). You're on the tow path where the mules and horses would tow the canal boats north to Lake Erie or south to the Ohio. The sandstone walls of the locks all have stories, so stop to read the explanations from time to time.

Garter SnakeTurtlesThe path also passes through some fairly wild land: a couple saw a coyote the day we were passing through.

We got a closeup view of a garter snake and a long-range view of some turtles sunning themselves.

The Tow Path Trail is fairly flat, so enjoy your walk back to Boston Store.

Two more things: when you get back to Boston Store, make certain you stop at the museum and get a better understanding of what a canal boat looked like and how the canal system and the locks worked. You've seen them up-close now, so you'll have a greater appreciation for what's in the museum.

And stop at Trail Mix (north side of Boston Mills Road) for some ice cream.

The Boston Store to Pine Lane Trails starts at the Boston Store trailhead (pdf) in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is considered a moderate to difficult trail. The Tow Path Trail back to Boston Store is considered easy.

October 12, 2010

Letterboxing along the BT

BT LetterboxingLetterboxing is a sport similar to Geocaching in some ways. Someone hides a box somewhere and you find it. With Letterboxing, the seeker uses clues, riddles, poems and sometimes a compass. With Geocaching, it can be mostly about the GPSr.

Letterboxing traditionally includes creating a personalized stamp and leaving a stamp impression in the box's book and collecting the box's stamp impression in your book.

There doesn't seem to be as many Letterboxes as Geocaches (probably because there's not as much money to be made selling gear and GPSr, but also perhaps because it's largely a hand-made, low-tech activity).

Sunday after church, we headed out to find a few of these treasures in our local parks. All are within a mile or so of the Buckeye Trail and one is only a dozen feet off the blue blazes!

Brecksville Nature Center.jpgSassafras.jpgWe started in the Brecksville Reservation, on the Hemlock Trail near the Brecksville Nature Center.

A Sassafras tenaciously holds onto its unique leaves.

After seeing and capturing a snake and seeing yet another one, we backtracked the suggested number of paces and found the box!

We were prepared to continue around the loop and see the rest of this trail but the "Letterboxing Bug" had bitten the crew and we were off to find another one, this time in Bedford Reservation.

Bright Sky, LetterboxingCrayfish.jpgWhat a glorious day for a hike and a Letterbox! For this one, we hiked a bit of a loop, saw the Fall Foliage, a crayfish and on the return path to where we started, found the tree and the other tree and there was the box!

This Letterbox's stamp was a bit interactive and all the more fun because of it. If you want to find out what that means, go find the Letterbox yourself!

Bright Leaves, Blue Skies and contrail.jpgThe next one was closest to the Buckeye Trail and we followed the blue blazes for quite a while over trails we'd hiked before.

I think this serves to remind me that at any point in your day, there might be a Geocache or a Letterbox just around the corner from you.

Afterward, we took a break to enjoy the weather, the bright blue sky, the bright orange leaves and the swingset at the end of that trail.

Skilligimink Playground.jpgAnd lastly, in the last light of (perhaps) the last nice day of this year, we went into Bedford to find a Letterbox Hybrid, a combination Letterbox and Geocache. There really is a Geocacher etiquette and a Letterboxing etiquette. If you don't believe me, go do a few of each and compare what you find.

Letterbox Hybrids accentuate the differences. At least in NE Ohio. They can both be delightful to find, please don't misunderstand me. Letterboxers and Geocachers are just different!

This one is found in an out-of-the-way little park with a Skilligimink playground and a winding little creek on its edge. The Geocacher known as sirIan claims this find.

It was a great day to be out-of-doors in north-east Ohio!

October 7, 2010

BT Hike: Brecksville Station to Boston Store

BT-Brecksville Station Bridge.jpg

It's about 13 miles on the Buckeye Trail from Brecksville Station to Boston Store. And most of it is beautiful country. There are hills and valleys, ridges and meadows, trees and rocks, creeks and waterfalls, wildlife and silence.

While this part of the Cuyahoga Valley is never too far from civilization, it's still possible to be alone in the woods on much of this trail. I think I saw six people total over this stretch on the Thursday I hiked it last week.

Brecksville Station

Brecksville Station is a convenient spot to start this hike and it is there that I parked my car shortly before sunrise, headed over to the old wrought iron bridge (1882 and more) that spans the Cuyahoga and waited for my GPSr to settle down.

The fog was still fairly heavy and the trees were dripping but I soon got moving west, following the blue blazes, out of the station area and south into the meadow.

Brecksville Reservation

Once across Riverview Road, the trail heads into the hills and trees of Brecksville Reservation, one of the many Cleveland Metroparks that makes living in Cleveland such a pleasure, eventually joining up with the Salamander Loop Trail for a while (large pdf).

At this hour, there was no one else on the trail and it wasn't until I made a detour to see Deer Lick Cave that I saw another soul.

Near this spot is one of the corners of the Buckeye Trail, the northeast corner where the Medina, Bedford and Akron sections come together. Lake Erie is only 65 miles away to the north. Heading south (clockwise), the Ohio River (at Cincinnati) is 653 miles away or only 488 miles if one takes the western route (counterclockwise).

BT-Brecksville Reservation.jpgThe leaves were beginning to change. Many factors play into this including the temperatures that trees are exposed to, so while some trees were still clothed in green, others were tinted with Fall, some were thinking pretty seriously about wholly changing and others had already given up every last leaf.

The footpath and surrounding scenery were a never-ending carpet of greens, yellows, browns, reds and purples.

The terrain varies quite a bit, sometimes going up steeply over rocks and roots while at other places the trail stays to ridges and meadows. It is very rarely straight!

This meandering opens up all sorts of views and perspectives on the surrounding features.

Taking the Akron Section from this corner and heading south, the trail joins up with a bridle trail on the south side of Valley Parkway and past the Brecksville Stables where it becomes a foot path again. Here the Buckeye Trail passes through Ottawa Point. Nominally a picnic area, it looked ideal for a group campsite and I may need to research getting permission for a Scout backpacker trip to pass through here.

While there are many streams, creeks and rivulets, none are serious enough to warrant a foot-wetting. Even the larger creeks can be dryly crossed if scouted out first and then taken with care and a hiking pole. I can imagine that after a Spring thaw or heavy downpour this might be a different story.

It was here that I saw my first hiker. He and his dog had started at Snowville Road, were hiking north on the BT and were hoping to catch the Valley Bridle Trail back to Snowville. Looks like about a 6-mile loop (pdf).

It was in this area that I had my first problem following the blazes. A metal post had been planted with two 3''x6'' metal "cards" on it, one right above the other. The blue blazes had been painted on these "cards", one right above the other. But it was clear that no trail led straight ahead; there was one leading to the left and one to the right. Nothing to do except follow each until finding the next blue blaze. (Of course I took the wrong path at first!)

These metal posts were rare (only three of them) but each showed straight ahead but should have indicated a right turn. Later on I figured out that anytime a metal or 4''x4'' post was used, the trail was close to an access road of some sort. All other times, the blazes were lightweight paint on existing trees!

Snowville Road to Columbia Road

At Snowville, I came across two joggers and a small, fluffy dog. This segment has some good ups and downs, so I thought it would be easy to leave them behind. "Slow and steady wins the race" sort of stuff. That was not to be, however. They'd jog and get ahead of me, then walk and I'd catch up. Then they'd jog again and pass me and repeat the cycle. I decided to stop, take a break and some pictures and let them get far, far ahead.

BT-Between Snowville&Columbia Road.jpg

I found a good spot high on a ridge looking over the Cuyahoga Valley toward Brandywine Falls (pdf).

The valley is still wrapped in fog and the sun hasn't fully burned it away.

I was a little past the halfway point. So far the maps had been good, the solitude was welcome, the terrain had been challenging and the scenery unending.

I haven't yet come up with a good way of taking notes while on the trail but the back of my Brecksville Reservation map has some scribbling.

Where one mile blends in with the next only in the seamless wonder of the every-varying colors of leaves fading, tree trunks of shapes and angles and creeks wearing down stone.
It feels as if I was trying to capture the variety, almost a visual overload that I was experiencing. At one level, the seven miles had been a single scene of trees, leaves, plants, creeks and rocks. And yet at another level, every few seconds showed a unique arrangement of these trees, leaves, plants, creeks and rocks. Even as the dominant species of one area blended into another (beeches to maples, maples to oaks) or the scent of white pine gave way to wet sycamore, there was a never-ending array of variety.

And yet the vast variety could only be comprehended by its sameness: "that next tree is just like the thousand other maples I've seen so far today". Seeing the forest as a whole was the only way to grasp the tree-by-tree detail. I was having a great time.

Columbia Road to Blue Hen Falls

The joggers had reached Columbia Road before me and I met them headed back to Snowville Road (although without their fluffy dog).

BT-Columbia Run.jpg

Columbia Run cuts a valley 150 feet deep into this section of the trail but it was a gentle, quiet stream when I crossed this morning. Just prior to reaching the Run, I encountered a couple headed south with backpacks so I smiled and passed them by.

I had left a hike plan with the Boston Store rangers prior to leaving this morning and they were only going to be there through 4pm. While in reality, I'd have plenty of time, there was a nagging in my mind that I'd get there after Boston Store closed and they'd call out a search party.

BT-Blue Hen Falls.jpgOut of the Columbia Run valley, the trail climbs steadily for about a mile to gain some 200 feet before sharply descending 100 feet to Blue Hen Falls (pdf) where I decided to have some lunch and see if the thermos of tea I'd packed was still warm.

By this point, my pack was getting lighter (half the water was gone, lunch was gone, trail snacks were 50% gone and the steaming tea was mostly gone). As Roger (of Swallows & Amazons) has observed, lunch travels so much better "inside us" than in a knapsack.

The couple caught up with me by this point and we talked briefly about the wonder and beauty of these trails. (They also noticed that the fluffy white dog didn't make the return trip with the joggers.) I wished them a good journey on their way back north and we said goodbye.

The trail south from Blue Hen Falls follows an abandoned roadway steeply up another 100 feet to Boston Mills Road. Here I lost the trail. I knew it crossed to the south but I couldn't see where so I walked along the road until it emerged from the woods. I wanted to hike the whole trail, so I followed it back to the missing blaze and doubled back to continue on.

Boston Mills Road to Boston Store

BT-Nearing Boston.jpgIt's been said that the BT keeps you in the woods but never far from civilization. This section is densely-forested in beech and maples. Once across the creek and up the steep stairway (90 feet, straight up), all traces of the outside world are gone again except the roar of Interstate 271.

And yet this was some of the most magical of the hike. Every fallen log harbored a chipmunk who would scold me as I walked past. By now, the sun had burned through the fog and haze to illuminate the glorious greens and golds, making the trail seem like something from Lothlórien.

I was having a great time but the end of my trail was near.

Arriving at Boston Store in plenty of time, I checked in with the National Park Rangers who seemed truly appreciative that I'd provided a hike plan.

Stanford Backcountry Campsites

Since I had so much extra time, I continued on up the Towpath Trail to where the Stanford campsites are. These are the only legitimate campsites in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I wanted to see them for myself for future reference. (I think it would make a good beginner's Scouting backpacker to start at Brecksville Station on a Friday afternoon, hike to Ottawa Point and camp for the night, then start up the next morning and continue on to Stanford (pdf and details) and the next morning to Peninsula or even Butler/Manatoc. I'll keep you posted.)

The campsites scouted, I returned to catch the train back to my car. On the way to the station, I found the hiking couple again, enjoying the rocking chairs on the Boston Store porch. They had returned north to their car and as the sun had broken through, decided to enjoy the rest of the day in the valley.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

The CVSR has frequent service up and down the Cuyahoga including their Bike Aboard! program. This allows bikers to go one way by bike and return by train for only two bucks. Unfortunately, this only applies to bikers and not hikers. If only I'd stashed a bike at Boston Store that morning, I could have walked it to the station and claimed a six-dollar discount!

BT-back to Brecksville Station.jpg

I was soon back to my car and thinking about what my next segment of the BT would be. While I usually hike with my family, I think the four year-old would have troubles doing all thirteen miles. We'll probably break it into two segments (Station to Snowville, Snowville to Boston Store) and tackle this again next spring.

October 11, 2010

BT Hike: Frazee House to Richmond

BT-Falls to Frazee.jpgEarlier this month I had an opportunity to get a long hike in: I could take the day off, the weather looked cooperative and it was in a location where I'd have transportation on both ends without requiring too much of a detour for my wife.

Frazee House to Alexander Road

I started this hike opposite the historic Frazee House (pdf) standing on the same Towpath Trail where I started and ended my journey the previous week. (Now, I'll just have to hike this segment and connect the two!)

From the Frazee House, the Buckeye Trail heads south along Canal Road and then onto Sagamore Road a bit to the trailhead. There is a parking lot at this trailhead. From there it heads into the woods and largely follows a small creek which on this day was swollen with the previous day's rains. I'd forgotten how the BT crosses this creek and I wasn't looking forward to a foot-wetting.

The soil seems quite shallow in this area and it doesn't take much for a rivulet to form, erode into the soil to the rocks and form these steep waterfalls that appear near the trail from time to time. The one pictured is oddly silent but I could hear the wild rushing further downstream where it joined a mightier flow.

BT-leaves are changing.jpgIt was a dark morning and few of the brilliant maples seemed worth capturing on film.

But it's undeniable that Fall is here and colder temperatures are on the way.

I'd started just before 9:30 and by 10:00, I was on the Metroparks Bike & Hike Trail, a multipurpose trail for bikers, hikers and the dog walkers. It's an old rails-to-trails project and the railroad's viaduct is what got me over the raging torrent with dry feet.

Alexander to Egbert

This trail crosses over Alexander and into an interesting thicket where I saw my first deer of the day. They were content to watch me and didn't even seem to mind when I approached. What finally spooked them was reaching for my camera and all I caught was the white tail waving good-bye.

It was nice to be off the multipurpose trail and back onto a foot-only trail.

And I was looking forward to seeing the quarry.

Egbert to Tinker's Creek Gorge Parkway

From Egbert, the trail rises fairly quickly for the first quarter mile, reaching the highest point on today's segment (1088 feet).

The firs on this stretch are probably the most noticeable natural elements of this segment. The smells of wet boughs and the sighing of the wind through the needles are what sticks in my memory the most.

The BT stays west of Overlook Lane (which leads into the Bedford Metropark). It's here that an old quarry can be found, cut right into the Berea Sandstone. Unfortunately, the BT's status as foot-only changes again and one finds signs of horse quite soon.

By this point, the sun had come out and the leaves were flashing gold and orange.

BT-leaves are down.jpg

Tinker's Creek Gorge Parkway to Bridal Veil Falls

One of the parts of this trail that I'd been looking forward to was just around a few more bends: Bridal Veil Falls. With all the rain, I was hoping for a spectacular sight and I was not disappointed.

BT-Bridal Veil Falls.jpgBT-flowing into Bridal Veil Falls.jpgSilver Creek flows into Tinker's Creek from the south and depending on the recent precipitation can be bone dry or downright lovely. Today was the latter.

It's not uncommon to find a bride and groom here on their special day along with a photographer. In all honestly, I think its best characteristic may be the sound it makes running along and down all that Bedford Shale. A blue jay in the distance makes it even better.

After a break of appropriate length, I pushed on to the east.

Bridal Veil Falls to Route 8

The vertical distance from here to Route 8 is about eight feet! Over those two or three miles, however, we descend a good 150 feet only to climb them again as we get closer to the entrance of the park.

This part of the trail is some of the more remote-feeling. Down from the level of the Parkway and skirting the edge of the gorge, there's a sensation of isolation: one can't hear the cars and can't go any further toward the bottom of the gorge. It was good to rest here a bit and take it all in.

BT along Hawthorne Parkway

Once across Routes 8 and 14 and upstream from the waterfalls at Viaduct Park, Tinker's Creek changes character, and we see it in a wider, slower stage of life.

BT-leaves over Tinker's Creek.jpg

Here, one begins to see signs of beaver again, geese and ducks, with deer snorting and coughing on your approach. The forest is more mature in this part and some of the beeches, maples and oaks are enormous, especially east of Interstate 271.

BT-at Richmond.jpgThere's a footbridge over the Pennsylvania Turnpike (and probably other points, too) with a nice sign indicating that the Appalachian Trail crosses overhead. I think it would be neat to have a pair on i271 marking this point of the Buckeye Trail. How many commuters pass this way every day without ever knowing what they're passing by?

By this point, my ride had called and we had set up a stopping point at Richmond Road, a natural end of this segment.

My quest of passing by Shadow Lake on foot would have to wait for another time.

October 18, 2010

BT by canoe: Paddling (along) the path

(Note: I won't be claiming these as Buckeye Trail miles although the path we paddled closely parallels the BT in this part of the Burton Section of the trail. But it is tempting.)

Upper Cuyahoga.jpg

The Upper Cuyahoga is a slow-moving stream with beavers on either side, ducks, towering trees and lots of lilly pads.

Our boating group, CABBS, chose this past Saturday (10/16) as the date of our descent from Eldon Russell Park in Burton, to the 422 bridge (gpx). We would drop our boats at Eldon Russell, stage our vehicles at the restaurant on 422, then leisurely paddle down the river to collect our boats and find some lunch. (View Larger Map)

It was supposed to be a five or more mile trip, but I think it ended up being a little less than three and a half. Whatever the case, the day was just about perfect!

We had a great turnout, a stunningly-blue sky, leaves that were thinking about turning and a quiet paddle down the river.

OK, there was this one point where the duck hunters with the guns didn't take very kindly to us disturbing "their" river.

And the other time when the power boat streamed past with wakes that would wash away a good section of bank. (They actually had the nerve to say that it was a one-way river: their way!) But once we got past those elements, we just about had the river to ourselves.

The Scout Troop that had started before us was just fast enough that we didn't see them until we caught up with them at the 422 bridge where they were having lunch.

Three guys in a boat.jpgQuite a flotilla.jpgWe saw evidence of beavers and loads of lily pads. I think it may have been too cool for turtles to get out, for we didn't see any.

Off in the distance, the turkey vultures soared and more than once my son said he saw hawks.

Mostly it was just the river.

What a day for a canoe trip.jpgWe had a wide variety of watercraft on the river. We brought our royalex Mohawk canoe, there was a solo kevlar We-no-nah canoe, a canvas-over-cedar Chestnut (?) canoe, a pair of kayaks, a pink homemade canvas-over-ribs kayak, a homemade bateau canoe and a homemade kayak (CLC?). Maybe more.

It was quite a flotilla.

Did I mention that it was a glorious day?

May 26, 2011

Section Hiking Family (BT)

Last October, my family and I got our 15-kilobytes of fame over at as a featured section hiker of the Buckeye Trail.

From the post:

Why do you keep coming back to the Buckeye Trail?

Now that we know what we're looking for, it's not uncommon to spot a blue blaze passing through a town or see a signpost on the edge of a forest showing where the BT is passing through. So much of our day-to-day life is spent within just a few miles of this trail that we thought we'd explore where it leads.

The BT seems to link up those areas in Ohio that are still wild and unspoiled (or growing back). It's possible to start a hike in the middle of town and very quickly enjoy un-peopled woods and fields. And, with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park so close to us (and the BT running down the middle of it), it's just something we need to do.
Head over to Section Hiking Family: The Giffords to read the rest.

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