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Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Buckeye Trail from Brecksville Stables to ? (A semi-cleared ridge top about 3 miles out, then return)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Wow. I’ve been on the trails 3 times now in the Cleveland area and each time the trails have been muckier than the last! Granted it’s spring and the rain in king, but before I’d hike these areas again I’d wait at least 2 days – and 2 solid, sun-filled days - before I tried to hike the Hinckley Reservation again, 3 days for the Brecksville Reservation and a good 4 days before attempting this little jaunt! There are spots on this trail that are just plain sad to see with wide swaths of trampled areas where people have sought in vain to find ways around the mud. In fact, I think it would probably be better if they closed some of this section for a while to affect repairs.
Either way, this really is an incredibly nice area to explore! This particular section of the Buckeye Trail will have you meandering around myriad ridgelines that welcome you with views down into an equal number of forested valleys and today some of these were in the process of being re-carpeted for the spring in a beautifully fresh green!
My intent today was to go almost twice as far as I eventually did. I had wanted to follow a lollipop loop path starting out at the stables, to then make a circle around the park via parts Buckeye Trail and parts Valley Trail. This would also have taken me by the park headquarters down in the valley of the Cuyahoga River, but I called it quits early out of respect for the trail. I guess it was just as well that the park map I’d brought with me fell out of my belt about a mile in…
Anyway, I began by walking back down the stable road that I’d just driven in on. This is off Riverview Road (see full directions below). It was here that I spotted the blue markings of the Buckeye Trail across the street at about 1 or 2 o’clock on the dial. The path will first lead you briefly into the woods to give you a little preview of what you can expect today…
It will then come back near Riverview Road to take you on another quick little left arc around an unnamed waterfall. After this, you’ll emerge onto (and merge with) a little lane that will take you back to a reservation-only campground (Ottawa Point). This is an incredibly nice spot to have a get-together! In fact, I didn’t realize it until later but I was thinking that this spot looked awfully familiar… What I eventually realized was that this was the very spot where we used to have our spring fraternity parties when I was going to JCU (John Carroll)! We’d driven all the way out here because this spot was so ideal – and I’d forgotten about it! The clearing was always a great spot to play softball and there’s also a picnic shelter here.
[NOTE: The road for this campground was closed today, by the way, and it could very well be this way all the time so I wouldn’t expect that you’d be able to use this as trailhead parking – I wasn’t.]
Anyway, as you walk down the campground road you’ll soon catch sight of the blue-marked path again at about your 1 o’clock point off the parking lot and from here you’ll be leaving civilization for a while.
This next area was one that I found to be especially interesting. At first you’ll be travelling through the woods along one side of a ravine. Then that ravine will be joined by another that emerges on your opposite side and you’ll begin to descend on a thin little strip of land directly between the two.
Here you’ll be witnessing a slow transformation. The ravines will gradually get smaller and smaller, to become gullies and then mere ditches by the time you reach the bottom where the two streams that form them meet. It does look as though there’s a spur trail which leads straight ahead toward this stream junction, but it’s not marked. Instead, the Buckeye Trail nearly doubles over on itself over your right shoulder.
I had to check out the spur path at least a little bit though, because all the way down I was catching glimpses of this lush green area through the trees. It had been like an oasis waiting for me ahead, but I didn’t go too far. I didn’t want to mess up any of the new carpet. I did, however, get far enough to take the picture below…
At any rate, once you return to the main path you’ll be in the midst of a fairly sharp left arc around one of the gullies and it’s in the middle of this arc that you’ll cross a bridge over one of the streams. Isn’t it amazing how much a tiny stream like this can erode such a path over a period of time?!?
Near the end of this arc you’ll have some options. You see, there’s actually a circle that forms in the trail system here which you’ll be able to see on the map. First you’ll meet up with a trail that breaks off to the right but you can also keep straight ahead if you want. It doesn’t really matter; you’ll still wind up alongside the same very old roadway – yes, roadway! This ancient-looking road is actually a former continuation of Parkview Road; one that runs part of the way through the park, but for whatever reason it was blocked off quite some time ago. Things get a little confusing here. Near as I could make out there are 3 options:
Option 1: Take a right on the old road and keep following it. You’ll eventually find yourself on Parkview Road at the point where it meets up with the road you drove in on – Meadows Drive. Take a right on Meadows and you’ll soon be back at the stables.
Option 2: Make a right on the old road and then make a left onto the Bridle Trail intersection you’ll soon come to. This path looks like it arcs around to the left, to eventually meet back up with the Buckeye Trail. This is the way I’d go if it’s muddy in the spring because you’ll avoid much of the swampy area that I eventually trudged through by virtue of choosing option 3…
Option 3: Take a left on the old road. It’s actually quite a beautiful thing to see how nature has reclaimed this, isn’t it?
You’ll be curving right here and about the time you reach a white “Keep out” sign you’ll be at another trail junction. I made a sharp right and went through the swamp to stay on the Buckeye Trail, but I think if you went straight you’d be on the Valley Trail. I plan to ascertain this next time…
Anyway, on to the swampy area I mentioned... By the time I’d emerged from this my feet were completely soaked through but I did find the area to be very intriguing. There were numerous tiny ponds, you see, and every time I came upon one I heard the “splashings” of little creatures as they jumped in to escape my presence. Frogs? Newts? …Snakes…? Probably all! There were other signs too, as per the picture below. I’m guessing that these are raccoon and coyote tracks.
…and speaking of coyotes… I did see signs – both here and at the Brecksville Reservation – indicating that they do inhabit the area but that they’re generally pretty shy. If you should have an encounter, however, it’s apparently recommended that you treat it in the same way as you would if you were meeting any other brand of wild dog or cat. Try slowly backing away while FACING the animal and looking as large as possible, but if that doesn’t work then be ready for a battle. I always bring a can of Halt! In order to treat any possible encounter the same way I would treat an unfriendly domesticated dog encounter - a good spray in the eyes should be an effective deterrent without being harmful.
At any rate, you’ll cross a little stream at one point and here I spotted some interesting plants budding – and were they ever set to stake an early claim this area!
Cross the stream and meet up with another intersection. I believe this is where that Bridle Trail I mentioned comes in from the other side of the loop on the map (remember my “Option 2” above…). Take a left to continue through the swamp. This truly is an amazing area that I would have enjoyed a lot more were it not for my trail concern. Cross another little bridge and you’ll finally begin to ascend again.
You’ll climb to the top of a ridgeline, follow it for a while, and then descend into and back out of another ravine while making a stream crossing in the middle. Note that on the second ascent you’re following another old (logging?) road! Check this out…
Then, when you crest out you’ll get some of your most sweeping valley views of the day…
…and a spring flower for you, gentle reader!
Now pass down into another ravine where you’ll catch glimpses through the trees of a wildly meandering stream, a stream which you’ll eventually pass over prior to making your final ascent. This climb is marked by a great section along which the trail comes very close to going over the edge of a gully, but when I got to the top I was in for somewhat of a surprise. I thought for sure the higher areas would be dryer. Was I ever wrong! The area up here turned out to be just as marshy as the swampy areas I’d already gone through so at this point I hadn’t the heart to go any further. I headed back. I believe I was at the point in the Buckeye Trail where it’s just south of the Spring Hill Farm and Market – the same point where the path forms what looks like the tip of a bird’s beak if it was looking to the right!
I hope to return soon to see more of this Cuyahoga Valley National Park!
Quite easy. Just take Ohio Route 82 eastbound toward Brecksville off I77 south of Cleveland. Then cross Brecksville Road (Ohio Route 21) and then make a right after passing the shopping center. This will be Chippewa Road. Take the first right onto Meadows Drive and go 2.4 miles to find the Brecksville Stables complex on your right (you’ll cross over Valley Parkway in the process). Park, head back toward the road and you’ll see the blue markers of the Buckeye Trail at about 1 or 2 o’clock on your dial.