A Hike With Three Ponds

Published: June 5th 2018
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Cattails and Waterlilies at Meadowedge Pone
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland/Akron, Ohio

We continued exploring the park on foot yesterday by tackling the second-biggest ‘official’ hike in the park. Called the Plateau Trail, it is south of Peninsula a couple of miles and is accessible at the Valley Picnic Area off of Riverview Road. (There is a larger parking lot with facilities on the other side of the trail area.) It is considered ‘moderate to difficult’ in Park lingo, although even us old folks managed it so I’m not sure about the ‘difficult’ part - the elevation change is only 200 feet over the 5 mile length of the trail. There is a shorter version available, called the Oak Hill trail and using pieces of both trails you can carve out your own path.

The trail gets its name because it is located on a relatively flat surface with ravines around the edge. The trail does descend into a couple of the shallower ravines and you cross several streams. It is unpaved but mostly hard-packed soil interrupted by spots with mud or hemlock tree roots.

There are two things that make this hike special. First are the ponds. There are three of them. The largest is Sylvan Pond which sits calmly with tall trees coming right up to the edge. Large patches of cattails line the edges of the pond. Ripples in the smooth water suggest abundant small fish. Although there are signs alerting you to its coming presence, it was still kind of mesmerizing to see it. The calm waters mirroring the cloud-speckled sky and the various shades of green forest. When we first saw it, neither one of us said anything. When we finally spoke it was in hushed whispers - we just didn’t want to spoil the tranquility. A nice gem.

A little further on, after passing through a straight-line part of the path bordered on both sides by evenly spaced tall pines (obviously planted because nature really doesn’t like to color within straight lines), we managed a glimpse of Chestnut Pond. This one is the smallest of the three and was overgrown with algae. You only see a small piece of it through a whole in the forest cover, unless you want to walk in the muck to get a little closer. After the Sylvan Pond, I wasn’t impressed with this one.

The third pond on our hike, though, was a real gem. Mid-sized, it was probably only an acre or two in surface area. Three sides of the pond were covered in tall cattails which offered up colors of green and brown. Then, outward from the cattails were lush beds of water lilies, many of them with brilliant white flowers with yellow centers. I couldn’t help think of the Manet Waterlily paintings we had seen in Chicago. Although, as I snapped the picture, I told Joan ‘Take that, Manet!’ He would have been inspired by Meadowedge Pond.

Although the ponds provided breaks in the walk and opportunities to reflect on the calming effects of water, the forest itself was remarkable for how peaceful it was. We chose Monday to do this hike largely to avoid throngs of people, and I think we succeeded because we only crossed paths with less than a dozen other souls and half of them were in the parking lots. Because the trail winds through mild ravines, there is plenty of opportunity for solitude. And the tall canopy of the forest provides even more of a shield.

The walk insulates you from all that isn’t in the present moment - it is a perfect place and time to meditate. Several times we stopped, closed our eyes, and just felt the slight, cool breeze flow past us. When we exhaled, it seemed like we were in tune with the wind blowing through the tops of the trees. And the birds were singing at all times, different tunes and verses, but songs none-the-less.

After losing ourselves to the forest and the ponds, we, eventually, returned to the car. We sat there at a table and ate our picnic lunch. It was a quiet lunch, there just wasn’t much necessary to say. Although we had a couple hours in peace, it was time now to return to the ‘real world’.

After lunch, we went to the Drinking Lizard in Peninsula for Moscow Mules before returning home. I must say that I have never seen a place with as many different versions of alcohol. Their beer menu goes on for maybe a hundred different options. And they have a dozen different bourbon varieties. I doubt there is a cocktail they aren’t prepared to mix for you. (Wines are not their specialties, though.)

Reflecting on the hike this morning, I am even more thrilled by this park. It has to be an important part of the life of the surrounding cities. It is truly an Urban Retreat.

Additional photos below
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