Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland/Akron, Ohio
Joan is still having some pain issues in her back, but they aren’t severe and, with the bones back in the right places, her shoulder is a little sore, but manageable. She spent most of yesterday sleeping - fighting that much pain is exhausting. But she also managed to shower herself, so she’s going to be able to do a few things on her own.
We’ve decided, at least temporarily, that we have so much invested in this trip that we don’t want to cancel it right now. We are going to be leaving Ohio, headed for points north, today so it will be a good test of what its going to take to travel with three arms instead of four. I certainly don’t want to abandon the trip, but I’ve reserved the right to stop and return home if I decide its just more work than it is fun. Joan is on board with that too.
So, in that spirit, I’d like to reflect on the last two days in the park. The accident happened at the end of a great bike ride and I really didn’t get to speak much
about that. And yesterday, while Joan slept, I returned to the park to pick up the bicycles, but also took the opportunity to visit the park’s waterfalls. So I have more pictures to share.
I mentioned in an earlier post that there were several ways to see Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Canoeing the river is one and although we didn’t do that, I did see some adventurous people out on the water yesterday. It does look like fun. Perhaps the most common way is by car and Riverview Road winds its way all the way through the parks length from Cleveland south to Akron. That is probably the main way people get to where they want to go and all of the popular sites are easily reached by car. Even large motorhomes can get to most places, although some of the roads can get dicey with a big vehicle. And, of course, there are miles and miles of hiking trails which can and should be sampled. We did two of them, the Ledges and the Plateau trail that I’ve talked about in other posts.
One of the more unique ways to see the park is by train. The
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs trains right through the main section of the park, mostly paralleling the river. Although the schedule is sparse in the spring, I’m told that in the summer the train runs so frequently that you can literally board it, get off at the next stop, see what’s there and then get back on the train and go to the next one. The fare is reasonable and they offer special tour packages in the summer.
Another way, of course, is to bicycle the towpath. I mentioned in a previous post that the towpath, which was originally used by mules to haul the canal boats up and down the river, has been converted to a paved or hard-packed bicycle path. So for the entire length of the park - about twenty miles - and beyond into city parks in Akron and Cleveland, you can cycle right next to the canal. The path has interpretive signs every now and then that help identify features of the canal, like locks and dams and it is really kind of cool to learn about the construction and operation of the canal by biking right next to it. There are picnic spots
to stop and eat and in a couple of places, restaurants to rest up and eat a full meal, or have a beverage of some sort.
What we did Tuesday was a combination - we loaded our bicycles up on the train and rode the train all the way north to Rockside Station for a measly $5/person and bike. Then rode south on the path back to the car, a total distance of about 13 miles. They even load and unload your bicycles for you. As you ride the train, you can see some of the things you will see more slowly coming back on your bike.
At the Rockside station we cycled over to Thornburg Station, an old depot that now houses two restaurants and some shops. We had a delightful brunch of omelets and hash browns at Truly Yours Restaurant. Then we headed south stopping at each interpretive sign to understand the history of the canal. At the Canal Exploration Center, there are two full floors of exhibits and programs that outline exactly how locks work and how the canal was built and the impact it had on the state of Ohio. I heartily recommend a
visit to this center as part of your exploration of this park.
Further down the path there are more locks and canal remains of course, but also restorations of homes, mills, and other buildings that existed here during the canals heydays. Although we didn’t do it, you can at any point break away from the towpath and explore other parts of the park. You can even combine a bicycle ride and a hike because most of the trailheads are easily accessible from the towpath.
The towpath is fairly level, but because the whole purpose of the lock system is to raise and lower the boats, there is a modest elevation change as you proceed. From Cleveland to Peninsula, on our ride, the net elevation gain was 90 feet over 13 miles - so this really is an easy but very pleasant ride. (I suspect it might become more challenging south of the park.)
We really had a very enjoyable bicycle experience, right up until the last 100 feet of our 13 mile ride. Like I said yesterday, perhaps we just went a mile or two longer than our old bodies should have. So plan your ride appropriately
and don’t end it like we did.
Yesterday, after making Joan some breakfast and getting a prescription filled for painkillers, I drove back to the park to pick up the bicycles. The park ranger allowed me to chain them to a tree near the parking lot so I could go with Joan to the hospital. They were still there, untouched, when I got back. By hoisting each bicycle up and laying the tires on top of the car, I was able to get them back up into the rack by myself. But it wasn’t a fun experience.
As a reward, and because it was still on our must-do list, Joan told me to go see the waterfalls in the park. And so I did that and I’m glad I did. Given the terrain and the fact that water is so important in this park, there are probably dozens of waterfalls of various sizes. But there are three falls that are the most popular and they are all accessible by car and a short hike. Or you can do longer hikes that include them.
Towards the northern end of the park is Bridal Veil Falls and I drove
all the way up there to see them only to find that the road was closed. It is possible to see them by hiking from a different spot, but with time short, I decided to pass on that. There is a delightful little waterfall called Blue Hen Falls a short drive off of Riverview Road in the middle section of the park near Boston. The quarter mile hike is fairly steep but it is a little treasure.
The main event, though, is Brandywine Falls, also near Boston, but on the other side of the valley. This waterfall is considered one of the most spectacular in the eastern United States and is definitely worth a visit. The boardwalk down to the viewing spot is designed for throngs of people and I can imagine that it is needed on a summer weekend. When I went, though, there were less than a dozen people there. It had rained hard the night before, so there was lots of water. And it was spectacular. The water falls over a sandstone shelf that covers softer shale deposits. In many places the shale has eroded away leaving the sandstone ledge. The water tumbles sixty feet down
in a very impressive display. As usual, I don’t think the pictures fully capture the effect.
I spent some time there contemplating the waterfall and our visit to a wonderful park. Unfortunately, we are leaving today and headed into Michigan, but even with the accident, we will have fond memories of this park.
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