Thursday, August 7, 2014

5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area

Akron Empire is beyond excited to welcome guest blogger Jenny Jones. She is a social scientist by trade and currently spends her days serving the public. She likes to keep it simple and tends to geek-out about nature and love being outside, especially hiking, biking, and backpacking. She also likes to make things, and has been known to cut a rug or two on occasion.

If you happen to see her on the trail, say hello, she would be love to meet you!

Salt Run at Kendall Lake, CVNP, in the winter.

5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area
by Jenny Jones

“Keep close to nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” -John Muir

In the hustle and bustle that is modern life, it’s incalculably easy to get caught up in the stress of the daily grind. With each passing day the effects are felt, exponentially increased. By the end of the working week, the full impact of the cumulative effect takes its toll. There are many ways through which we can unwind, to peel the layers of stress away. I love taking advantage of the wonderful and various outlets and resources that we have in Akron: great local food and microbrews, live music venues, an indie theater, record stores, professional and alternative sporting events, and a growing number of really cool retail stores and pop-up art & craft fairs. I have learned, however, that my budget doesn’t always permit me to take full advantage of these, which is itself is a source of stress!

Recently, I found that I am in need of more. And by more, I mean less. And what I have discovered is an amazing, and free resource which also happens to be vastly more effective at reducing my stress and helping me to regenerate. My friend, and Father of our National Parks, John Muir, was on to something when he suggested I break away and spend some time in the woods. OK, he isn’t really my friend, and he didn’t really give me any advice, but only because I was born about 100 years too late. I’m sure we would have been great friends though, as he was a genius engineer, a talented writer and naturalist, and not to mention, had an amazing beard. Oh, and he just happened to recommend to President Roosevelt (Teddy), a proposal to preserve our natural resources which eventually led to the creation of our National Parks.

And he was right, the best way I’ve found to “wash my spirit clean,” is to spend time in wilderness. Doing this on a regular basis allows me to continue to function normally outside of the woods. Seriously. You know how that one friend is at 11:00am when they haven’t had any coffee? That’s me without trees. It can get ugly. So if you’re anything like me, and you are looking for a way to recharge without spending money to do so, take a hike. Literally. Right in our backyard is a number of beautiful Local and State Parks, and even a National Park, each as unique as the next. If you’re looking for a place to get started, here is a list of my 5 favorite hikes in the Akron area with some of the things I like best about each one.

1. Salt Run at Kendall Lake, Cuyahoga Valley National Park



I feel as though the parks are like children; as a parent, you really shouldn’t have a favorite. But let’s face it, you do. And Salt Run is mine. It’s incredibly beautiful year-round and is perfectly set in the Cuyahoga Valley to be whatever it is that you need it to be. The Salt Run trail itself is about 3 miles long, but it can be combined with the Kendall Lake, Kendall Hills and Cross Country trails to make a more than 8 mile hike. It is filled with hills and valleys and great foot bridges and stairs. For these reasons, it’s considered moderate, and is my go-to for a fitness hike. You’ll likely see dear, blue jays, a variety of Monarchs and other butterflies, and if you are lucky, you may even see a Pileated Woodpecker or two among the moss-covered trees. This loop-trail can be easily accessed by several different trailheads and is home to the Winter Sports complex where skis and snowshoes can be rented for your cross-country trek.

2. Kendall Ledges/Octagon Trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park



Also in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley is the Kendall Ledges trail. It’s a relatively easy 2 mile loop that is probably the most visually rewarding trail in the Valley. It can be combined with the Octagon Trail to increase it in length and difficulty. This hike will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery in NEOH. You’ll wind through 300 million year-old, moss-covered boulders, groves of eastern hemlocks, and find your way to a vista overlooking the Valley. Wild mushrooms, butterflies, and birds are plentiful, you’ll want to take a camera, and your time on this hike.


3. Buckeye Trail – Pinelane to Boston Mills Road, Cuyahoga Valley National Park




This trail comes in at a little over 4 miles, and I like to take it out and back, starting at Pinelane. This is a moderate-to-difficult hike. Be prepared to cross a stream at the bottom of the first hill, wool socks and waterproof boots are a best bet for a comfortable hike. You’ll soon find yourself looking up at what I lovingly refer to as the grand staircase. This is a relatively tough elevation change, but the most daunting of the trek. And your lungs will quickly forgive you as you take in the views of the rest of the journey. This portion of the Buckeye Trail winds through groves of fragrant pines, and is home to a variety of native oaks, hickory, and beech trees. This hike is my favorite winter hike, and especially so after the sun has set. Reflecting off of the snow, the moon will set the forest alight, making headlamps entirely unnecessary.

4. Hampton Hills Metro Park – Adams Run/Spring Hollow



These two trails are rated difficult, and can be combined to make a 4.8 mile loop. Hampton Hills boasts the most dense, earthy-smelling forest of moss-covered trees, ferns, and groves of white pines. The trail is rough in spots and there are several footbridges and stairways have been built to ease the way. Spring Hollow trail travels along the crooked run, and connects with Adams Run*. The trek up Adams Run is rewarded with a view from the “Top of the World”. Here you will see a meadow filled with beautiful wild flowers, eastern blue birds, and may even spot the nest of a Heron. (Adams Run is currently closed for repairs to tremendous damage suffered during the storms in May 2014).

5. Quail Hollow State Park 

 


 
This is by far the easiest of the hikes listed here, and the closest to my heart. Having grown up nearby, I have spent countless hours in and among the trees of this small but beautiful State Park. The trails here are referred to not by name, but by type and are vastly different from one to the next. Travel on footbridges through the wetlands and Peat Bog trail. Take time to meander through the dense and fragrant coniferous trail and deciduous trails. You’ll see a variety of ferns and wildflowers, several species of birds and ducks and dear. Hike in the evening, you may even hear the call of the resident Barred Owl. Plan to spend some time walking through the beautiful flower and herb garden, and pay a visit to the birds of prey housed by the park’s naturalist for rehabilitation.

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Thanks, Jenny for contributing! If you like what you see, you can follow Jenny's adventures on Instagram.

Interested in guest blogging for Akron Empire? It's really easy! Just email us at akronempire@gmail.com with the subject line "I wanna WRITE" and tell us your idea. We'd love to hear from you!

3 comments:

  1. i want guest blogging. I will contact with you in the future. Thanks
    John

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  2. There's nothing like winter backpacking, isn't it? I can't really explain how the stillness of the countryside draped in snow allows my spirit to breathe free! I love the cold and I make sure that when I camp, I prepare extensively and don only the best layered clothing and have the best camping gear and equipment. The outdoors can be a great place to be when you want peace and quiet - but be sure to prepare extensively for any trips. For more of winter backpacking tips, see http://backpackingmastery.com/basics/winter-backpacking.html

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