As I returned this afternoon from assisting my two Lake Metroparks colleagues, Leigh and Becky from setting snowshoe trails at the Environmental Learning Center property, it occurred to me that more people need to embrace the outdoors during the winter months. To hike in the forests and over 50 miles of county trails is truly a breath-taking experience. Snow blankets trails that canvas nature's woodlands and all its diversity. The solitude is a welcome opportunity to embrace all that competes for your sensory awareness. Quite simply my challenge to you in the winter of 2014 is this - Bring a friend, bring a camera or smartphone, park your vehicle at a park of your choosing and start your adventure through snow covered hemlock-lined ravines, mature woodlands, or scenic waterfalls that may be found throughout Lake County. Below is but a sampling of the great winter hike opportunities that await your indulgence.
Gully Brook Valley Trail - Willoughby
Founded in 1916 by the Burroughs Nature Club, this trail spans more than 100 years of history. Farmed in the mid-1900's, a large beech tree still bears the carved initials LOL on it from the old fur trapping route era. Not even the 1950's construction of I-90 that split the old trapping route can spoil your scenic views.
Pete's Pond Preserve / Carriage Lane Trail - Wickliffe
Wickliffe's history may be best remembered for some of the Millionaire's row mansions that dotted the euclid Avenue corridor during Cleveland's Gilded Age, yet Pete's Pond on Rockefeller Drive offers a rare combination of forest, edge and fresh water preserves for all to enjoy. Pete's Pond history dates back to 1947-1951 when Pete inhabited the property and was a local known to all.
Penitentiary Glen Reservation - Kirtland
Free gorge hikes on January 12 and February 2 highlight a challenging off trail hike that explores the deep ravines, towering icicles, waterfalls and snow-covered hemlocks that dot the landscape seldom travelled by residents today. The glen got its name from the gorges that reminded locals of prison walls. PG may be best remembered as the Halle Family summer farm / estate circa 1912. If gorge hikes are too difficut for you, more than 2.5 miles of managable trails surround the former Halle Stable that is the visitor center. Look for Meadow Loop, Red Fox Loop and connector trails as you arrive.
Chapin Forest & Pine Lodge Ski Center - Kirtland
In 1949 Frederick Chapin saved this Gildersleeve Mountain area acreage from suburban sprawl. The Quarry Pond area was instrumental in providing building material for many of Lake County's historic landmarks including the Kirtland Temple (1833). On the Hobart road side of the forest is a ski center managed by Lake Metroparks that offers snowshoeing and cross country skiing opportunities as yet another means of fighting off cabin fever. Lighted trails are another unique hiking opportunity available to the public until 11pm nightly.
Environmental Learning Center - Concord Twp.
Big Creek and Jordan Creek span this Alexander Road property. One of Lake Metroparks newer acquisitions, the ELC offers a Yurt, educational programs, a planetarium, and now dedicated trails for snowshoeing and hiking. A Winter Wonders after Dark on Friday January 31st will be held from 7-10pm. This program is a unique way to introduce your family to winter's offerings.
Other great hikes, snowshoeing programs and such may be found at Skok Meadow, Girdled Road Reservation, Chagrin River Park-Riverwood Trail, Veteran's Park-Cardinal Loop Trail, and Lakeshore Reservation-All Peoples Trail. Hike the trails less traveled, it will make all the difference!