After a humbling sunrise witnessed on the rocky coast of Maine, this week our road trip takes us a little south to the lovely state of Ohio. I know, Ohio is renowned for its bland landscape, frigid cities, and raging sports fans, but today we venture to the softer side of Ohio: it’s beautiful landscape. Located a mere 27 minute drive from the city of Cleveland and tucked along the Cuyahoga River is our destination: Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
This welcome little haven away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city is a natural next stop on the tour of the National Parks. Everyone knows about Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, but it can be easy to forget that our nation has many wonders hidden where you least expect them: namely, under thirty minutes away from the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The valley has been celebrated for recreational potential for hundreds of years, but it first gained wide attention in 1925 when the Olmstead Brothers landscape architecture firm conducted a study to discover the potential of the park’s offerings. In their words, “it is in the valley that one can realize most effectively a sense of isolation and freedom from the sights and sounds of all the multitude of circumstances which go to make the modern city—and when all is said and done that is the justifying purpose of a country park.” Even then, when the cities were only beginning to develop, people realized that a secluded area away from all the action was something to be valued. Over time, countless numbers of conservationists fought hard to protect the area from expansion and pollution until it was declared a National Recreation Area in 1974.
The path was never easy for the little Cuyahoga Valley. But as we pull in to the park, past the unobtrusive sign mounted on the brick stand, it is immediately clear why the land is worth saving. There’s something about undisturbed forest that invites exploration. According to the National Park Service, many of the park’s best features make for excellent day trips, so let’s hop out of the car and get going!
If you’re in for a decent hike, we should head over to the Brandywine Falls, a 65 foot tall waterfall nestled into the little valley of the park. We can take a look at these gorgeous falls from lower and upper observation decks, and if we’re looking to see the park further, we can hike the Brandywine Gorge Trail. This winds down the valley around the falls, offering you interesting new views of the surroundings.
If you’re into a more historic adventure, we can hop on board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and ride around the valley. Imagine being a within half an hour of a major city, riding on a train through beautiful wilderness. What else could you want?
There’s something to be said of escaping an every day life in favor of a more austere environment. By conserving these little havens away from our urban lives, we get to save a little bit of history- of times past. We still get to enjoy the sounds of crashing waterfalls, running streams, and falling leaves. Taking advantage of this luxury is something we simply must do. What are you wasting your time doing? Find one of these parks, head out there now, and start adventuring!
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