Hinckley Reservation is one of sixteen parks that make up the Cleveland Metropark system. The 2,803-acre park is located in Hinckley Township, primarily in Medina County. The park contains nearly twenty miles of trail for those on foot and six miles of bridle trail. There is a 90-acre lake (Hinckley Lake) within the park and two smaller fishing ponds; there is also an 80 by 100 foot stainless steel pool near the lake. Besides hiking, the area offers opportunities to fish, boat and swim. In the winter, visitors can ice skate, or they can go sledding on the sledding hill. Hinckley Reservation is also home to the annual festival known as Buzzard’s Day which celebrates the return of the turkey vulture to the area around mid-March.
This is a huge park, and we only explored a tiny portion of it, focusing on Whipp’s Ledges. However we also stopped by the Spillway Beach and one of the park’s overlooks of the lake. In the future we hope to check out some of the other trails.
Goll Woods State Nature Preserve is a 321-acre preserve in Fulton County with 5.25 miles of trail. The trail system approaches the Tiffin River in two places, and it also passes by the Goll Cemetery and the preserve office for the Northwest Preserve District. One hundrd acres of the preserve are old growth forest (sometimes referred to as “virgin woods”). Some of the trees in this region are up to 400 years old and have reached a diameter of 4 feet. Among the largest trees are bur oak, white oak, chinquapin oak, and cottonwood. This preserve is also renowned for the number and variety of spring wildflowers found there.
Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve occupies 646 acres and contains about four miles of trail; it was Ohio’s first state nature preserve. It is located in Lake County at Mentor, Ohio which is about forty miles east of Cleveland. The preserve is just southwest of Headlands Beach State Park.
Indianfield Bluffs Park is a small, but scenic park in the Knox County Park District. It is 25.5 acres in size with a 1.5-mile, double loop trail. Since hikers will have to repeat sections of the trail if they walk its entire length, it ends up being a longer hike than that. The GPS trace for our hike at Indianfield Bluffs indicated that we had walked about 2.4 miles. The trail is marked with blue blazes. Pets are permitted in the park if they are kept on leashes and if the owner cleans up after them. Properly-licensed people may also go fishing here.
The park gets its name after a creek that runs through the park known as Indianfield Run. And the creek gets its name because the Native Americans who used to live here had cleared the land in this area to grow corn crops. Indianfield Run empties its water into the Kokosing State Scenic River within the park’s boundaries.
Moonville was a coal-mining town founded in the middle of the nineteenth century in Vinton County. Its population peaked in 1870 when about 100 people lived there, after which it declined. The last family in Moonville left in 1947. Moonville’s nearest neighbor was the town of Hope, but even Hope was many miles away. To connect the two towns a railroad was laid. During the course of its construction, it was also necessary to build bridges over creeks and to excavate Moonville Tunnel to pass through a nearby hillside.
Bob and I had really wanted to explore the Rockhouse Trail, so we could view Turtlehead Cave. This past September we decided to make that happen by combining this trail with several others to come up with a loop hike that was about 5 miles in length. Our hike took us through a variety of different parks and preserves in quick succession. We began in Sells Park and passed through the Dale and Jackie Riddle State Nature Preserve, as well as the City of Athens Preserve Land until we came to Strouds Run State Park where much of our hike took place.
It’s the end of an interesting year of exploring Ohio’s parks and preserves. So it’s time once agains for the 2016 edition of TrekOhio Highlights. When the two of us have different selections for a category, we will list both choices.
Deb: My favorite photo was from Mohican State Park in Winter. Like a lot of other people, I sometimes find it difficult to leave the cozy warmth of home in the winter time, but once I get outside, sites like this make it all worthwhile.
Bob: My favorite photo was taken while hiking the Morgan Sisters Trail in the Ironton Unit of Wayne National Forest. It was so cloudy during this hike, but just before we left the sun came out and lit up Kenton Lake.
We enjoy staying at Lake Hope State Park, and we are always looking for new places to hike in the vicinity. Since the state park is adjacent to Zaleski State Forest, we sometimes take advantage of one of the backpacking trails at Zaleski. During this trip we decided to do a day hike from the trailhead that begins to the rear of Hope Schoolhouse. Our plan is to hike from point “A” on the trail map to the campsite at point “C”. The one-way distance from “A” to “C” is a little under 3 miles, so by retracing our path from “C” to “A” we enjoyed a nice day hike that was a bit less than 6 miles. We went on this particular hike on Thanksgiving weekend. Since the leaves had already dropped, we had an excellent view of the surrounding terrain.
Blue Heron Reserve is a 160-acre park in the Sandusky County Park District. It has 2.9 miles of trail including a handicap-accessible boardwalk that makes up 5000 feet of the trail system. Within the park is a fen; this is a type of wetlands in which underground water bubbles up through calciferous rock until it reaches the surface. The wooded area of the park has a habitat reminiscent of the Great Black Swamp. The area also includes a pond and meadows. The many different kinds of habitats in the park promote wildlife diversity, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has included the park among those in the Lake Erie area that are great birding sites. In addition to hiking and birding, visitors may forage for wild mushrooms. Cross country skiing is permitted in the winter when conditions are cooperative.
This forest also goes by the names “Vinton Furnace State Forest” and “Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest”. I decided to keep the word “Experimental” in the name for this article because it communicates that the forest has a research-oriented purpose. This research has been going on for over 50 years. The data collected here has been useful in gaining a better understanding of forest ecology, forest management, and the regional wildlife; this data has been cited in hundreds of scholarly papers. An area of particular interest has been to increase the prevalence of oak trees in Ohio forests.
The forest is 12,089 acres large and includes the state’s largest known population of bobcats. It also has timber rattlesnakes, cerulean warblers, and a number of rare plants. Radiating out from the Forest Headquarters are a number of forest roads that also serve as hiking trails. Hunting and fishing are permitted as regulated by the state’s Division of Wildlife. As the forest’s name suggests, the ruins of Vinton Furnace are located within its boundaries. In addition the forest contains the ruins of ovens used to purify coal into coke with the intent of using the coke as fuel for the iron furnace. The bricks used to make the coke ovens were made in Belgium and shipped over here as a sort of kit. Each brick was numbered to assist in assembling the ovens locally. According to OldIndustry.org, the Belgian coke ovens in Vinton Forest are the last remnants of their kind in the world.