Beauty, history of Mahoning Valley on display

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Pioneer Pavilion

I offered someone advice and then made a move that went completely against my own words of wisdom. We gave our kids a puppy for Christmas. It was slightly impulsive; cute puppy eyes have that charm.

I had already explained to a friend the inconveniences associated with getting a puppy during the winter. Yet, 10 days after I said, “You really don’t want to be puppy training in the middle of winter,” we added Kodi, a mixed breed 12-week-old puppy to our crew.

We’ve always had sporting dogs, vizslas and German shorthair pointers. Another notable fact is we’ve always adopted adult dogs, never puppies. Our most recent German shorthair pointer is an anxious dog that hates riding in vehicles. Unfortunately, she can’t go hiking or boating with us. We adore her, but she definitely has her limits.

Now we are taking puppy Kodi for rides in the car and socializing her at parks while social distancing ourselves; it’s an interesting combination.

Mill Creek Park

I felt like it had been too long since our last hiking trip at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown. Even though we have been hiking and running in the park for years, there are always new places to explore.

We chose to start our hike and puppy training at one of the oldest buildings in Youngstown, Pioneer Pavilion, an impressive sandstone building dating back to 1821. The front entrance is the most interesting part with an alcove under the steps and intricate carvings above the stone columns. It seems too stately for its original purpose as a mill for carding wool. It was also used as a storeroom for the Mill Creek Furnace.

We passed by the furnace sight where iron was produced from the late 1820s until the late 1840s or early 1850s. We crossed the road to start our hike on the East Cohasset Trail, an easy 1.2-mile hike along the creek through a wooded area. We turned around early and headed back towards Pioneer Pavilion.

We briefly followed Slippery Rock trail until we crossed the creek again on West Drive. This road allowed us to see the iconic Wall Garden, a retaining wall constructed in 1922 with sloping stone blocks taken from Bears Den Quarry. The rock garden plants displayed their muted winter colors.

Artists’ Trail

Our last trail was the Artists’ Trail, a short but aesthetically pleasing trail that is bordered by the creek on one side and a stacked stone retaining wall on the other side. The trail was named Artists’ Trail because it was most popular with artists attempting to capture the alluring beauty of the rock wall and the babbling creek in their artwork.

The weathered and moss-covered rocks create a charming feel in the forest setting. If it is still an impressive feature after 85 years, I can assume it was indeed spectacular when constructed in 1935.

Several rocks are stamped with the letters WPA and 1935. The Works Progress Administration was created by President Roosevelt in 1935 to provide jobs for unemployed Americans during the worst years of the Great Depression. Eight and a half million people worked together on infrastructure projects across the nation similar to the rock wall feature along the Artists’ trail. School buildings, hospitals, bridges, and planting trees were some of the other projects completed by the WPA.

We’ve noticed that when Kodi is starting to get tired, she responds with a final burst of energy before crashing. I’ve started calling her Kodiak the Maniac during those wild moments. Our timing was just right as she was charging ahead on the sloping trail which led down to the creek before ending in the parking lot.

Listening to the rushing water, I realized it had been a long time since I heard nature’s composition. I was enjoying the burbling creek music, when my husband noticed the muddled turquoise color of slag glass in the creek bed. One hundred and eighty years after production of iron ceased, these gems are still adding hues to the color palette of the creek.

It never fails, every hike at Mill Creek Park gives me a greater appreciation for the beauty and history of the Mahoning Valley. In times of turmoil, it is reassuring to see evidence of tenacity in the valley and to experience the enduring peace of nature.

An added bonus after this trip was a sleeping puppy, at least for an hour or so.

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