First snowstorm brings outdoor family fun

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Arbor Lane Loop Trail at Chapin Forest
The Arbor Lane Loop Trail at Chapin Forest is a favorite because each evening one mile of the trail is illuminated with lights strung from trees. (Julie Geiss photo)

The first winter snowstorm brought much excitement to our neck of the woods. It was hard to trust the meteorologists who were giving themselves over a six-inch margin of error in the predictions.

 Sunday morning began with an ominous red and pink sky. The old adage warns sailors, but the changing sky was a good predictor that there might be some strength to the coming storm. 

My kids got their sleds ready while the adults were more practical by filling extra water bottles and checking on the generator. We went to bed Sunday night with snow steadily falling and a stream of cancellations running across the bottom of the TV screen. By dawn on Monday morning well over a foot of snow accumulated in our region. 

Adult responsibilities can certainly lessen the excitement of the first snow. There were treacherous driving conditions on that Monday morning. Fortunately, my husband had the day off work and actually enjoys being out in the snow. He spent the entire day clearing driveways while our kids dragged their sleds over to our sled riding hill. 

A couple of days after the storm, when the roads were clear and the temperature was warmer, we were able to do one of my favorite winter activities, cross country skiing. 

Chapin Forest Reservation

My first choice in location is Chapin Forest Reservation because of the option to ski at night. Chapin Forest Reservation is operated by Lake Metroparks and is located in Kirtland, Ohio. The park offers nearly six miles of trails for winter hiking, skiing, or snowshoe adventures. Pine Lodge Ski Center is inside the park with access from Hobart Road. 

There is a reservation system online to rent cross-country skis or snowshoes at a very reasonable price. The very gracious employees of the park system helped to make sure everyone in our party was well equipped and able to clip into their skis before getting started on the trails. 

Runner sleds are also available at the lodge enabling toddlers to be pulled behind parents and included in the family fun. 

Magical

My preferred trail is the Arbor Lane Loop Trail because each evening one mile of the trail is illuminated with lights strung from trees. In the bright moonlight and under the twinkling stars, the mature woodland looked magical. 

Deer and other woodland creatures make their home in the woods consisting of beech, maple, tulip, and oak trees. Stately hemlock trees can be found near outcroppings of Sharon Conglomerate rock. 

Also located within the 390 acres of the park is one of the best scenic overlooks in the county. The Lucky Stone Loop Trail, named for the quartz pebbles embedded in the sandstone, leads to a spot where Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline can be seen on a clear day. 

This trail is difficult and skiers must be able to ski up hills along with navigating downhill at a controlled speed. We decided some members of our party were not up to the difficulty level on this trail. We hope to try it later in the season during daylight hours when skiing skills have improved or use snowshoes. 

History

Participating in these winter activities is a history lesson as well as an opportunity to squeeze in physical activity. There is some debate as to whether or not cross-country skiing first began in Scandinavia, Russia or China. 

Petroglyphic illustrations carved into rocks have been found in Norway and northwest China dating back 3,000-10,000 years. The earliest skiers only used one pole and used skis as a means of transportation. 

Snowshoes were a necessity for people living in cold climates to hunt and trap without sinking into the snow. The very first snowshoe was probably inspired by watching animals move quickly on top of the snow. They date back over 6,000 years ago to Asia and were originally solid pieces of wood with crude binding. 

Historians believe the first people who migrated over the Bering Land Bridge into North America used primitive snowshoes. I’ve decided since I can’t escape the blustery months of winter, I might as well find ways to enjoy them. 

The only thing funnier than seeing my children slide off the trail into the woods with skis splayed at awkward angles was when I took a slow-motion tumble into a drift of snow. In all seriousness, moonlight on snow is simply majestic. 

Lake Metroparks makes winter adventures accessible for multiple ability levels. More information can be found at lakemetroparks.com/events-activities/activities/cross-country-skiing-showshoeing.

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