Visiting Mill Creek Park just once a year is not enough. My family’s jaunty goal is to appreciate the views of the park in all four seasons. From fall foliage to frozen creeks, the park boasts of beauty.
Our most recent trip was in the spring to see the numerous waterfalls along Mill Creek. After many rainy days, the creek was swift and swollen, giving speed and vigor to the falling water. After arriving at the parking lot off of East Park Drive, we noticed trail improvements.
Visitors now travel over Canfield Road instead of under the bridge. Once we passed the crosswalk, we were greeted with a panoramic view of Lanterman’s Mill and adjacent waterfall. Year-round, this particular spot is always breathtaking. Weathered, strong and rebuilt, the iconic landmark has qualities very similar to the city of Youngstown.
The current structure is the third mill built along Mill Creek, built in 1845 and then restored in 1982-1984. The lower levels are made of cut sandstone forming the foundation; the upper levels are covered with natural siding. Water flows under the replicated covered bridge and then plunges 23 feet over layered rocks.
We walked past redbud trees, green leaves forming on the outer branches beyond the purple buds. Nearby were remnants of previous mills, three giant grinding stones. The natural power of the falling water was redirected to the overshot wheel and then transferred to the three sets of grinding stones.
It’s not hard to picture farmers guiding their horses over the covered bridge to the mill to have their grain ground into meal and flour. Typically, grain continues to be ground in the restored mill and tours are offered for visitors. However, the mill is closed to visitors until August in 2020.
The East Gorge Boardwalk Trail led us down steps and under giant rock formations. The recent rain made the steps slick but we proceeded with caution. The rain created greater contrasting colors, the green moss looked bold against the iron tinged rock.
To our left, the surging water in Mill Creek flowed over and around large boulders and fallen trees. Like a well loved book, we have favorite parts of the trail. Before the trail splits into an upper and lower trail, large rocks have been placed into a semi-circle arrangement. We call it Tribal Council and imagine Native Americans gathered together along the shore of the creek.
Just past the rocks in the fork of the trail, is a gnarled tree. The burls on the tree created a mouth and our imaginations created a personality to match the face. Someone had placed a stick cigarette in its mouth. I saved the demoralized deciduous by removing the toxic stick. Hopefully by kicking the habit, it can grow many more rings in its trunk and continue to greet future hikers with its protruding smile.
Following the stream, we watched mallard ducks foraging in the stream and preening on a rock in the sun. Up ahead we caught a glimpse of a silver crown, the Suspension Bridge, an inviting symbol of strength and longevity.
Since 1895, the bridge has been spanning Mill Creek joining two sides of the park together. The bridge is a reflection of Youngstown, assimilating beauty and strength through the ages. Other families were taking pictures together, seizing the opportunity to capture the brilliant green leaves and occasional dogwood blossoms in the background of the bridge.
The next trail, the West Cohasset Trail, began with stone steps to climb and then wove through boulders and root exposed trees. We passed by several small caves as the trail followed the edge of the craggy hillside.
The trail meandered before reaching a crescendo; the swollen creek flowed over a series of three small but impressive waterfalls. Foamy water tumbled over the shale and sandstone rock strata. We paused for several minutes, enjoying the sounds of the falling water and birds in the trees.
We traveled back in the same direction, following the creek bed to Valley Drive. Instead of crossing the bridge again, we chose to take the West Gorge Trail back to Lanterman’s Mill. It was interesting to see the same views from the opposite bank of the creek.
About halfway back, we paused to enjoy the stunning view of Lanterman’s Falls. For over 120 years, Mill Creek Park has fulfilled the vision of Volney Rogers to be a place of peace and a healthy escape for people to enjoy any season of the year.
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