On National Trails Day, in the beginning of June, I volunteered to hike with my family along the Buckeye Trail. I chose very scenic segments in Lake County because the area holds a special place in my heart. It was my husband’s and my first home together after we were married.
As newlyweds, we thoroughly enjoyed many of the parks in the Lake Metroparks park system. Immersed in nature, we spent numerous weekends hiking, biking and kayaking.
We met up with another family at the newly renovated parking lot on the north end of Girdled Road Reservation. We wanted to give our kids another opportunity to strengthen their hiking legs before our trip out west.
Blue blazes, marking the Buckeye Trail, were spotted on trees as our hikers descended on wooden steps into the valley. The Buckeye Trail runs together with the Chickadee Trail in the park, a .68 mile long gravel trail classified as difficult due to the elevation changes and switchbacks.
The trail continued south over several wooden bridges as the Chickadee Trail joined the Oak Leaf Loop Trail for a short distance before reaching the Creek Crossing Trail. For parents and children alike, the wooden suspension bridge across a stream was the highlight of the reservation trails.
Steel cables supported wooden planks on which hikers can run, jump, or walk across to reach the other side. We discovered it was a great way to test our balance, attempting to walk the expanse without using our hands for support. Sometimes grumpy trolls made the bridge shake and jump, making the crossing more treacherous.
Due to the humidity, we decided to cool off and made a loop of creek walking and bridge crossing for about half an hour. Later, we picked up our bags and continued hiking until we reached the Skok Meadow Loop Trail. It is rated as easy in difficulty and was a welcome change after climbing out of the valley. We refilled our water bottles and used the exceptionally clean restroom facilities at the Skok Meadow parking lot.
Skok Meadow Trail has an access trail to see the oldest barn in Lake County. It was built by Hosea Brown in 1817 and then later restored by Lake Metroparks.
The trail was a wonderful place for birdwatching as it is home to yellow warblers, Eastern meadowlarks and a variety of sparrows. We also spotted a deer in the distance, but missed seeing voles and foxes that call the meadow home.
When our hiking was done and after we passed snacks around, I realized that it was almost time for sunset. We had just enough time to drive to Headlands Beach State Park in nearby Mentor, Ohio. Headlands Beach is known for beautiful sunsets on Lake Erie.
As we parked the cars, we could see a glowing red orb approaching the horizon. The kids jumped out and ran for the shoreline. They kicked off their sandals and didn’t slow down until they reached the smooth rounded stones right before the water.
Headlands Beach is a mile-long natural sand beach, the longest in the state. Not only is it great for swimming, it also offers great wildlife viewing. A variety of birds nest in the plants along the shore, including bald eagles.
Along the breakwall at the east end of the park is a great place to fish for walleye, yellow perch and largemouth bass. Planetware, a travel website, has rated Headlands Beach as one of the top 15 beaches in the United States.
I could only make out silhouettes of children splashing along the shore. Beautiful shades of scarlet, salmon and peachy orange reflected on the calm waves of Lake Erie. In the distance, boats were making their way back to their docks.
We had spent our day enjoying our time in Ohio’s smallest county. While small in size, it offers exponential natural beauty. Our day of hiking and playing had come to an end at Headlands Beach, but it was just the beginning of another glorious summer in Ohio.
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