Sunday, October 18, 2015

Up and Down Valley Parkway

Up and Down Valley Parkway

I spent my afternoon cruising up and down Valley Parkway inside Rocky River Reservation, part of the Cleveland Metroparks. It truly is one of my favorite places to be.

My first stop was the Stinchcomb-Groth Memorial, named for the first two directors of the Metroparks. I might not have known this overlook was there, but I stumbled on it last year with a friend. It's actually off of Valley Parkway, up the giant hill on Hogsback Lane. Just make a giant U-turn when you get about halfway up the hill.

This time of year, the leaves turn amazing shades of red, yellow, orange, even blue, and sometimes, when the sun hits them just right, they look like they're on fire! That's what I was looking for today.

I spent about half an hour at the overlook, where a few flowers were hanging on before autumn's chill does them in. There was no one else around, so I was truly able to enjoy the peace and quiet of the park.

I wandered around and snapped some photos of the individual memorials to William Stinchcomb and Harold Groth before heading off the gravel trail into the woods. The landscape is incredible in the Metroparks. I love how the land gives way to steep drop-offs into ravines. I assume these were cut by the Rocky River. If you've ever driven through the Watershed, Valley Parkway runs back and forth over the river so many times that I find myself a little directionally challenged!

Off the path, there really is a disconnect from the rest of the world. Trees shade everything. The sounds play tricks on your ears. I could hear one chipmunk shrieking it's warning, alarmed by my presence, but I couldn't tell the difference between wind rustling the leaves or the little rodent running from me in fear.

I heard woodpeckers and trees groaning in the wind, but not a single sound of the city. Bliss.

Back in the car, I drove slowly, trying to get a good look at the gorgeous leaves and not cause an accident. I spotted what I thought was a picture-perfect scene and stopped for more photos. Lorain Road runs high above the park, held up by an almost turquoise structure, which was striking next to the blazing trees leaning over the Rocky River. More pics!

Next stop: Lagoon Picnic Area, just south of Cedar Point Road. The Rocky River drips down over a stairstep-like fall and almost seems to stop flowing. It was calm enough for a pair of mallards to relax. Up on land, about half a dozen Canada geese looked for food and left behind their signature mess. But they weren't a complete nuisance. A father and son appeared to be spending the day together, and the geese seemed to have turned the park adventure into an up close and personal wildlife lesson. The kid was laughing, smiling and adorable! Cue a guy on horseback.

I drove on, lost in my thoughts, the low radio and the scenery. I didn't realize how far I had gone until I reached the Berea Scenic Falls Overlook! Fantastic!

I had never been there before, so I took some photos from the deck first. Feeling more adventurous than that, I flung my Nikon over my shoulder and hiked down to the bottom for a better view. The trail, if you could call it that, was rocky and steep, and there's a good chance I won't be able to move my legs tomorrow! At the bottom, I had a better view of what appeared to be three side-by-side bridges above the falls. Very cool and worth the effort to get down there!

After climbing out of the gorge, I decided it was time to head home. I was hungry and losing daylight. About halfway back out of the park I saw what I had been waiting for: trees that appeared to be ablaze in the sunlight! I slammed on the breaks, jumped out and started shooting.

Finally, as if Norman Rockwell had choreographed the whole thing, three deer munched on flower blossoms, prompting one last photo op.

In the end, none of my photos can do the day justice. You just have to see it for yourself!

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