We leave Cleveland and head to the Cuyahoga National Park, only 30 miles south of Cleveland. "Though only a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems worlds away.The park is a refuge for native plants and wildlife, and provides routes of discovery for visitors. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands."
A very enthusiastic Park Ranger at the The Canal Exploration Centre at Lock 38 on the Ohio and Erie Canal, gives us maps and directions to explore the 85+ Mile Towpath Trail on our bikes and another Volunteer gives a talk and demonstration of the lock. He described how the once vital canalway linking Potsmouth on the Ohio River to Cleveland on Lake Erie brought huge prosperity to the region, changed people’s standard of living, allowed local produce to reach wider markets and attracted people to the area. The Centre had a really good display and when we arrived in Boston about 10 miles down the Towpath the Information Centre there added to the story and told about the boat building for the canal. (https://www.nps.gov/cuva/index.htm).
Boston had another attraction - the Trail Mix store which sold excellent icecream! As the temperature was way up in the high 80’s this afternoon The Blonde felt she was deserving of a little mint and chocolate chip treat!
The Blonde Biker at Boston NP Information Center
The Towpath Trail was a really well prepared biking and hiking trail and plenty of people were out this Sunday afternoon enjoying it. The canal is overgrown and without any water in places but the locks have been quite well preserved and there are interesting info panels along the way. This section didn’t have a lot of shade directly on the path until the sun started to get lower. It was almost 6pm when we got back to Lock 38 and Big Henry.
Is that a smile or a grimace...? 10 more miles to go!!
The Erie Canal was the beginning of a national transportation system, connecting ports on the Great Lakes with eastern markets. To reach into the Midwest, America needed canals built further inland. By 1825 plans to link Lake Erie with the Ohio River were underway. The four foot deep ditch of the Ohio and Erie Canal stretched 308 miles, and was dug largely by German and Irish immigrants and completed in 1832. Passage from Cincinnati to Cleveland was now 80 hours instead of the weeks it had previously taken.
Trying to avoid the same heat we had yesterday on our bike ride we made an early start to join the Ohio and Erie Canal at Ira Road. Northbound today our aim is to visit the Beaver Marshes, the Everett Covered Bridge and the Brandywine Falls back at Boston. Round trip should be about 18 miles.
The Blonde Biker at the covered bridge
The Beaver Marshes were so pretty with water lilies, herons, kingfishers and many other birds and quite a few "birders". We’d chatted to a man from the Akron Metro Parks Hiking Club who was meeting his clubmates for a 5 mile walk, some socialising and probably some lunch afterwards. We biked past them later and they hardly came up for air with all their chatter!
The Beaver Marshes...no beavers...just one big "Biking Bear"!
The covered bridge at Everett was a bit of a detour away from the canal but a local stopped his car when we looked lost and gave us directions. I love it when that happens. People care. On, on up a lovely shady towpath. Lots of trees and cool shade. The locks are clean but empty and there are maintenance teams here and there raking and rolling the trail. It’s a fabulous asset. I wished the canal towpaths in the UK were like this. But then, so many of the canals there are maintained in a different way for watercraft.
The covered bridge at Everett
At Boston we are supposed to go to Brandywine Falls but get on the wrong road. David turns back a the sight of the first major hill but I am determined to see these ‘wonders’. I persevere on and up. I seem to be going too far and when I ask some other cyclists after about 5 miles they say, oh yes, it’s about another 7 to 8 miles down there! And now I was way off the mark. By the time I got back to David who was now happily rocking in a chair on the verandah of the Visitors Centre and I didn’t much feel like going up the right road.
We retraced our ride back to Big Henry and a late lunch on a picnic table in the carpark. A leisurely afternoon was what was needed but we struggled for a bit to find somewhere. So far we haven’t got to grips with Ohio and our onward journey. We need some planning time. In the end we aim for Portage Lake State Park only to find the campground is closed having been taken over by Metroparks. The boat ramp is still open and there are a few people around in electric motor boats and kayaks. We park and sit in Big Henry’s shade for the afternoon staring at the water with its huge water lilies and start to do some planning.I’m onto Ohio and the next week and David is onto flights and the next 4 months! He finds a flight back to UK at the end of October for $330 each! Booked! We are now looking at an apartment for a month to six weeks in Seville, Spain and with flights as cheap £58 return it’s looking promising. I want Spanish immersion and a quaint little studio?????
We think we’ll be OK to camp in the closed campground. The sites are not overgrown although all the tables, firepits and toilets have been removed but after we’ve settled down to watch some TV we see red and blue flashing lights and a knock on the door and a Sheriff is asking for some ID. I apologise if we have done the wrong thing, say our map still showed this as a campground and we arrived late and had no alternate plan. He’s OK. Just takes our driving licence details, calls his supervisor and then admits we’re not the first people to do what we’re doing. He informs the dispatch that he has ok’d us to stay, gives us his card and leaves us. David said that during the night we had another red and blue flashing lights trooper walk around us, make a call and then leave us to sleep peacefully.