Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Hurricane Sandy evokes memories of two of my favorite day trip destinations of Ohio - a visit to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and secondly, a road trip near the Ohio lake shore. Why this hurricane reminded me of these trips was because just last week I was out in the sun and woods taking photographs of amazing beauty that the fall season befalls earth at this time of year and now everything is gone, it's all destruction and wrath from mother nature around us, telling us how tiny are we in front of her. And this hurricane reminds me of the ohio lakeshore road trip because that day (while nothing similar to what we have today) was rainy and stormy in lake Erie and it looked terrifying. The images just bring back that day to me, when wind hit me very hard on face and it took at least 2 hours for me to get back to the body temperature. So, here I am writing about the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which gives me some nice warm autumn days to look back into. 

Cuyahoga  Valley National Park (CVNP) has one best trait and that is it's location. It is situated very close to Cleveland, just right outside the city limits. This brings a lot of population to the park and provides a muh needed respite from the hustle-bustle of the city. For the visiters who want to stay back and relax in the woods, there are some very nice inns also in the middle of the national park. 
The park contains it's usual trails, waterfalls and some amazing landscapes. We never really walked along the trails, but have driven around a lot and the park has parking lots right next to the water falls, so mostly people end up driving to the spot and coming back. Our first time to CVNP was in January 2012 and no one was there, so it was a lot quieter and nicer to photograph, but also there wasn't much color there. However, a big difference was the amount of water flowing through the falls, it almost doubles up in winter than fall. 
Our first stop was at the most famous brandywine falls in Sagamore township of CVNP. A half mile trail leads to the falls and has a great viewing deck to see the falls. The falls is easily accessible to everyone and is one of the biggest falls in the area. I visited only 3 falls and I believe there was at least one more which was unaccessible to us owing to heavy rains in the area a day before, making it very slippery and hazardous to walk for. 

Photos from top - entrance to the falls viewing area, the falls viewing area and a panorama of the falls, as seen in winter season

Photos from top - the parking lot of the falls and various views of the falls, as
seen in the fall season. 
Photos comparing the same location near the bridal falls in winter and fall season. 

During our first time at the CVNP, we also visited the Bridal Veil falls located about 10 miles away from the Brandywine falls. Bridal Veil falls is more closer to the city and falls a little outside the actual limits of the CVNP, however that's no reason not to visit it. The falls can be reached following a half mile walk from the parking lot. We ended our trip that day with just these two falls, as there was really no fun in watching bare trees, with no leaves and it also started to get really cold. But we decided to visit again in fall and so we did promptly. 
Images of the Bridal fall and a short hike leading to it. 
Visiting the CVNP in fall was a good decision. The colors are usually bright till the 3rd week of October and a cloudy day just adds to the delight. We also visited the Blue Hen falls located a little distance away from the Brandywine falls. Blue hen falls is a less crowded place and getting down to see the falls is a great idea as the place looks beautiful from the ground level, although the path can get slippery as there is no board-walking or cementing in the location. 

Images of the Blue Hen falls, the hike to reach there and from various viewing points. 
We wandered a lot aimlessly that day just to savor the colors of fall and the dramatic clouds lingering over the valley. The neatly lined trees and houses present an amazing view to the eyes. I could not resist but stop and take a photograph of this one house so beautifully wrapped in fall colors.

My trip to the Cuyahoga valley national park is not complete yet, as I have some more unfinished visiting to do, like hiking the trails and visiting the Hale farms. The best thing about the valley is that there is no bad season to visit it. Go anytime and you will be presented with a scenery nothing similar to the previous season. May be that's why it is so popular to begin with. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Put-In-Bay - for the lazy summer evenings in Ohio!

Summers in Ohio can be harsh, I mean they can go to near 100Fs and that is enough to fry you up. On one such extremely harsh noon, we decided to drive down from Columbus to Kentucky and explore something new, but barely after 20 minutes of driving in the sun, we decided we needed to cool off and Kentucky's plan was washed away, giving in to the shores of Lake Erie (about 2.5 hours north to Columbus), which we presumed will be cooler than any place else.
I have a small story to share here. On the third weekend of April, while still recovering from the unsteady cold weather of Columbus, we thought of exploring Put-In-Bay. We knew it was no Mackinaw Island, but it promised to be an excellent day trip and we left very early in the morning (very unusual for us!) People park their cars in a near by port (like Port Clinton or Sandusky or Catawba Island) and take a ferry to the island. So we planned to spend a good 8-9 hours there and come back in the evening to Cleveland and finally go home! We did just that. We went to the Miller Ferry in Port Clinton. They were the only ones who were working in that weather. To our surprise, they were also shipping cars in their ferries to the island where people can drive, walk, cycle or cart!  We decided to cart (meaning drive around in the golf cart) the island. What we did not anticipate (in spite looking at the temperatures and weather conditions in the websites) was the horrible cold that was waiting there. Hands froze, Body shivered and legs shook - the moment we stepped outside the car in Port Clinton! We still went ahead and took the ferry to the island and as soon as we got down, the weather became worse. We however, gave it a try! We started driving in the golf cart around the perimeter of the island. We reached half way through and which is when we realized we would not be able to take it anymore and returned back to the island. (All for the love of exploring and photography!)
While the pictures look dark, it was already 12 in the noon and we were shivering like crazies. 
Pics from the top - view of Port Clinton from the ferry. The Ice cream store which greets the visitors as soon as they get down from the Miller ferry (L) and the Golf Cart rental agency right at the entry of the island (R). 

So, we thought since the temperatures in Columbus are crossing 100Fs, lets just head back to the lake, which eventually turned out to be the perfect plan. On the island the temperature was 75F, what more respite can one seek? We took the same path, same ferry and rented through the same golf cart rental store and we were on our way. It was late in the evening, around 7, but who cared with the sun setting so late around 9 30 and the last ferry also coming back after 2.5 hours. It was enough for us to explore and relax in the island.
Evening was the perfect setting to go, as the sun was nearly setting, giving us enough of great scenes to look around and enjoy. While driving towards the mini downtown of the island, we saw the island airport on our way. I have never looked at any airport so closer and so smaller and with really tiny flights, wonder how they  fly across the winds of lake Erie.
Our first stop was the Perry's Victory and International Memorial in the downtown. It is a visibly tall white brick building and the views from the top are awesome (which we missed both the times). We just got down and walked around. The memorial is right next to the downtown, however it is not very crowded and the perfectly manicured lawns just add to the beauty
Views around the International Memorial and the International memorial tower

The downtown area of the island gets really busy and is bustling with crowds during the summery evenings. People are drinking, chatting, screaming and driving their private jets away in to the lake Erie - all adding up to make it a lively place to be in.
Pics - Views of the downtown and the harbor area.

The downtown also features the Broad walk which has some nice places to eat, drink and shop. It is certainly the most favorite place to hangout, judging by the number of people present there alone!
So where exactly are we now?
As you move along the downtown, there are couple of other places which might interest other tourists. Like the Hieneman's winery and crystal cove. The crystal cove is the largest geode on earth (certain type of sedimentary rocks, in the layman language). We did not really stop as this was supposed to be a just-go-and-relax trip and we were in no mood to hike!

Moving further along, you reach the part of the island which has it's inhabitants and very rich people who have built their summer homes in the island. This area is also closer to the only lighthouse of the island, which is built on a very beautiful brick house. We wanted to just sit there and spend some quiet time before boarding the ferry back to the mainland, but the light house is fiercely guarded by mosquitoes. It gets impossible to stand there for more than 5 minutes, however, the place offers really nice sunset views and so we stood there taking pictures even though we were actually dancing around to flee the tiny devils. 

The lighthouse and the sunset
All in all, Put-In-Bay is a great summer hangout place, not very far, not very costly and certainly doesn't require any planning. It's a place to relax and just chill out!