Cuyahoga Valley National Park : A Morning Glimpse

Discussion in 'Nature' started by faithblinded, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    What's that? A National Park in Ohio? Yes indeedy. Worldwide residents can hardly expect to know about us, but you Americans should get to know our park. It's the 11th most visited in the entire National Park system. It covers a large green space along the length of the once flammable Cuyahoga River. It's now a flourishing ecosystem, thanks to the hard work of locals, and the National Park Service. Just 20 minutes from my home near the heart of Cleveland, lies a space that feels like you've stepped into a piece of genuine old school midwest wilderness. Here are a few sights, from one short morning hike in my favorite place in Ohio.

    I was out before the sun, hoping for a nice sunrise. The mist was patchy and dense, giving me some hope for a good light show. The path was moody in the morning blue hour, as I neared my real destination.
    As I finished my hike to the beaver pond, a light show began behind the trees, consisting of blues,purples, and a decidedly peachy color.
    It was hardly the spectacular sky I had hoped for, but there is magic in every sunrise. I continued my walk around the pond, to my usual morning spot.

    There is a tiny island in this pond, being held together by the fierce will of one lonely tree. It fills with tree swallows every morning and evening, as they fly their sorties over the pond for bugs and water. I am always trying to find a way to shoot the island that makes me happy. I fear I may never pull it off, until I muster up the motivation to drag my kayak out here, and shoot it from the water. For now, here is the shot I got.

    I continued, on, and arrived at my usual morning spot, a small point that just out into the pond, with shallow water all around. From here I have an excellent view across the pond, to an area where deer play and drink in the mornings. It gets the first rays of sun, and makes a lovely vista. The spot is also right next to the beaver den, so I can watch as the male brings tender shoots to the den for the kids inside. As the sun heats things up, the dragonflies and damselflies stir, and frogs and turtles crawl out into the sun. It's a lovely spot to sit and watch the natural world, even if nothing photogenic is happening. Here's the view from my quiet little point on Fawn Pond.

    As it happens, I did see the beaver make a trip to the den with tender shoots, but he offered no views worth sharing. The blue hour began to give way to the light, and at that point you can begin to see the turtles cruising the surface of the pond. Big, small, and everything in between. Snapping turtles, sliders, and more. They are like little freshwater sharks, cruising for prey. The large snapping turtles in particular are quite intimidating. I saw this guy surface in the distance, and he had the most sinister profile I've seen yet.
    We have one spiny headed turtle in Ohio, but not here, and it doesn't look like this. I'm nearly certain it is a snapping turtle. What looks like thorns on it's face can only be algae, drooping as he lifts out of the water. It sure looks sinister though. Here ducky, ducky, ducky...

    As the sun came up, I waited for deer to enter the area across the pond, as they often do. Alas, none came, so I started looking for bugs as soon as the sun broke the horizon. The evening mist, and a brief rainfall, had combined to coat everything in a fine layer of dew. I wanted to capture some macros before it evaporated. Right on the little point I mentioned, is a small stand of tall grass. It plays host to a large number of mantis, spiders, katydids, grasshoppers, and more. It also provides perches for the many damselflies in the area. Here are some shots from that stand of grass.
    This young mantis was the first discovery. I love how completely coated he is.
    I love how adaptable their coloration is. This one is probably from the same brood as the other guy. I've been watching a group here dwindle in number while they grow in size. This one has a nice katydid breakfast in hand. It seems he has already bitten the head off.
    This little katydid was more fortunate. I had no intention of eating it.
    While shooting the katydid, I noted a spider with a funny shaped abdomen. Wait, that's not all abdomen!
    While I was busy crouching in the dewy grass, the swallows were going nuts over the pond. Their babies are all fledged, and learning to fly and hunt from their parents. They do tandem flights, where the kids try to pace the parents. It's amazing when they all burst out of the tree at once in this exercise, complaining and sassing all the way. This young cutie landed close by and proceeded to sass me like I was it's parent, and it was feeding time. He hung out for five minutes, while it's parent perched in a tree further off and screamed at the dummy to flee.
    That little goof finally flew off, and I looked around to see what I could see. I noticed a couple painted turtles had crawled out onto logs to soak up some heat. One in particular was crawling around a lot, and kept going into the water and crawling back out. I didn't know why till I looked through my lens. He was hunting bugs. They must have been perched on the log trying to dry off, and he was picking them off one by one, even if he had to lunge into the water to get at them. I watched him do so to get this bug. He crawled back up on the log to eat it.
    The turtles were coming out to sun because it was getting hot. Combined with the humidity in the air, it was getting uncomfortable. I decided to call my morning done, and hike back to the Jeep. 15 minutes, and a mile and a half later, I was back at my Jeep, drenched in sweat, but smiling. It was a lovely morning, and watching the swamp come to life always leaves me feeling refreshed.

    I hope you enjoyed this small look into one tiny corner of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. If you are ever in NE Ohio, try and visit, it's well worth it! The park has waterfalls, gorges, the river, ponds, and all types of lovely midwest terrain to explore. There are endless miles of trails, including the towpath trail, and the buckeye trail. There are horse trails for those wishing to experience the park on horseback. Early 20th century farmhouses, once part of the local community, are restored and working to provide products for the farmers market in the park, and provide a look at traditional and ecologically sound agricultural methods. The towpath trail follows the course of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal, where you can see functioning locks, and follow the same path that once revolutionized pre-railroad freight transport. It's a cool place, with a lot to offer. Oh enough gushing about it. Come visit!
    Cuyahoga Valley National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
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  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Great story and photos. That pond needs a few gators to make it more like home tho :biggrin:
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  3. rjl1246

    rjl1246 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 18, 2013
    Robert Lietz
    Hi Ken,

    I live near Alliance and get over to Peninsula and into the Park as often as I'm able, which, unfortunately, isn't as often
    as I'd like. Still, I've gotten a number of nice photographs there and join you in recommending the Park to any photographer
    visiting Northeast Ohio. It surely will not disappoint.


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  4. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Thankfully it's too cold up here for 'gators. LOL :D
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  5. Roger

    Roger Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 2, 2011
    Western PA
    Thanks for sharing. You made a good advertisement for the park. I am about 100 miles away in PA. If I’m every around the Cleveland area with a little extra time, I’ll try to pay it a visit.
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  6. emoslaughter

    emoslaughter Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 9, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    Douglas French
    Beautiful shots sir! I'm in Cleveland and we are very lucky to have it in our back yard.
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  7. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Thanks mate. You can keep the gators. Much as I want to shoot them, I'm happy doing it in your neck of the woods.

    Thanks Robert. It really is an amazing place, with so much to offer. I'm there 2-5 times a week, and it just keeps getting better.

    I'm not tryin' to be thankful for the cold, but I'm ok with not having predators I need to worry about eating me.

    Thanks Roger. You should definitely try to visit. It has something to offer for almost every type of outdoorsperson, and endless possibilities for photography.

    Thanks emo. It's definitely one of our best resources. I never grow tired of visiting.
  8. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Here's a few more select shots to help drive home my point. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a unique treasure, and you should visit, if ever you have the chance.

    We have many waterfalls, including my favorite, known as Blue Hen Falls. It's quiet, and secluded, and just plain lovely in any season. Bonus, if you hike a mile downstream here, there is another set of falls known as Buttermilk Falls. Here is Blue Hen Falls in autumn.

    I mentioned the Tow Path Trail, which follows alongside the old Ohio & Erie Canal, and was the path used by horses and mules to pull cargo along the canal. It is a level, consistent path running the length of the park, and is open to bikers, hikers, joggers, dog walkers, etc. It's one of the most beautiful hikes in Ohio, and it's mostly a flat paved path, comfortable and accessible to everyone. One of the small towns in the park has a bike shop, where you can rent a bike and ride the trail.
    Another amazing feature of the park is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Much like the canal, and the river, it runs the length of the park, with stations scattered all along it's length. It's a cozy climate controlled way to ride through the park, and take in it's vistas. If you rent a bike in town, you can ride down the towpath to any of the train stations, and ride back to the bike shop on the train for just $3! It's really an amazing mashup, how they have transformed historical freight corridors into an incredible green space, and made it so usable. Once every year or two, the Fort Wayne Historical Train group's Nickel Plate Steam Engine comes to the park to give the authentic steam experience to park goers. You really feel like you're stepping back in time, when you see this train go through one of the quaint towns in the park.
    Even without a steam engine, the railroad is very very cool. It travels a cool 20mph through the park, so you can really experience the varying vistas on display. In addition to running daily to move people in the park, they have special events on the trains. There is Grape Escape, a wine tasting while tooling through the park on the trains. There's also Ales on Rails, a similar event, but with beers. Seasonal rides in autumn and winter are planned to best show off the park at the peak of the seasons. It's really quite an incredible feature, and a great use of an otherwise unused stretch of rail. Here's one of the everyday trains pulling some visitors through my favorite section of the park(most people will never see this area unless they take the train, one more cool thing about it).
    Need more? How about the Ritchie Ledges? Ohio may be mostly flat, but we have a wonderful series of geological features at the ledges, that offer something very different than most of Ohio's terrain. It's one of the most interesting hikes in the park, with lots of ups and downs, and nooks and crannies in the layers of exposed rock.
    I could go on for days about the features of the park, and why everyone should visit. It has something to offer everyone, in every season. The towpath becomes an amazing cross country ski corridor when we get heavy snowfall, and there is a downhill slope on one of the largest elevations in the park, called Brandywine Ski Resort, with several lifts, and multiple runs, for skiers and snowboarders. Golfers will fall in love with Brandywine Golf Course, not only beautiful in and of itself, but hedged in on all sides by the wonders of the National Park. The name Brandywine comes from Brandywine Falls, by far the largest and most impressive of the falls in the park.

    All this amazing stuff and more, and it's only 20-30 minutes from downtown Cleveland, depending on traffic. My landscape and wildlife portfolio couldn't exist as it is without this incredible resource so close to home. Can you tell I love it?
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  9. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Neat-o! Thanks for the front page feature!
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  10. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Congrats on the front page, great photos and write up.....well deserved :bravo-009:
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  11. Mark Ferencz

    Mark Ferencz New to Mu-43

    Apr 25, 2016
    Mark Ferencz
    Great stuff.
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  12. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    Love the first few images!
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  13. sigamy

    sigamy Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 4, 2012
    "Take a picture here, take a souvenir..."
    --R.E.M.'s "Cuyahoga"

    Great shots. Wish I was there.
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  14. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Ken, really love your mantis & katydid shots!!!!!

    When I was about 7 I lived in Dayton (I won't say how many years ago but many, many) & had very influential experiences w/ nature. Left a big mark on me. Your photos take me back to then.

    Hope you've watched the Ken Burns National Parks series. I've been rewatching it recently - very moving. My wife & I were tandem biking & hiking in New England when the series first aired & each segment was followed by a documentary about local/regional NE parks. The ones in New England were all bout the AT & the Long Trail. Back in Oregon we learned about local leaders for Crater Lake NP & others. This was all history I hadn't known & is mostly lost. Its really rich. Hope you can learn about the local champions for the Cuyahoga. We owe then lots. Perhaps you might do a photo tribute to them some how.

    I've founded a local parks foundation. As a result, I've learned so much about what people did to create what we now have. We really are standing on the shoulders of giants! And we should be so much more grateful.
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