Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park/Hiking Brandywine Falls

Finishing up our Virginia vacation was a planned stop about 4 hours into our 16 hour drive home at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park to hike Brandywine Gorge Trail.  I knew we would need to stretch our legs and this national park was on the route home so we figured why not stop and check it out.

We arrived at the parking lot for the trail and found ample parking and bathrooms.

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The trail is 1.5 miles long and offers a great view of the Brandywine Falls. It starts out as a boardwalk to the falls.

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With upper and lower viewing platforms easily accessible.

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Then you follow the path up and over the actual waterfall and begin to follow a crushed gravel path.

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This crushed gravel path leads you a short ways until you then make a left hand turn down a rocky slope. Eventually it leads back to a crushed gravel path ending back at the parking lot after following the river bank.

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I liked this park. Off the beaten path and not well known meant not a whole lot of people were here. We did see many families with small children although, I can only guess its because its close to residential homes. There was no fee for entrance into this park and its widely spread out over a few miles if you want to explore all it has to offer. We did not explore, simply stopped to hike and stretch and then got back to driving as far as we could before night fall.

This was our last stop before returning home from a week of mountain hiking and relaxation…or at least what we call relaxation. It was quite the vacation and I am already beginning to plan our next adventure. We have a big anniversary coming up in 2018 and we plan to celebrate big……with more big mountains of course.

 

 

 

 

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Peninsula State Park: Hiking Eagle Trail

Peninsula State Park is one busy place if you have experienced summer in Door County, WI. However, for those of us who live in WI we know that after Labor Day attendance drops drastically with families back on school schedules and summer basically over. Although, with this being said….it’s still plenty busy just not as chaotic as in June, July, and August.

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We just spent our first time camping in this state park this past weekend and honestly I am not sure why we waited so long to do so. It’s fairly close to our home(just over and hour) and has one of the best hiking trails in the area….Eagle Trail.

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Rated as difficult I would have to say in Wisconsin standards they are correct. It’s a two mile loop with a steep decent to Eagle Harbor. Not handicap accessible in any way and small children will be able to do it with the guidance of an adult in some areas.

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The trail itself goes from narrow to wide in many spots.

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With rocks and tree roots making hiking challenging with those without good ankle/knee support.

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My advise would be if you have trekking poles this would be a great trail to use them on.

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Clearly you will be headed toward the waters edge and for 50% of the hike you will then follow the water until you start back up toward the starting point. Along this path there are many places to access the water for a toe dip, rest or even a swim if its warm enough.

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At the half way point you will reach the often talked about sea caves. They are quite amazing and can offer some exploration if you are into this type of thing.

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Continuing onward you will find some spots with wood planks placed by park rangers to cross over wet spots in the trail.

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And eventually you will come to a V where it is well marked and directs you to which direction to head back to where you began.

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Upon hiking upward toward the end you will come to the Eagle Panorama viewing area. Don’t pass this up since its a great view in all directions.

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Then directly across the street you will see more signs guiding you to the continuance of the eagle trail. Follow this a little further to where you began.

All in all its a great hike.It took my husband and I about two hours total with plenty of time to explore the caves ourselves.

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Give it a try if your ever in the Door County area and visit Peninsula State Park. To hike you will have to pay the park entrance fee or have an annual WI state park sticker on your vehicle.

 

Trading The Gym For The Outdoors

Lately, I find myself choosing the outdoors over the gym to get my daily workouts. As the seasons change I typically find this to be what happens, although this year it seems earlier than most for this to be happening.

I am not, by any means, a gym die hard. I do, however, like to keep a routine and try and make it there at least twice during week and twice on the weekends in the winter months. The remainder of the time I just find it more convenient to workout at home. When winter comes to an end, I still try and make it there twice during the week but weekends often are spent outside instead.

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That being said, I can’t help but struggle during the week with going to the gym when the sun is shining and there is so much to be offered outside to get in a great workout. Which means some weeks I don’t make it to the gym at all.

For one, I love to do yoga, weights, and stretching in nearby parks. Find a back corner where there is peace and quiet and you can really clear your mind and get in a good sweat.

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As a family we have come to love disc golf. It’s challenging, it’s often a nice walk through a wooded park, and offers fun while your exercising and you often don’t even realize it.

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You all know if I had to choose a great hike over a visit to the gym….the hike would win every time. Here in the midwest, hiking season is short so I take advantage of every chance I get to log trail miles. Granted, I don’t get to work every muscle group I could be working at the gym….however, hiking is one activity that’s truly brings me peace and let’s me know that I can literally walk away from life for a short amount of time. On the trail I can just let everything go.

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Once summer arrives in full force, our paddles come out, get dusted off, and the water calls my name every weekend and even some week nights. From kayaking to paddle boarding, I often struggle with which one to do on which weekend. I know right….what a hard decision to have to make. Believe me…..it really is sometimes.

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During the months of June,July, and August I will be very lucky to touch foot in the gym even once. Weekends are jam packed with summer fun and week days are also jammed packed with other types of summer fun while I work. Caring for children during the days in the summer months is twice as exhausting as in the winter months for me. Winter offers the same activities in rotation. Summer, however, leads to all sorts of summer fun….especially when my husband and son are also home to join in the action. Things such as water balloon fights and critter hunting always add to the fun of summer.

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Do you prefer to spend time exercising outdoors or inside?

What’s you favorite outdoor exercise?

Setting A New Goal

My husband and I made a new goal for ourselves. After completing the Ahnapee Trail back in Oct.2015 which is 48 miles one way( which means we did 96 miles total since we always needed to back track to our vehicle)….we thought it would be nice to do the same with the Mountain Bay Trail which is 83 miles one way. We began this journey Tuesday evening and plan to finish in sections over the next year or so hopefully. For me it’s always nice to have something to reach for, accomplish or push myself to achieve. This will be a good way for me to stay focused and healthy. So without wasting much more time typing while the sun is shining brightly in the sky….here is what this weeks workouts were like.

Sunday: 1.5 mile hike

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Monday: gym: 45 minute elliptical, arms and shoulder weights and stretching

Tuesday: 2.5 mile trail hike on a new part of the Mountain Bay Trail

Wednesday: home: upper body weight routine and abs

Thursday: home: legs and abs weight routine

gym: 30 minute elliptical

Friday: rest

Saturday:4.5 mile hike further on the Mountain Bay Trail

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Do you find it motivating to set goals and try to achieve them?

What is a personal goal you’ve set that you wish to share?

Weekend Recap….REI Garage Sale Deals, BBQ, and a Trail

We had a fantastic weekend….I can’t believe it’s over with already.

Our weekend started with an early morning rise and shine wake up at 4a.m. to leave and hit the road by 5a.m. and travel to our nearest REI outdoor store for a “garage sale”. This is something we do about twice a year and this time we brought our son and his friend along for their first one ever. Even though it was cold(very cold) and very early…it sure was nice to stand in line and talk with individuals that have done we we do. Many of us have seen the same places and have experienced the awwww that we have experienced in our adventures. The way that we can all understand each other and the need to be outside and in nature is something I cherish since many people don’t understand the meaning behind what we do. Anyhow, this is always quite an event. We have seen breakfast prepared in line numerous times.

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It’s sort of like Black Friday for outdoor lovers since there is always people that camp out overnight.

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However, this time we really were quite chilled. I ended up sitting in the vehicle twice to warm up in two hours of waiting in line, all while the guys kept our spot.

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In the end it was all worth it. I found my next pair of Keen hiking boots, my first pair of Chaco sandals, my husband found some treasures, and so did our son. Well worth the early wake up call, the chill we had for the rest of the day, and the fun we had chatting with others.

After this it was one more retail store….Trader Joe’s….oh boy, did we find treasures here and then it was time to eat lunch. We were all very hungry and I had been told of this BBQ restaurant in the near by city of Grafton from a friend. Which was also on our way home so we decided to give it a try. What a nice little city this ended up being.

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We found this restaurant easily located off the highway.

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The atmosphere was clean, friendly and welcoming.

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The menu was huge….so much to choose from and so many great entrees.

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And when our food arrived I was in heaven. And remember, I am not a big meat eater and this was some of the best BBQ I have ever eaten. I ordered the brisket reuben and its was fabulous.

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It was so huge I hardly touched my fries. They offer six different style BBQ sauces at the table for you to choose from and numerous different sides to replace the fries if you wish.I highly recommend visiting this place if your in the area of Grafton, WI and love BBQ.

Sunday consisted of meal prep, chores, and a solo trail walk since the hubby was off doing his own thing and our son was working.

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I came across the first snake sighting of 2017 that I could actually capture a picture of since he had no hope of moving anytime soon. If you know how much I LOVE  despise these creatures, you will also know this was the best way for me to see them….dead!

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I also witness a boy catch a very nice northern pike on the Bay of Green Bay ice fishing.

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All in all it was a wonderful weekend. Lots of family time, some alone time, and some much needed fun all wrapped into two days.

Finally February…What’s Next On The Agenda?

A few more weeks to go until we change our clocks once again and life starts looking a little brighter and much more fun in my eyes.

Typically by this time of year, I have already starting planning our summer excursions, booked some camp sites, and made numerous other plans to fill up our summer calendar. This year, however, has been a bit different…..I have done none of this. UGGGG! I have been, in all honesty, unmotivated since we returned from Tennessee to do any of this. Life has been chaos and I just can’t seem to catch a break long enough to even consider summer planning.

I have been keeping up with my pledge to try at least one new recipe a week for our family dinners. And so far, we have found some real winners. Like beef with pepperocino peppers in the slow cooker. The easiest recipe ever since you literally take your beef roast and lay it in the slow cooker. Dump the jar of pepperocinos with the juice over the roast. Add a shimmy shake of Worcestershire sauce and a tsp of beef bouillon to the mixture and cover and turn it on. Taaaadaaaa….6-8 hours later you shred it up and serve how you wish. I layered whole wheat rolls with cheese and baked them until they were melted. Then I added the meat and served it with a side salad. A complete meal, with little work and very tasty to end a long day.

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With February normally being the month I struggle with the most, so far it has been ok.I have been keeping busy thanks to many different things on my plate at one time. With a trip disaster in January to TN, I am still fighting with the airlines for refunds. I have made and have had plans with friends cancelled due to illnesses(on their end) numerous times. And I have been doing my best to keep a level head about some work issues that have been plaguing me.

I recently went to dinner with my brother to a restaurant I had not been to in at least 15 years and was happily surprised by the remodel job. The place was beautiful but the food was mediocre at best. Next month it is my turn to choose the restaurant and I think I might try Thai for the first time ever. I love that my brother has a broad sense of taste, since then we have many different options to choose from. Often, when I go out with my husband, it’s to the same three restaurants and even though its nice, I sometimes wish he was a bit more adventurous when it came to trying new things.

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February at the gym has significantly gotten less crowded. Normally by February I am so ready to be outside doing something active, however, this year I am not quite there yet. I am loving the gym and my time to do what I love. I have been concentrating on strengthening my abs and core along with my upper body again. Paddling season is not that far off and after taking it easy all last summer due to my abdominal surgery and the summer before due to my husbands disc herniation….this summer I plan to paddle as much as possible.

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We have a bunch of birthdays coming up in the next few weeks and no real plans as of yet to celebrate them. For mine, I am hoping to get a nice dinner out somewhere…..maybe Hibachi/Sushi….we shall see.

There is also an REI garage sale date coming up and unless there is a snowstorm that stops me from making this two hour drive to our nearest REI, I have the calendar marked and the gift cards are burning a hole in my pocket. On the list….a new pair of Keen hiking boots for yours truly. Mine have taken me many miles through Minnesota, Tennessee, Arizona, Michigan, Utah, Arkansas, and all over Wisconsin. I think it’s time to let them rest and break in a new pair.

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And come next month our clocks will once again be changing. Daylight will be longer, snow will begin to melt away leaving mud around every corner. And we will slowly start to venture back outside and start making memories again of times better spent somewhere other than in the four walls of our house. Ohhhh, how I wait patiently for this month to pass.

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

This was the only state park we visited while in the state of Tennessee. Located in Bledsoe and Van Buren counties and it surrounds the eastern top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau. We explored two waterfalls while here, Fall Creek Falls and Cane creek Falls.

Even when you take into consideration that we visited here without a plan, in mid January, and really only came to hike a quick hike to the Fall Creek Falls itself…..our visit here ended up being quite amazing. Now, apparently, there is an inn, campsites, cabins and meeting rooms for, I would assume, weddings and such…..we saw non of this. Like I said, it was quickly planned and we went directly to the trailhead we were seeking without any extra exploration.

Upon arrival to the trailhead we found ample parking, great signage, and an overlook for anyone not hoping to hike down to the falls itself.

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All very gorgeous and easily accessible……but we were looking to hike. So down into the gorge we headed.

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It was amazing. The terrain was mostly rock with some dirt trail here and there. We knew to be careful not to turn an ankle since the park ranger we spoke to upon arriving told us many individuals do injure themselves on this trail.

Beside the falls itself, our favorite spot we found to explore was a crevice in the rock that we all crawled into. If you recall in Sedona, the new family rule is I only hike on trails that are as wide as my hips and thankfully my hips fit through this crevice which meant I could also explore with my boys.

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Eventually you arrive at the end of the trail and two waterfalls roaring over the edge into the gorge.

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After we all did some exploring in this area it was time to head back out of the gorge and see if we could find our way to Cane Creek Falls.

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Although, by the time we reached the top again, we were hot…. in January…..again just amazing, so it was time do some adjusting to our zip off hiking pants.

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To reach Cane Creek Falls you followed a fairly smooth trail through some dense wooded areas with lookouts along the way.

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For us the lookouts were quite a disappointment since you could see very little if anything around the over grown tree line. So we headed a bit further down the trail to what we had read was a swinging bridge. How fun does that sound right? Well, it was fun, shaky and a bit unnerving to see cables with only, what I refer to as, chicken wire for edges. However, you only live once, so we all crossed it once and then twice to return to our vehicle from there.

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Our entire hike took us 5.3 miles through this state park.

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The park service rated this hike as strenuous and going into the gorge down to the falls I would agree simply because of the terrain. With that being said, I think anyone not disabled could do this at a comfortable pace per individual.

The trail to Cane Creek Falls I would rate as easy….since there is very little rock to be scrambling over to reach the overlooks.