I grew up in Ohio but didn’t realize how beautiful it is until after I left. I go back occasionally for a high school reunion or to visit the fragment of Grumpy’s family that is still there. Recently we joined our daughter, her spouse, our grandchildren, and other family members for a get-together in a large, comfortable cabin in Hocking Hills State Park, which is less than 60 miles from Columbus. This may be Ohio’s most popular state park, and no wonder. It has waterfalls, rock formations, caverns, and incredible trails to explore. Hocking Hills State Park is nature at its best. Upper right is a photo from inside the Rock House, one of my new favorites. Grumpy and I went to Old Man’s Cave, the most popular spot in the park, on our second date in 1966. What a beautiful place to connect with family or to fall in love.
Before going to the park we stayed at Shaw’s Inn (established in 1947) in historic Lancaster, Ohio. The upper left photo shows the view from atop Mt. Pleasant in Lancaster, a bluff which rises 250 ft. above the surrounding plain. The bluff is made of highly erosion-resistant Blackhand sandstone, which is the same stone that forms the cliffs in the Hocking Hills. We visited Grumpy’s hometown of Carroll, and enjoyed the quiet beauty of Fairfield County with its locks that still stand in a dried-up canal. We stopped at a pretty old mill that is being restored, a covered bridge, and his childhood haunts which included the barn where his brother fell from a loft and broke his leg. Twice during our stay in Central Ohio we shared Grumpy’s favorite pizza in the world, Massey’s Pizza. Try not to miss it if you are in Columbus. Grumpy prefers the pepperoni.
Still in a cliff-walking and waterfall-viewing state of mind, we headed to Nelson Ledges State Park, a place I had never been before. A sign warned of dangerous cliffs so Grumpy and I took the easy and moderate trails and left the close-to-the-cliffs trails to the young people we saw along the way. We chatted with several, sometimes taking their advice on ways to navigate the unmarked trails and sometimes giving it.
Our next stop was Headlands Beach State Park on Lake Erie near Mentor and not far from Cleveland. Lower left is a photo of the natural sand beach, which is a mile long and the largest in the state. The area is home to many plant species typically found only along the Atlantic Coast. We walked to the lighthouse and back and collected rocks and a bit of sea glass from the shore. Although the beach is natural sand, the waterline has small stones that hurt my tender feet after I had walked awhile. A rocky breakwater extends north of Headlands Dunes Preserve to Fairport Harbor West Lighthouse. Grumpy and I stopped at the breakwater, deciding not to climb or trek along it to the lighthouse, an adventure we would have undertaken enthusiastically a few years ago. The lighthouse, which houses a maritime museum, was closed that day. I hadn’t been to Headlands State Park since the summer of 1966. On that day, I almost drowned in Lake Erie before Grumpy realized that I really was in trouble and came to my rescue. It was the first time he saved my life. We will be visiting the place where he saved my life the second time next month.
We had planned to see Holden Arboretum in nearby Kirtland, where there is a canopy walk in the treetops as well as a tall tower to take in the view. As luck would have it, the canopy walk was closed for maintenance and we decided to go instead to nearby Cuyahoga National Park. Ohio, as small as it is, only 45,000 square miles, features a variety of different landforms. Some areas were formed by glaciers and others were untouched accounting for the contrasts. There is much to see in Ohio. When Grumpy and I were young and living near Columbus we got our hands on a book “Wonderful World of Ohio”. We would drive one hundred miles just to see a plaque affixed to a rock. I don’t think we missed a thing in the book. We have always enjoyed road trips, hiking, and exploring.
Cuyahoga National Park is another beautiful place with waterfalls and trails. We didn’t plan to stay long so we mapped our strategy to see two key waterfalls. Along the way we saw more beautiful forest, trails, and rock formations. This location was a favorite destination when I was a child in Cleveland in the ’50s. My mother would pile half the neighborhood into our car and we would picnic, play softball, wade in the creek, and climb the cliffs for a fun-packed day. It was still a metropolitan park then and was not designated a national park until 2000. The park was our best-kept secret when I was a child, as much of Ohio still is.
I met up with a high school classmate in Medina. We went with her, her daughter, and her granddaughter to the Medina County Fair. It was everything a county fair should be–fried food, animals, rides, politicians, and lots of dust. The next day Grumpy and I went to the farmers’ market where I bought delicious goat milk fudge and European nut roll (which didn’t last long). Afterward we had lunch with my friend outside on the deck of P.J. Marley’s pub on the town square. The day was sunny, breezy, and just the way I remember Ohio. We walked, and talked, around the town square (lower-right photo). I remember going to Medina when I was a child with my parents and my grandfather, who was a beekeeper. The A.I. Root Company was founded in Medina in 1869, and Medina became a center for beehive manufacturing. We would stop at Medina’s well-stocked nurseries for plantings for his beautifully landscaped yard. Too soon I bid goodbye to my friend and we set off for our next stop.
On to Cleveland. Cleveland downtown, lakefront, the Rock & Roll Museum, and the many neighborhoods of old Cleveland are very good to see, but since we had been there five years ago we opted for the Cleveland Art Museum. Again, planning to spend just a short time there, we viewed the current special exhibits. The Cleveland Art Museum still offers free admission and is well worth the trip although it pales in comparison to the Art Institute of Chicago. A new atrium and new glass entrances as well as building additions have been built since I was there last. I made a point to return to the old 1916 entrance. The Thinker still sits in front of the entrance. The original architecture is Beaux-Arts, which translates to Fine Arts and is the style popularized in the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The fountain and the area around the museum is a spectacle in itself.
And then, as suddenly as it began, our Ohio trip was over. We had missed as many landmarks as we had seen. The western portion of Lake Erie is a good destination with its beaches, lighthouse, and ferries to islands. And there is an amusement park, Cedar Point, which interested me in my youth. Not many rivers are more majestic than the Ohio River in southern Ohio. But for now goodbye Ohio, land of my youth, I hope we meet again.