In the last installment of Nearby Nature we discussed the Portage Park District and the idea of one tank trips where you can go out and discover and explore some of the plants, birds, or trees we have highlighted in the past year and a half. A few months ago, we also talked about “special places” and the memories and experiences at these places. In this edition, we will highlight four “special places”, at least to this writer: Holden Arboretum, Penitentiary Glen, Hell’s Hollow, and Cooks Forest State Park. Three of the four are in the Lake County and the fourth is in western Pennsylvania. All are well within the one tank limit and are more than worthy of spending the day hiking, picnicking, and enjoying Nearby Nature.
Holden Arboretum (http://www.holdenarb.org/home/)
The Arboretum was established in 1931 with 100 acres donated by Roberta Holden Bole, sister to Albert “Bert” Fairchild Holden, a mining engineer and Cleveland businessman who provided for the establishment of The Holden Arboretum with interest from the Holden Trust. The funds were to be made available only after the deaths of his two daughters, Emery May Holden Norweb and Katharine Holden Thayer. Today Holden has grown to over 3,600 acres of display gardens, horticultural collections, and nature trails including Stebbins Gulch and Little Mountain. Today, along with the trust, memberships, gifts and endowments fund the operation of the arboretum. The Holden Arboretum is one of the largest arboretums in the United States. Located on Sperry Road in Kirtland, it is an easy drive to this magnificent natural area. What is an arboretum you ask? Well it is a living museum with a collection of woody plants and trees from all over the world. It features 20 miles of hiking trails from rugged hikes and gentle walks as well as cross-country skiing and snow shoeing in the winter. The Corning visitor center is home to the Corning Library, with over 9000 books and periodicals. It also houses a rare book collection featuring several volumes on horticulture, botany, herbals, and works of art.
The Arboretum is broken down into gardens and collections covering 600 acres. Some of the collections include conifers, lilacs, hedges, specimen and nut trees, and viburnum. There are several amazing gardens including the Butterfly garden, wildflower garden, and the newly renovated rhododendron garden. It is a great place to bird watch throughout the year. Many species migrate through Holden annually and occasionally it becomes a birding hot spot in northeastern Ohio. There is a fee to enter the park for non-members, but it is well worth the price.
Penitentiary Glen (http://www.lakemetroparks.com/select-park/penitentiaryglen.shtml#Information)
Literally right down the street from Holden, sits Penitentiary Glen. It is one of the Lake Metro Parks. Home to the “gorge,” settlers in the early 1880s called the gorge “Penitentiary Glen,” because it was difficult to get out of the deepest part, much like a prison or penitentiary. The trip down consists of about 175 steps and is well worth the climb back out. The 7.5 miles of hiking trails go through forest, wetlands, and some open fields, allowing for a diversity of plant and animal life. Don’t be surprised if you see a red shouldered hawk or a barred owl flying through the woods. In early May the warblers pass through and put on quite a show. There is a nice assortment of trees, including some very large chestnut oaks and maples. It is home to Grey Petaltail dragonfly. This dragonfly dates back to the Carboniferous period over 250 million years ago. It is found only northeast Ohio in fallen trees, dead snags, and tree trunks and is the only grey and black dragonfly found in Ohio. The picture was taken by the author on a visit to the Glen. Another magnificent part of the Glen is the Nature and Wildlife centers. The wildlife center is home to 25 injured or non-releasable animals, reptiles, and birds; a great way to get up close and personal with nature.
Hell’s Hollow Wilderness area (http://www.lakemetroparks.com/select-park/hell-hollow.shtml)
Another one of the Lake Metro Parks, Hell’s Hollow is literally at the end of a dead end road in the western part of Lake County. It consists of 838 acres of forest and a 100 foot deep ravine created by retreating glaciers. Paine creek now runs through the bottom of the ravine and allows hikers access to several miles of stream banks and shallow pools. Halfway around the loop trail on top of the ridge is the stairway to the bottom of the ravine. 262 steps later you make it to the creek bed and as you look up and around you can see a great example of Chagrin Shale formations that make up the sides of the ravine. Prior to descending into the ravine, the loop trail has some great examples of second generation hardwoods. Some of these trees are well over 100 years old. In the creek bed you can find fossil remains in the shale that has fallen over time. Keep a mindful eye out though, on a recent trip we saw four northern water snakes, non-venomous but highly aggressive when threatened.
Cooks Forest State Park (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/cookforest/)
The 8,500-acre Cook Forest State Park is 15 miles north of Clarion Pennsylvania. Once called the “Black Forest,” the area is famous for its stands of old growth forest. Cook Forest’s “Forest Cathedral” of towering white pines and hemlocks is a National Natural Landmark. There are several hemlocks in excess of 46” in diameter. Recently my 10 year old grandson (his first camping experience), son-in-law, and I went camping, kayaking, and hiking for the weekend at Cooks Forest. With 29 miles of hiking trails, 13 miles of bike and horse trails, and the Clarion River nearby, there is something for everyone. Talk about a special weekend. From watching Josh navigate a hemlock tree that had fallen across the creek and finding out one slip and you get all wet, to discovering Indian pipe mushrooms, talking about the forces of nature on the landscape, and tree /plant identification. To share my love of nature with my grandson was one of the most exhilarating experiences any grandfather could ask for. The hiking trails are well marked and range from easy flat paths by the creek to very steep climbs as you get into the cathedral area. Truly a place to visit, relax, recharge, and experience Nearby Nature.