Hike like Thoreau and Muir

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. Henry David Thoreau

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. John Muir

Kendall Lake in Winter

A brisk winter morning at Kendall Lake in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

You might not be lucky enough or adventurous enough to be able to trek around in Yosemite every day like Muir. You might never set foot in Concord to be able to travel around Walden Pond like Thoreau. Or maybe you do get to those things.

Doesn’t matter. I’ve been to Yosemite and many of our greatest and oldest National Parks. Had some great transcendental moments, including a really enlivening one at the Mariposa Grove. But I have also enjoyed Nature at its finest in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one of the newest national parks in an urban area of northern Ohio. No mountains. No fabled ponds. Just near and dear Nature at its finest.

It doesn’t matter where you experience Nature. It only matters that you do. My best days start out with a short hike around my own suburban yard where I might encounter wild turkeys, a herd of deer, six different species of woodpeckers, barred owls, or an occasional screeching red-tailed hawk. No Half dome, El Capitan or Yosemite Falls in sight.

Getting outdoors and hiking in your own backyard, a nearby local, state, or national Park, or any other natural area is essential to good health. Sure, you can get increase your stamina, decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, and lose weight by exercising on an elliptical trainer. Sure, you can reduce your blood pressure, increase your concentration and reduce the impacts of stress in your life by mediating in your bedroom or in the office. These activities might help keep you physically fit and mentally calm. But, they are like looking at photos of the beach instead of feeling the sand between your toes and the surf on your skin. No comparison.

Hiking not only encompasses all of the health benefits of regular physical exercise and meditation. Walking in Nature strengthens the body and mind while also connecting the spirit to the world around you. Feet on the ground allow you to feel and connect with the energy of the earth. Your eyes are soothed by the blue sky and the green leaves or the white snow. Your nose picks up subtle scents of the season. Your ears can hear the music of Nature: rustling leaves, melodious birdsong, the whisper of a stream or roar of a waterfall. You can almost taste the energy in Nature on a hike. Your subconscious and your spiritual side need connection to Nature.

You may go out into Nature for diversion or exercise, but you will go back home with more than you bargained for. In every bit of nature you encounter, there is potential for a memory of a deep and abiding connection to God. Within that falling leaf or that flake of snow, the spirit of Nature is embodied as much as it is in the Bald Eagle I saw yesterday.

Start out today with a good dose of Nature by hiking. Make it a deliberate hike. Purposely look for your connection to Nature. It is there, just waiting for you to open your eyes and step outside.


Primitive Campsites open in Cuyahoga Valley

With the growing popularity of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, the opening of five primitive campsites within Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a welcome and needed move. Located at the Standford Youth Hostel, the campsites are near the center of the National Park. In addition to making the towpath a longer-term adventure, providing these new camp sites will also allow people to though-hike the Buckeye Trail in this area. This is a great enhancement to the already wonderful trail experience.

Reservations should be make at least 3 days in advance. The sites cost $15 per night, 6 people per site. The camp sites are for hikers and bikers only. Drive-up camping is not permitted. Camp fires are permitted only in a group fire ring. Firewood is provided.

To make reservations, call the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association Reservation Coordinator’s Office at (330) 657-2909, ext. 119, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. For information regarding other camping opportunities along the Towpath Trail in Summit County, please call (330) 867-5511. For information regarding camping along the Towpath Trail in Stark County, please call (330) 477-3552.


Do your Part

Comment on pending decisions in your National Park!

Ever wonder how major environmental decisions are made? Well, the National Park Service, and other federal agencies, must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when deciding about “major federal actions having a significant effect on the environment. Essentially, a federal agency has to consider reasonable alternatives to any proposal that might significantly effect the environment, and gather public input while doing so.

They are not necessarily constrained to choose the alternative with the least impact. They are, however, required to make a statement about it and are subject to public scrutiny. Such statements are called Environmental Impact Statements. They are created when it is fairly clear that there will be significant impacts. When the implications of an action are not as clear, and Environmental Assessment (EA) may be completed. An EA is less comprehensive than an EIS, but analyzes whether an EIS must be done or not.

When preparing an EA or EIS, agencies are required to seek public input, both early in the process (called scoping) and when they have formulated the alternatives and are ready to make a decision. How does the public get involved? How can you and I make a difference?

Well, since this blog is mostly interested in parks, here is a link to the National Park Service’s site where you can find opportunities to comment on current decisions being considered. For those of you in northeast Ohio like me, here is a link to find what decisions are being made at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

If you care about parks and the environment, you have an obligation to keep up on the decisions our public employees are making, and to tell them how you feel. If you support the decisions they are making, tell them so. If you don’t support their path, tell them that too, and tell them what they ought to do and why. After all, maybe your comment will be the one that saves a precious resource that would otherwise have been lost.

So, keep tabs on what is going on in your National Park, and get outside and get to know the nature of the parks so that when the time comes to defend it, you know what you value about your parks!


Volunteers Needed for Watershed Stewardship

From a National Park Service Press Release:

In celebration of the “Year of the River,” the National Park Service is launching a new Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) opportunity – Watershed Steward to celebrate the recovery of the Cuyahoga River.

The stewardship of Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) resources is a shared responsibility because many of the resources the park protects extend beyond the jurisdictional boundaries. Land-use decisions made by 46 local communities in the park’s watersheds affect downstream park resources. Increased flooding, degraded water quality, and poor stream health can result from changes in park watersheds.
Watershed Stewards will help promote watershed stewardship principles by regularly attending and participating in their community’s monthly public decision-making meetings and, as they become more comfortable with the content, to engage in watershed policy discussions. Stewards will receive educational opportunities and reference materials on key aspects of watershed policy. Stewards will also be encouraged to participate in local watershed activities in their communities. Our goal is to supplement and enhance existing watershed protection efforts in order to better preserve downstream park resources. Stewards are expected to volunteer from four to six evening hours a month.

An informational meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 26 at Happy Days Lodge, located at 500 West Streetsboro Road (SR 303), Peninsula. Attendance is not required to apply.

Visit the National Park Service’s web site for an application and program details, and to read more about the Cuyahoga River Watershed. For more information contact Kevin Skerl at 330-650-5071 ext. 4. or kevin_skerl@nps.gov.


Winter sports opportunities abundant in national park

Check out this recent newspaper article listing the many many opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature this winter: Winter sports opportunities abundant in national park.

You could find yourself sledding, hiking, ice fishing, hiking in snowshoes, or cross country skiing. Don’t know how? The article also outlines plenty of opportunties to learn the needed skills. Just get up, and get outside!


Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers a glimpse of nature

One of only 55 National Parks across the U.S., Cuyahoga Valley is a hidden gem. From towering waterfalls and tall trees, to the Ohio and Erie Canal that once connected the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, this park is a true national treasure that you should visit.

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