Sunday, November 1

The Year of Should've: A Hike to Brandywine Falls

I'm noticing a trend here lately in my blog posts.  They all start off with, "What I should have been doing was A," and proceed to talk about how I spent my free time frolicking and following Plan B instead.  This theme continued throughout my past week of vacation.  On Monday, Steve took a day off of work as well.  We bummed around all day, having delicious corned beef sandwiches (and a cream puff as big as a football--which we both shared for dessert on Tuesday night as well!) at Simon's in Brecksville, and then nosing around Leener's and buying stuff to brew our own Root Beer. 

And then we headed to the Stanford House in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to take a short but fun hike to Brandywine Falls.  When you arrive at Stanford House, you kind of feel like you're trespassing, because you have to drive behind this big old barn to find the parking lot:

Recently, Stanford House was also a hostel, and also served as a retreat place for some local school groups.  Now, they have rustic campgrounds there that you can reserve, with both water and chemical toilets for your use.  They also have this blue tanker labeled "Drinking Water," which I wouldn't be brave enough to use but which looked pretty against the yellow fall leaves:

This great old maple tree was near the trailhead.  When I looked up at it before we got started, I felt like it was kind of giving me a hug--because its branches fanned out all around:

I assume that this was once a chicken coop or some other kind of animal area... but maybe someone better versed in farming can set me straight here?  Whatever it was, it may be on its way to a return to its former glory, judging by the recent addition of plywood and other boards:

Isn't that old brick great, by the way?  I love the texture, and the sheen:

Steve spotted this huge millstone, on the edge of a field, from a good 50 feet away.  He has good eyes--mine skimmed right over it, assuming that it was just a regular old rock:

The same millstone, with our feet (mine are a women's 9, his are a men's 14) near the center to give you an idea of how huge this millstone was. Notice the leaves inside? There was a foot or so of space below the stone, which makes me wonder if it covers up something like an old well shaft. There's no mill or creek around for a while, so no other reason for it to be here:

While we were checking out the millstone, a rustling and tapping in the nearby field caught our attention.  It wasn't long before we spotted the woodpecker--a male downy woodpecker, I think?--tapping at the browned tubes in search of dinner.  Taking a photo of him was another story. This single clear photo was probably photo #11 or 12:

Photo accomplished, we headed off toward the falls.  The first part of the walk is through a meadow area, and I loved how the bright white shocks of opened milkweed seedpods punctuated the field of grasses. In the late afternoon light, they reminded me of tiny deer tails:

If I had to guess, I would say that this is a ground cherry... but it doesn't have that papery husk.  Anyone else want to venture an ID for this bright yellow fruit?

There's something kind of lovely about the meadow of browned plants against a light blue sky, with still-green grass at its feet:

I loved the quirky shape of this already-bare tree, spotted just off the path:

Finally, the first footbridge, leading into the woods, of the 4 that you encounter on this trail.  I've done this hike at least 6 or 8 times now, mostly toward evening time, and this is always the marker for being "out of the woods" on the way home.

You rarely encounter any humans on this trail until you reach the falls, but don't think that doesn't mean you are really "alone" out here.  The woods have eyes!  Do you see?

We probably saw half a dozen deer, and heard at least a handful more, during our hike.  It's such a seldom-used trail that the sense that you are encroaching on their land (which of course, we were) really hits home.  And it also struck me how big woodland animals like deer are typically very quiet (identifiable by single branch cracks) while the small animals like squirrels and chipmunks make enough noise for animals 10x their size.

Steve and I were making just as much noise, shuffling through the carpet of newly-fallen leaves:

Very few wildflowers were still blooming here--it's just a half hour south of where I live, but they get frost and colder temps much earlier than I do.  (Thank you, Lake Erie!)  A few asters, and this dainty little persicaria, were among the bloomers:

The fungus "blooms" were everywhere, though, including this huge "bouquet" at the foot of a fallen tree:

The trees that still were upright with leaves were mostly those showing yellow coloring.  It made for a golden, warm, cathedral effect as the sun streamed through to the path:

The walk is fairly hilly (190ft vertical over the course of the walk, not counting the falls) and when you went down into a valley, just the tops of the trees around you would be sunlit:

It amazes me how much the color of the sky can change from photograph to photograph, even when the camera settings remain the same.  Check out how much bluer the sky looks in this zoomed-in photo below, as compared to the one above:

The plants weren't all golden, however.  A few deciduous trees still retained their green leaf color, and many little colonies of green ferns popped up here and there.  They were particularly abundant in this little creek ravine:

And this hillside, near another footbridge, was completely covered in green:

I have "a thing for" twisted fallen trees, and can rarely pass one without snapping a picture or two.  I would love to have a piece like this to use as a focal point/natural sculpture in my front yard:

This, I believe, is a new footbridge that they built over the summer.  Very sturdy, and they picked a color that would work well with the surroundings:

We soon exited the woods, and picked up a crumbling old road that has long been closed to car traffic.  We were very close to the Falls, but couldn't resist stopping to try to get a few pics of some impressive wildlife.  See them in the white box below?

Not sure what you're looking at?  You might still not know after viewing my blurry photo below (zooming all the way, in low natural light, leads to blurry pictures!) so I'll give you a hint:  If they weren't on National Park land, they might have to worry about being served for dinner somewhere in a few weeks!

Giving up on the wild turkey photos, I shot one last picture down the ravine.  Here, the water from Brandywine Creek starts to calm back down after its trip down the falls... but it's still a rocky creek bed.  We could hear it better than we could see it through the evergreens:

As we descended the stairs that lead to the observation deck, the view opened up to give us a better look at the rocky creek:

When we rounded the last corner, we were glad that so many of the leaves were already gone.  You generally can see the last stairs and observation deck from here, but when there's no leaf canopy, you can immediately view the falls themselves as well:

Brandywine Falls were first formed between 300-400 million years ago.  The lighter layers at the top are made of Berea sandstone, and the darker layers at the bottom are made of Bedford shale.  (Berea and Bedford are two local towns, so I assume these stone names just designate that they are the "type of sandstone like one could find in X town."  But I'm not sure.)

Anyway, the sandstone is harder than the shale, which chips away much more easily, and that's why you see the overhang at the top:

I wonder if, a long time down the road (as in, not in my lifetime) the lower level will be taken away entirely by the power of the water?  And what would be left would be a straight drop of water, uninterrupted, from the top of the Berea sandstone into a deepening pool carved out of the Bedford shale below.  Whatever the life cycle of the falls is meant to be eventually, right now it's a gorgeous "bridal veil" style waterfall:

But we didn't have a lot of time to admire it.  The darkening sky and the time on Steve's cell phone sent us the message that we had to hustle unless we wanted to get stuck in the woods in the dark.  We started to ascend the 69-step, multi-tiered decking to head back to the trail:

But I couldn't resist taking this cool shot of a fern growing out of the rock ledge overhead:

We wasted no more time on photos, and little time on conversation, as we powered back through the woods to our starting point.  Remember the "out of the woods" footbridge I mentioned earlier?  I know I can make it through the meadow part in almost complete darkness (don't ask!) so we were aiming to reach the footbridge by the last remaining daylight...

.... and we made it, just in the nick of time!  By the time we got back to the car, our cheeks were pink with an autumn chill and with the exertion of our speed walking.  And we were a little too tired from our day of bumming to brew any root beer yet that night... so that will be another post.

Unless, of course, I find something else to do when I "should be" brewing root beer.  Who knows?  After all, this IS turning out to be "The Year of Should've!"


Garden Lily said...

What a healthy and interesting way to spend those "should've" times - too many people default to the TV. The reference to Brandywine Falls caught my attention, since we have a Brandywine Falls between Vancouver and Whistler, BC (home of the 2010 Winter Olympics in February). I enjoyed following along your photos, my favourites were the fungus "blooms" and next photo with the sun streaming through the trees. Thanks!

Maria said...

What a nice way to spend my Sunday morning, reading this post. I've been doing a lot of landstomping myself with my camera and I'm having the same problem with the elusive blue sky.

Loved the surprise wild life shots. I remember one time I got lost in my car some place rural and when I stopped to get out a car suddenly was surrounded by a lot of wild turkeys trying to figure out who I was and what I was doing. Too bad I wasn't carrying a camera back then. :-)

Unknown said...

Good point, Garden Lily. Mondays are my TV days, as I go over to my boyfriend's and we watch some shows while cooking dinner. I never got a converter for my old tube TV, so now that everything is digital down here I can't watch anything--and I really don't miss it. :)

Maria, wow... did you feel a little threatened? These wild turkeys were huge--bigger than Canadian geese can get around here, even--and I think I would have been a little intimidated! lol.


Hi Kim. Gee.... what a lovely travelog. Thoughtful considerations and perfect photos to lend credence. I thoroughly enjoyed walking along with you. You have a very good eye for snagging super photos too.

I also live near Cuyahoga Valley Nat'l Park but south of you. I didn't know about Brandywine Falls. We'll have to hunt it up.

Thanks for sharing.

Kerri said...

This hike was obviously much more fun than doing what you "shoulda been" :) The garden isn't going anywhere. You'll get it done eventually. Hopefully Old Man Winter will hold off for a while yet. I still have miles to go.
Thanks for sharing all these photos of the interesting details along the way. I especially love the shots of the light streaming through the trees. And the fern shot really is cool!
The Halloween get ups are great. You're a very scary lady ;) And Steve looks scared!
Happy day after!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I will forever think of milkweed pods as deer tails. What a beautiful metaphor. I enjoyed your walk. The falls were a great prize for the walk. You should see if you could put that millstone in your garden. Many people use those as decoration in their gardens. What a conversation piece it would be. Of course it would probably be one of those shouldas.

joey said...

Aren't you glad you did this, Kim ... your autumn photo shoot is stunning! Your site looks great ... love the header!

Digital Flower Pictures said...

The light looks very nice in your photos.

Bernie Smith said...

Enjoyed your blog!

Thank you...

Layanee said...

Great costumes in the previous post and thanks for taking us on your hike. I am ready for some hot, mulled cider right now. Great photos. Happy to hear you are doing what you want instead of what you think you should.

Gail said...

I so agree with Joey! This is your life...go for it, but thanks for sharing the great time you had with us! I love walking in the woods on cool autumn days! gail

Kylee Baumle said...

This is my favorite way to spend a beautiful fall day and thanks to your wonderful photos, I feel like I was right there with you.

The falls are stunning! You don't see things like that in this corner of the state, as you well know!

Okay, so we do have deer and wild turkeys (right in our back yard), but no waterfalls like that!

growingagardenindavis said...

I loved the walk Kim and so enjoyed seeing the fall color and wildlife. And I really got a kick out of Bedford shale since I grew up in Bedford. I'm glad you are doing some fun stuff and that you are nice enough to share the experiences with can spin it as a contrast to your usual topics!

Sylvana said...

Thanks for the hike. Now I'm bushed.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. This is exactly what I want my "yard" to look like. And if I had to pick a natural landscape to grow in, this woudl certainly be it. No mountains, or beaches, or whatever. Woods and meadows and streams. Sigh.

And brewing root beer! I LOVE ROOT BEER! (but not Mug, that stuff is terrible)

lisa said...

Fabulous! I really enjoy your observations and images-pretty much the same stuff I look for! :) Those bricks are amazing, I've always enjoyed the shiny brown brick buildings on many dairy farms up here, but that little building could have been just about anything, IMO. That millstone! Do you know I've seen those sell for 3K or more, and I agree with your idea that it's covering an old well. They are so heavy, but a backhoe could do it if necessary. Folks make "forever" recirculating fountains with them, too. The colors are so neat this time of year...and fungus among us! Fun stuff!

chuck b. said...

What a lovely day!

Mens size 14? Oh la la!

Keep us posted on the root beer progress--that sounds awesome.

Unknown said...

Coneflower, you definitely should! It's a lovely hike--and if you don't want to do a hike, you can park there and just walk the boardwalk thing down to the falls. I keep forgetting you're just south of me, by the way. I don't know why, but I always think that you're out east, towards Madison!

Kerri, you and me both with the miles to go! The light through the trees photo is my favorite, too (with the fern second)... it really gives you a feeling for the way the woods looked all around. :)

Greenbow Lisa, once you start thinking that, you'll "see" the deer tails all around--I can't NOT think of them that way now! lol. The millstone belongs to the park, but I actually do have access to some old millstones at my grandma's. It just seems like such work to try to get them all the way up to Cleveland, though... hmm...

Joey, I am indeed glad. I think that Steve and I both needed a day like that. :)

digital flower pictures, thank you!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Bernie--and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, too. :)

Layanee, we had so much fun dressing up for Halloween! :) And yes, doing what we want instead of what we think we should is pretty important at times. I'm learning that... :)

Gail, and thanks to you for sharing that lovely natural area (and garden!) surrounding your house, too. It's fun to enjoy these things together, no?

Kylee, ah... but in NW Ohio we have those lovely flat fields burnished in shades of gold and brown throughout the fall! It may sound silly, but seeing those is one of my highlights when I go home for a visit at the time of the year.

Leslie, I was all excited about "Bedford Shale" and "Berea Sandstone," too--and I didn't even grow up here! :)

Sylvana, you should've felt a little bit of ache in your glutes, too--the hills are a good workout for that particular body part. (Which is definitely good for me--I need it!)

Benjamin, I'm with you on the no mountains... but I think that I could handle a "natural" beach. (I just don't need the sandy, vacationer-infested kind!) Anywhere with water, actually--I guess that my inner swamp girl is showing herself there, eh?

(And yes, "real" Root Beer only. And "real" ginger beer, like Reed's, instead of generic ginger ale. YUM!)

Lisa, are you like me and have 10,000 photographs of random bark, leaves, and fungus?! lol. The millstone was absolutely astounding--I would love to know how much it weighed. So heavy, so thick, and so wide--really, a perfect thing for covering up an old well.

chuck b., you make me grin! And I promise a post or two on the Root Beer progress... we might be starting that on Friday, in fact. :)

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