Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ohio Reunion Weekend

Deer Lick Run
Cleveland Metropark's Bedford Reservation

My wife and I made a quick three-day weekend trip to Ohio last weekend to attend our 40th high school reunion in an inner-ring Cleveland suburb. Because airfares from our home city to Cleveland are outrageous (we can fly to the West Coast for less money), we flew to Columbus, rented a car, and drove 2-1/2 hours to Cleveland.

As we approached Cleveland late Friday afternoon, I begged my wife's indulgence to stop to photograph Deerlick Run in Cleveland Metropark's Bedford Reservation. She knows that Deerlick Run is my favorite stream in the whole world, and so she agreed. I've featured images of this creek in previous posts, but only in winter and autumn. Now I have images from deep summer, too.

Just downstream from the small cascade in the images above, there is a much taller falls called Bridal Veil Falls. I've tried to photograph Bridal Veil Falls in the past, but the images haven't been great. I explained this to my wife, and she told me to take some pictures anyway. I did, and they weren't great, but the image below was the best I got. The ravine is dark, and the upper falls are bright in the sunlight, making the picture full of contrast.

Bridal Veil Falls
Deer Lick Run
Cleveland Metropark's Bedford Reservation

While we photographed the stream, there was a family wading in the creek. I remarked to them that Deerlick Run is a great wading stream, and the father agreed, saying, "I've been coming here for 35 years!" I told him that it had been nearly 50 years for me.

My wife, who had only been to Deerlick Run once before many years ago, said that the stream was truly lovely, and that she could understand why I had fallen in love with it. She added that, for her, it brought to mind a Victorian landscape painting.

The class reunion spread over three days, with an "icebreaker" at a local bar-and-grill on Friday evening, a dinner-dance in the old high school cafeteria on Saturday evening, and a picnic on Sunday afternoon. We had to get back home on Sunday and skipped the picnic, but attended the other two events. We enjoyed ourselves, but couldn't recognize many of the 100+ folks from our class of 525 who attended the reunion.

Because we had no reunion-related commitments on Saturday afternoon, we visited The West Woods, a relatively new Geauga County park that I had wanted to visit for many years. In fact, in my 1970's-vintage road map book of Geauga County (which I still own), I had made a note that there was a geologic feature that I had wanted to explore, but in the 1970's, the land was private property. I certainly was not above trespassing back in the 1970's to investigate natural features, but in this case I had marked the attraction (Ansel's Ledges) on my map but had never gone to see them. I intended to right that oversight during this trip.

The West Woods is a large park (around 500 acres), most of which is cloaked in dense beech-sugar maple forest. Ansel's Ledges (now called Ansel's Cave) is the main attraction. Despite dense cloud cover and the threat of showers, we set off on the 0.75-mile trail to the cave.

Ansel's Ledges formed from erosion of Sharon Conglomerate. The conglomerate is resistant to weathering, but the underlying shales are not, so the supporting shale erodes away, and then great blocks of the conglomerate crack off, forming modest cliffs and ledges.

Ansel's Ledges in Sharon Conglomerate
The West Woods Park, Geauga County

When we arrived at Ansel's "Cave," we were in for some disappointment. The feature is not a cave in the true sense of the word; it's a very narrow ravine with huge undercut and overhanging conglomerate cliffs that do not fully close over the top of the ravine. The ravine was cut through the conglomerate and shale by an intermittent stream with a small falls at the head of the ravine, but northeast Ohio's unusually dry summer meant that there was no water flowing over the lip of the falls. Lastly, the canopy of a huge tree had recently fallen into the mouth of the ravine, partially obscuring the view up to the spill off at the head of the ravine with a tangle of dead branches. Ansel's Cave in this state was so uninspiring and unphotogenic that I didn't even bother to take a picture.

Boardwalk alongside Ansel's Ledges

Ansel's Ledges
The West Woods Park

When Geauga County Parks established The West Woods, they built an enviable environmental education and meeting facility. The rain showers did not hold off until we returned from our walk, so we stopped in the visitor center to dry off (and cool off, too, since it was unmercifully hot and humid). The center features a long wall with windows looking out over an elaborate (and busy) bird feeding station. There, we watched a Downy Woodpecker repeatedly return to (and aggressively defend) a hummingbird feeder--a Downy with a definite sweet beak, that's a first for me!

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