Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ohio and Erie Canal

Cleveland Metropark's Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation
View northward along Towpath Trail flanked by the 
Cuyahoga River (left) and Ohio and Erie Canal (right)

During our visit to northeast Ohio last week, we took a late afternoon walk in the Cleveland Metroparks' Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation, which is a northern extension of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Eventually, the reservation will extend from the northern boundary of the national park to Cleveland's Lake Erie lakefront, but today it only extends to the southern edge of Cleveland's most heavily industrialized neighborhoods along the Cuyahoga River.

Nevertheless, the park district has done its best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.  The canal, for example, is still watered and flowing through the reservation because it formerly served as a source of water for Jones and Laughlin's steel mill; other sections of the canal further south in the national park are dry.

In addition, the park district has embraced the area's industrial heritage, and has bestowed upon it the moniker "Hidden Valley" because the heavily industrialized section of the Cuyahoga and canal formerly was off limits to the public and accessible only to the workers in the heavy industries lining the river.
The scenery's not all pretty.  In the image above, photographed in low, late-afternoon sunlight at a bad angle for photography, a building material recycling facility presses up against the riverbank, and the lone surviving tree is shrouded in non-native vines.  Kali remarked, "Doesn't that just say it all?"
Yours truly
But other sections have been reclaimed and the park district has created series of nice viewing decks overlooking the Cuyahoga River.
And, perhaps most exciting of all--wildlife has returned.  Or maybe it's been hanging on there all along, but now it's just more visible.  We were fortunate to spot this beaver swimming in the canal just before we left.  The naturalist at the Visitor Center was surprised that we'd seen the beaver, which had only been reported sporadically earlier in the year.  This is within the city limits of Cleveland!
Ohio and Erie Canal Visitor Center,
a beautiful new facility

Monday, March 14, 2011

Snow Falls

Wolf Creek Falls after March snow
Garfield Park Reservation
Cleveland Metroparks

Ahhh, Spring Break in northeast Ohio.  Kali was able to get away from work during her university's Spring Break last week, so instead of flying to San Diego to visit my Dad, we drove to northeast Ohio to deal with Kali's mom's house and affairs.  I was in the Cleveland suburbs for a full four days, but was extraordinarily busy during the whole period except for one movie (The Adjustment Bureau; it was vacation time, after all), one walk at the Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, and one nice dinner to reconnect with my best friend from high school, who just happened to be in town from Los Angeles, also dealing with an ailing parent.
Oh, and I did sneak out to photograph two waterfalls in the neighborhood (sorry, Jain) on Sunday morning, March 6, after an inch of snow.
 Wolf Creek above the falls

The circulation system in the Garfield Park Reservation was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted's firm, and contains carriage roads borne over the small streams on beautiful native Euclid bluestone bridges.
A few hundred feet downstream of the falls, Wolf Creek joins the much larger Mill Creek.  Mill Creek is one of the major tributaries of the Cuyahoga River--and probably one of its dirtiest, too.  The Mill Creek watershed has been used and abused for years, with suburban development encroaching up to the very edge of the creek and combined sewer overflows adding nutrients and Lord knows what else to the stream.

Several thousand feet upstream of its confluence with the Cuyahoga River, Mill Creek plunges over the tallest waterfall (48 feet) in Cuyahoga County.  Until the Cleveland Metroparks resurrected the area immediately surrounding the falls a few years ago, it had been hidden away in the back of an industrial park, known only to local residents (and kids who were inclined to trespass to find any hint of natural excitement).  Now, it's been outfitted with observation platforms and a landscaped park.
Mill Creek Falls
Garfield Park Reservation (extension)
Cleveland Metroparks

Ever since the region was settled, the area around the falls has been industrialized because the falls were used a source of water power.  In fact, the falls is not even in its original location.  Early in the 20th century, the falls was moved 300 feet to provide space for a railroad right-of-way.  The neighborhood around the falls is depressed and post-industrial, with several large roads criss-crossing just upstream.
The gorge downstream of Mill Creek Falls

Railing at observation platform
Mill Creek Falls

To reflect the long relationship between people and the falls, Cleveland Metroparks developed an observation area with a decorative railing depicting the human history of the region.  On the right side of the railing, you may be able to discern the outline of a mule's head, a tribute to the mules that pulled canal boats on the Ohio and Erie Canal less than a mile away.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Pilobolus sp.
You may have seen Pilobolus featured in an automobile commercial on television.  The troupe of artists, having fashioned themselves into the shape of a car (A Honda or Accura, if I recall), slowly uncoil their expertly intertwined bodies and reveal the construct to have been human origami.
The company, beginning it's 40th anniversary season, was named by one of its co-founders after a fungus (genus Pilobolus) being researched in his father's biophysics laboratory at Dartmouth College, where the group started.
Pilobolus was in town last evening beginning a four-day run, and Kali and I went to see them as part of our contemporary dance series.  I’m giving the performance a mixed review.  There were five pieces, and I think that the first and last were the best.  I fell asleep during the third piece, “Duet,” between two women who intimately juxtaposed their bodies for what seemed to be forever, but Kali liked it and my sleepiness may have been partially attributable to the warm auditorium and the fact that I had taken an antihistamine late in the afternoon.

There were two “shadow” pieces in which a translucent screen separated the audience from the backlit performers.  The first was short and fun.  My initial reaction to the second was, “Oh, no!  Not another one!”  But the piece, a sort of animated comic strip, grew on me, especially because the dancers occasionally came from behind the screen and performed in view of the audience.
The last piece, “Redline,” was classic Pilobolus and incredibly intense, energetic dance.  it blew the audience away.

Unfortunately, Pilobolus doesn't always know when to stop.  Too often, once they've made their point with a dance, they expand it until it becomes wearing.  That was cetainly the case with the three longer pieces last evening.  Nevertheless,  Pilobolus continues to explore  new movement paradigms and their programs are never boring.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Scourge or a Close Scrape?

Because I feed the birds, I have a surfeit of Gray Squirrels in my yard.  Sometimes, there are half a dozen under my feeder, picking through the seed that drops from the platform above when the birds are being especially picky; Blue Jays bring a feast, with their careless, powerful flings.

The squirrels can be a costly headache, too.  They have crawled up in the undercarriage of my car and chewed gasoline lines and electrical wires on more than one occasion.  Can such things actually be tasty?

I used to have fewer squirrels when feral cats patrolled the property, but the arrival of Eastern Coyotes about three years ago decimated the feral cat population.  It's very rare to see a cat any longer.  In response, the squirrel population has skyrocketed.

A few days ago, I noticed the squirrel in the (unsatisfactorily blurry) image above, under the feeder.  I could see that the fur was missing from the squirrel's tail, and I attributed it to an infestation of mange.  But last evening, when I went out to get a picture, I saw that the tail was in really bad shape and, even worse, the side of the squirrel away from the camera was horribly disfigured and partially hairless.  It also looked like the animal had lost its eye on that side.  Now, I'm questioning my mange diagnosis and wondering if the squirrel got in some kind of fight or escaped from a predator.

Many of the coyotes I see in the neighborhood are afflicted with mange; it's a horrible disease, but I think that it comes from too many animals sharing too small a habitat.  It's a natural (but terrible) population regulator.  In contrast, I've seen quite a few Red Foxes lately, but their coats are beautiful, sleek, and bushy.  I've seen my share of mangy foxes in the past, so it's possible that they could suffer in the future, too.

'Off to suburban northeast Ohio this weekend for six days.