Category Archives: National Parks
This past weekend I drove up to Michigan for two reasons: 1 – to celebrate my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary with our whole family and 2 – to pick up my kids. My daughter has been with them for 2 weeks and my son for 1. Because it is a long drive, I like to break up the trip going there. So I headed out Friday afternoon and had plans to meet a friend.
Our original intent was to hiking to a couple of waterfalls. She lives right next to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I had found a couple of short hikes. While I was driving, though, it stormed. Bad. I drove through multiple downpours where I could barely see. We changed plans and decided to go to dinner.
Thankfully, by the time dinner was done, the sun was more or less shining and she suggested we try for at least one waterfall. We grabbed my camera equipment from the hotel and drove the whole 6-7 mins to the trailhead. We chose Blue Hen Falls for our waterfall. It was already 8:00 pm so we didn’t have a lot of time. We drove down the small drive to the parking lot and hopped out for the 1/6th of a mile walk. The trail, while, short, was so pretty. And then it opened up and there were the falls.
We were both wowed by their beauty. While I was taking photos, the sky turned a beautiful pink color (in fact, you can tell in my photos – everything had a pink glow). I wish the pink sky could have come through in the photos because it was so pretty.
I didn’t even need to attach a filter to my camera. In fact, it was almost too dark. I was able to shoot for 10 seconds or more for my shots which was really nice. Thanks to the thunderstorms that moved through earlier, there was just enough water for a pretty shot but not so much that I had to get wet for the close ups. My friend mentioned there had hardly been any rain lately so the creek bed was very low.
I really didn’t want to leave. I could imagine getting there very early in the morning and having beautiful light. Alas, I will have to save that for another time. We didn’t have flashlights or anything so we returned to our cars. I was so happy to have that time with my friend and be able to visit a beautiful waterfall. If you’d like to visit Blue Hen Falls I would recommend visiting this link on The Outbound. They have the parking area marked. This waterfall is approximately 10 mins from the Ohio Turnpike so if you are traveling along that route, you could visit the falls, have lunch there, and then continue on your way. It wouldn’t take any time at all.
If you live near/in Washington DC or are planning a visit, I highly recommend taking some time to visit Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The summer months are perfect because the ponds and ponds full of lotus flowers are blooming. I saw on Instagram that there was a rare Empress Lotus blooming at the park so I dragged my son with me on the 4th of July. We arrive early – approximately 7:30 am and so did every other photographer in DC. I thought I had a unique idea. (insert laugh here). The way the park is designed, there is almost always room for many photographers. I did have an experience where a woman just kept inching closer and closer to me. I finally stopped taking photos and waited. Eventually, she stepped right in front of me almost falling into the water. Trust me when I say that this behavior isn’t necessary. There are beautiful lotus flowers everywhere. Thousands.
The humidity was high. I’m sure it was 100%. My son left me to go find shade and I commenced to feeling bad that I brought him. However, I know he enjoyed it. He couldn’t hide it. He just hates the humidity – it gives him a headache. I searched for the Empress Lotus but, alas, did not locate it. I mistakenly thought it was a different one (and thought I was right as I overheard another man talking about it).
There is a nice boardwalk that offers a small amount of shade but I didn’t take it this time. I eventually settled in on trying to capture dragonflies and butterflies before giving up on wiping the sweat from my eyes. The gardens are a must-visit for anyone. Go and experience the beauty.
I am so disgusted by the behavior people exhibit in parks or while out enjoying nature. I can’t say whether it is getting worse but my gut says it is. This past weekend I saw a few instances of people acting badly. It also annoys me when I see trash everywhere.
There are rules in parks for a reason. I know, I know… your dog is the best behaved dog in the world. It is “friendly” and it can be off the leash even though park rules state, clearly, numerous times, dogs need to be on a leash. Two incidents annoyed me this past weekend. The first was a large dog, while cute, who growled at me as I passed it. It was not on a leash. I try not to say anything because I hate being “that” person but when your dog growls at someone – put it on a leash. End of story.
Then there was the woman who was calling to her dog. Due to the previous situation I mentioned to her that dogs need to be on a leash. She said, “He is!” and continued to call. Sure, the dog had a leash but she wasn’t holding it. She continued to scream at her dog. I walked by and noticed the leash was wedged between rocks. The dog couldn’t move. I freed him and mentioned, “You would realized this if you were holding the leash.” I got called names because of course I did. People aren’t going to take responsibility for themselves.
The last issue with dogs was one that flew by me so fast that it 1 – scared me and 2 – came incredibly close to just ramming me in the back of my knee. I dreaded the thought of what would have happened if it hit me in the back of my knee. It would have surely re-injured me and it would have been a VERY long walk back to the car. These people repeatedly called to their dog who never once responded.
People – I love dogs. I truly do. I miss having a dog but the reasons are many that you need to keep control of your dog in a park. Not only can it be dangerous for the dog but you put others in danger as well. What if that dog had hit me, knocked me over, etc.? That particular dog ended up on the Cedar Run water slide and slid, unwillingly, down into the water. I heard the owners say, “It’s never swam before.” It couldn’t get out of the pool. The owner had to go down and attempt to pull it out but also fell into the pool. People laughed but a leash would have prevented all of that.
I love that people want to be in nature and see the beautiful sights in Virginia (and elsewhere). But please take just a few moments to learn trail etiquette. Not once did someone step out of the way to let me pass while I was headed uphill. I had to move for every single person. That’s pretty selfish. Generally those going uphill have right of way. REI has a great article on this so I won’t repeat their good advice.
At one of the waterfalls there was a snake on a log. Water snakes often lay in the sun around water. It is a good idea to just keep an eye out for them. Well, these two women really wanted to get on that log. So one took a large rock and chucked it at the small snake. If that rock had landed on the snake I’m quite sure it would have killed it or badly injured it. I was a little far away so couldn’t say something. Your selfie isn’t important. Sorry. It just isn’t. A few minutes later she almost fell backwards off a large boulder – again – trying to get a selfie. Stop. Respect the wildlife that lives where you are hiking. Don’t kill snakes. Don’t remove flowers. Don’t stones and large rocks.
Leave No Trace
For all that is good in this world – clean up after yourself. Leaving trash laying around, on the ground, in the picnic areas is unacceptable. You take it in. You take it out. Many of us carry extra bags so that we can pick up trash as we go. Yes, sometimes the wind comes up and may blow something and you can’t get to it. That’s far different than leaving piles of trash. The photo below is an example of trash left by visitors to Shenandoah National Park (photo credit: Wanda Kidd). Not only can this attract bears (which is bad for bears) but just shows how little regard people have for this amazing place we call earth.
This goes for people fishing as well. Clean up your bait containers. Remove your hooks. If your line gets caught – try to take it down. Or better yet, be more responsible on how and where you cast your line. Not very long ago my son and I participated in a clean up at a reservoir near my house. The amount of trash was mind blowing.
I know I probably sound like a mean person, right? Complainer? Whiner? I honestly don’t care because our parks are meant to be a place of enjoyment… a place to go to get away from stresses in our lives and enjoy the natural beauty of the world. That is difficult when people don’t follow rules or pick up after themselves.
Between having a sprained ankle and now a sprained knee some of my hiking goals have had to be put on hold. Thankfully, I’m part of a great group on Facebook that focuses only on hiking within Shenandoah National Park. I asked about a good hike that would be flat. That’s fairly rare in the park but lo and behold Limberlost Trail exists. It is designed as an Accessible trail. While it might be a bit of an effort for manual wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs could make this trek.
I was thrilled that the Mountain Laurel was out in abundance. I had never seen it before and I wish I could have a backyard full of it. I couldn’t take enough photos of it. Along the trail we saw a cute little bunny and a deer wandered across the trail. Alas, no bears. The trail was pretty and easy. It is just 1.3 miles.
From there, we headed to my son’s favorite spot – Big Meadows. We went there numerous times this past winter hunting for the bobcat. We walked down the fire road there and went further than we did over the winter. Once you pass the initial meadows area the scenery gets lush. We spotted a few different kinds of butterflies and played kick-the-rock. My son grew tired (I mean he did run a 5K and play soccer the day before) so we turned around and went back.
It was a short-ish trip to the park but very needed. I had been growing weary of sitting at home and not being in nature.