Gazette Managing Editor Liz Sheaffer and her sometimes faithful companion, Abby, are participating in the Medina County Park District’s Trekking Through Autumn, a self-guided hiking program.
Deep in the heart of Princess Ledges Nature Preserve, the drumming was intermittent.
I knew its source, but couldn’t find the little drummer among the still heavy-leafed trees.
Just as I was about give up my search, I caught a flash of red. The downy woodpecker, a frequent visitor to my bird feeders and three sycamores at home, seemed to be playing a game of hide and seek.
It scooted up a mighty oak faster than a lumberjack in a tree-climbing contest. It flitted toward the back and around the front again as if toying with me.
Abby waited patiently by my side, possibly bored, although she’s used to me stopping to try to capture a nature scene on our Trekking Through Autumn adventures.
I attempted to snap a few pictures of the wily woodpecker, but it continued to mock my photography skills.
Defeated, we continued our trek on the aptly named Nature Trail where tree roots stretch across the somewhat difficult terrain that wends through thick woods.
We passed a birdhouse fashioned of hollowed-out wood and traveled across a wooden bridge, the 2004 Eagle Scout project of Paul Reed, Troop 411, Sharon Center.
The land for this nature preserve was subdivided in the early 20th century to create summer cottage lots and was known as the Strongsville Heights Allotment.
Park district literature notes that difficult financial times of the 1920s hampered sales of the lots, and sandstone just below the surface made development difficult.
The nature preserve got its name from the daughter the previous owners — Princess — who enjoyed playing on the sandstone ledges.
In 1973, the park district started acquiring land for the nature preserve. More recently, the district collaborated with the Rocky River Watershed Council on a stormwater management project.
In 2010, park natural resource staff noted a severe erosion problem impacting one of the small spring-fed streams beneath the sandstone ledges.
An informational sign posted in front of a wetland that’s home to a wood duck house, explains how the project helped to correct erosion in the park caused by stormwater flowing unchecked out of a roadside ditch on Elm Avenue.
Stormwater in the ditch now is directed to the shallow wetland, which allows sediment and pollutants to settle out. This filtered water then is released across vegetated landscapes and into sensitive streams.
But this park is named for the ledges, which stretch about 1,100 feet across the nature preserve, and so Abby and I began our climb up the Ledge Trail. The terrain changed, became more rocky, and sandstone ledges, small at first, started appearing.
At the apex, water from spring-fed streams trickled from the rock formations crowned by vegetation.
I was stunned by the depth and beauty of the sandstone, and the knowledge that thousands of years ago these cliffs formed the shoreline of Lake Erie.
IF YOU WANT TO GO
The park is just north of Grafton Road on the west side of Pearl Road (U.S. Route 42) in Brunswick Hills Township. The park district advises visitors using the Apple iPhone maps app to find directions to Princess Ledges Nature Preserve, to type in the street address: 4361 Spruce Ave., Brunswick. Simply typing in the name of the preserve results in inaccurate directions to the entrance.
Trails: 1-mile Nature Trail and .54-mile Ledge Trail, which leads to the sandstone ledges.
Trees: oak and tulip poplars
Park amenities: sandstone ledges, scenic overlook and restrooms.
Contact Managing Editor Liz Sheaffer at email@example.com or (330) 721-4060.