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CVNP offers winter view of nature - Akron.com

CVNP offers winter view of nature - Akron.com

Exploring CVNP

A portion of the Ritchie Ledges Trail at Virginia Kendall Park is shown above. Photo: Jim Schmidt, courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park

CVNP — One of Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s (CVNP) special places is the Ritchie Ledges, located within the Virginia Kendall area of the park. Make this one of your destinations to discover the beauty of nature in winter. You can enjoy how ice highlights rocky cliffs and deep green hemlock trees add color to the winter forest. The Ledges Trail is about a 2-mile walk, which you can shorten or lengthen to discover nature’s wonders.The Ritchie Ledges are one of many named “ledges” in Northeast Ohio. All are Sharon conglomerate — formed from sand and pebbles deposited about 320 million years ago. Geologists refer to this time as the Pennsylvanian. Stretch your imagination to think about what the land was like then. The earth’s crust moves over time. During the Pennsylvanian, this area sat closer to the equator. A steamy climate favored ancient tropical plants including tree ferns and early conifers. Dragonflies with wingspans of over a foot were likely common. The Appalachian Mountains were rising and streams flowing from the new mountains towards an inland sea carried the sand and pebbles here.The Ledge Trailhead, at 405 Truxell Road in Peninsula, provides access to the Ledges Trail. An expansive grassy field is next to the lot and sits atop a plateau formed by the Sharon conglomerate. It is great for flying kites in warmer weather and practicing cross-country skiing when snow conditions are right. The Ledges Trail encircles the plateau to give you up close views of the rocks. The trail starts adjacent to a reserve-able picnic shelter. Beyond the shelter, a geology exhibit marks a trail junction. Turn right to walk downhill to the base of the Ledges, then turn left to view the Sharon conglomerate. Look for individual grains of quartz sand and pebbles that form the rock and notice how the grains have been smoothed and rounded — the result of natural polishing as they were carried by water.You can also look for ways that the Ledges rocks have changed over time. In places, the rock has eroded in a honeycomb pattern. Joints in the rocks created Ice Box Cave, a deep crevice that is closed to the public so that bats can use it to hibernate in winter. Joints have also caused slump blocks. These are massive sections of rock that have slipped away from the main cliff. Beyond Ice Box Cave, a narrow opening takes you to a path between the main cliff and a slump block. The National Park Service does not allow climbing on the Ledges as many fragile lichens, mosses and ferns grow on them and can be easily damaged. However, exploring these passageways can satisfy the desire to climb.Next, you will come to stairs built into the rock that lead to the top of the Ledges. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is credited with constructing them in the 1930s when they developed the park amenities at the Ledges. Recently found evidence, however, suggests that the stairs predated the CCC. The Plain Dealer published an article about the Ledges in 1906 with a photo of very similar stairs. A Mr. Thompson owned a nearby farm, and future research might answer whether he built the original stairs.Take these stairs if you want a short return walk to the parking lot. Otherwise, continue following the base of the ledges for about another mile. In the southwest corner of the ledges, the trail winds back onto the top of the plateau at the Ledges Overlook. From this high point, you can see across the valley to enjoy the expansiveness of the 33,000 acres protected in CVNP. From the Ledges Overlook, cut across the field back to the parking lot or stay on the trail to finish the loop around the plateau. You can also backtrack to find connector trails to other parts of the park’s trail system.Prepare for your winter walk on the Ledges by wearing sturdy shoes, as the trail surface is uneven, with roots and rocks that can be slippery.For more about the Ledges, go to www.nps.gov/cuva/the-ledges.htm or call 440-717-3890.

CVNP offers winter view of nature - Akron.com

Jennie Vasarhelyi is chief of Interpretation, Education & Visitor Services for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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