Waking up the morning after a day of hiking covered in scrapes and feeling noticeably sore is a strong indicator of two things: 1. I’m rather out of shape, and 2. The previous day’s adventure was pretty successful.
On this humid, overcast Saturday afternoon, I ventured to Cascade Park in Elyria, Ohio. In addition to several hiking trails in the forest alongside the Black River, this park is home to two waterfalls that form from the merging of the East Branch and West Branch of the Black River.
Of course, I couldn’t make the trek here by myself; I enlisted the accompaniment of my friends, Liza and Rachael.
We began our adventure by scaling down a steep, muddy cliff. Upon reaching the bottom, we realized that there was a staircase on the opposite side of the rocky trail we had just descended. Hey, it was a part of the adventure, right?
Most of the rock formations at Cascade Park are a combination of shale and sandstone. These rocks have been eroding over the past 13,000 years, ever since the glaciers began to recede.
These rocks also serve as a platform for those who are daring enough to perform death-defying stunts…
…or dabble with a little bit of yoga.
We chose this day to explore Cascade Park because we figured the recent rain would make the falls more rapid. Unfortunately, this also meant that the river was a little muddier than usual.
The additional rain also made the rocky trail leading down to the West Falls slicker than I anticipated, but it certainly didn’t stop us from venturing as close to the falls as we could.
I seem triumphant to be standing that close to the water, but don’t let this photo deceive you– I slipped about six times prior to reaching this point in the hike. Naturally, I opted to save my camera rather than my knees…
…but being able to feel the mist from behind the waterfalls and view the scenery from a different perspective was well worth the few cuts and bruises.
Throughout our journey, we took advantage of every photo opportunity that came to our minds.
From where we were standing, we noticed a steeper cliff overlooking the river, so we decided to traverse through the mud in search of a place for us to get a bird’s-eye view.
The supply of fresh water and other natural resources from the Black River combined with the valley’s protection made the land that is now Cascade Park a perfect home for Native Americans. In the 1750s, the first settlers began arriving in the area; in 1816, Herman Ely settled the area where the two branches of the Black River meet, eventually establishing present-day Elyria.
Instead of coming across a higher vantage point, we reached a fork in the path where we could either continue down to the East Falls or turn around and head back to the car. The idea of resting our legs while enjoying some dinner seemed enticing, but we ultimately decided to hike just a little bit farther.
At the end of the trail, we came across what Liza described as “a literal hole in the wall” place to explore.
The roar of the falls became louder and louder as we made our way down the cliff and into the remains of whatever shelter had once stood there.
From the top of the entrance, this cove seemed like merely a concrete path to the East Falls.
The inside walls, however, donned a mural of graffiti– an amazing find that we never would have witnessed had we succumbed to our hunger and fatigue earlier in our hike.
The colorful walls provided an excellent place to take photos…
…both of the artwork…
…and of ourselves.
I was finally able to get close enough to the water to rinse off dirt from when I had fallen earlier. It probably wasn’t the cleanest water I could have used to rinse off the cuts on my legs with, but if it was suitable for the Native Americans, I suppose it is suitable for me.
No, this ledge was not the driest seat I could’ve chosen, but for another chance at an up-close view of the falls, I happily opted for a wet butt.
We concluded the day’s adventure with a trip to Midway Oh Boy– aka, the best local diner to get a cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake. Our recommendations? The Oh Boy Special, of course, along with our newfound favorite: Mac ‘n Cheese Bites.
The takeaway from this adventure was certainly not the full stomachs or sore muscles, but rather the knowledge that there’s always something new to discover if you’re willing to hike a little bit farther to find it.
Interested in adventuring to Cascade Park? Learn more about it