Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Roxboro Ravine . . . it rocks!

I thought it might be fun to write some posts about neat places around Cleveland (this isn't entirely a music blog!), so now, while I'm still recovering from a broken hip, some words about one of my favorite places to go when I have my normal mobility.

I suspect that not many people are familiar with the term Roxboro Ravine. A Google search returns very few results. Here's one, though; I think it's where I learned the name:

Path down into the Roxboro Ravine (formerly known as Ambler Park), approximately where Bellfield meets North Park Blvd. (from Cleveland Heights Historical Society)

Quite pretty, isn't it? The spot pictured doesn't look exactly the same today, but anyone who has spent a lot of time in the ravine would have no trouble recognizing the image. I'm sure that a lot more people are familiar with the place known as Roxboro Ravine than with the name Roxboro Ravine, but at the same time I'm sure many people pass by it often while remaining unaware of the wonderful place hiding in plain sight between North Park and Fairhill roads in Shaker Heights.

I was certainly one of those people once. As a cross country runner at CWRU, I often ran along North Park, on the grass right next to the ravine. I undoubtedly glanced down into the ravine from time to time while running by, but (to my memory) did not venture down there at all for my first two years of college. I remember a run my junior year where a couple of my teammates suggested heading down the wooded trails there. I voiced my disagreement, worried that it might be dangerous and not wanting to risk an injury.

I've since been injured twice on those trails, but that hasn't hampered my enthusiasm for running there. The trails aren't inherently dangerous; they just require somewhat more care and surer footing than running on roads. The broken arm in particular was due to completely reckless behavior on my part - I was walking, on a fallen tree, across the brook that flows through the ravine. That was risky enough, but then, as I neared the end of the tree, I began to pick up speed. I guess I just couldn't wait a few more steps until I reached solid ground, and I paid the price for my stupidity when I slipped, fell backwards several feet to the ground, and caught myself with an arm that one glance instantly revealed was broken. I walked out of the ravine up to North Park and was lucky enough to immediately encounter some other people, one of whom was a student at the Case Medical School and drove me to the hospital.

So I've certainly had some adventures in the ravine. (Since learning the proper name, I still usually think of it as just "the ravine." Cara and I have another name for it, as well - "Leslie Anne Ravine," a pun on the Decemberists' song "Leslie Anne Levine." I'm not even sure now which one of us came up with it, I think it was her? We are pretty silly.)

Roxboro Ravine really is a fantastic place for running. In the past few years, I've come to enjoy trail running more and more. It's a great way to commune with nature, and it's much more stimulating to my senses and my mind than running on the streets. The trails in the ravine require more attention than most. There are all sorts of rocks, roots, sharp turns, and quick ups and downs to navigate through. None of it is excessively difficult if proper care is taken, but it's a much more rugged trail than what one might typically find in, say, the Metroparks. I have to say, somewhat egotistically, that running is more fun when you can run fast, and running fast through a rugged, forested trail full of twists and turns is really fun. I've covered the trails through the ravine so many times that my feet practically know each step of the way. I really feel lucky, living in an urban environment, to have such a great place for trail running so close by. (It also seems to be a popular place for mountain biking. I've never tried mountain biking myself, and frankly, the idea of doing it on some of the more treacherous segments of the ravine's trails seems rather scary.)

Running in the ravine is great, but sometimes it can be nice to take in the joys of nature at a more leisurely pace. Cara and I often like to go on walks or hikes together (again, I'm looking forward to getting back to doing this after my injury is all better!), and Roxboro Ravine is one of our favorite places for such excursions. We've traversed the trails there in all seasons. Our most recent hike there was on a beautiful spring day, and contained a cool surprise. As we walked, we noticed there was music coming from somewhere nearby. And not someone's stereo system - this was live music, played by a couple of brass instruments. After we walked farther down the trail, an upward look revealed the musicians' location. They were sitting on the back patio of one of the houses on Fairhill that overlooks the ravine (I'm really jealous of the people who live there). It was like having a concert performed just for us while we enjoyed a great stroll through nature.

That was a memorable hike, but definitely not as memorable as the one that took place on March 7 of this year. That was when Cara and I got engaged. Here's a picture of the spot where it happened, which I took just before the big moment (the ring, at the time, was hidden in my camera bag).

Earlier in the walk, Cara had mentioned that the ravine was "special" to her. This secretly thrilled me, knowing what I was planning to ask her before we left the ravine that day. So I definitely agree, Roxboro Ravine is a special place, for many reasons.

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