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.
Abby nose-rolled remnants of black walnuts on our trek up the hill toward Destination Outlook.
Stones at the entrance to Allardale Park illustrate just a few of the trees and leaves hikers will encounter besides black walnut: chestnut, cottonwood, cucumber, sweetgum and white oak.
A variety of trees and 125 acres of the 388-acre park are a gift from Stan and Esther Allard, who donated their Granger Township farm in 1992 to the Medina County Park District; the park officially opened in 1997.
Signs along the trails indicate when certain groves were planted, such as black walnut in 1984, and red oak and black locust, both in 1985. In all, it’s estimated Stan Allard planted more than 100,000 trees in his lifetime.
At Destination Outlook, three benches await hikers who might want to rest and enjoy the panoramic view of meadows and forests. A dedication stone at the hill’s precipice points toward the heavens and is inscribed with the Allard name and the following: “A gift from Stan and Esther Allard … so that others can enjoy the open spaces, the blue sky, the trees, the flowers, the birds and the hills and valleys that they have loved so much.” It’s dated Dec. 22, 1992.
Abby and I spent a breezy, autumn afternoon wandering Allardale’s trails. We followed the outer loop past 6.5 acres of planted forest that included hardwoods and white pine and Douglas fir.
We turned off the loop and picked up the Wildflower Trail after crossing a footbridge over Allard Creek. Abby was fascinated by the bubbling, moving water that sounded like a child’s giggles.
This trail, only a quarter-mile, brought us to steppingstones that let me gingerly cross the cold water (Abby walked through it) at the site of a former sawmill dam.
We circled back and started climbing stairs up from the steep ravine. Midway up, a chipmunk scooted across steps ahead. I gripped Abby’s leash tightly in case she decided to bolt after it, but she was investigating the moss-covered stones banking the steps and missed the striped rodent’s dash.
Our hike took us past an old wood cabin that had fallen into itself, and eventually we ended up at the Lodge at Allardale.
The 4,800-square-foot lodge itself is another gift of the Allard family. The family designed the post-and-beam structure and provided funding to construct it.
We stood at the back of the lodge at the top of what will become a sledding hill come winter and scanned the park beyond.
I could feel the weather changing. Abby sensed it too, and lifted her nose into the air, catching the scent of rain.
The wind picked up and my hair danced to the melody played through the trees, and I remembered the words on the dedication stone.
Contact Managing Editor Liz Sheaffer at (330) 721-4060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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