May 2010: Hinckley Reservation

Hinckley, Ohio
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THE PARK
In divvying up the Western Reserve among the original land speculators who bought it from the State of Connecticut, this land fell Judge Samuel Hinckley, of Northampton, Massachusetts. Before dying in 1840 the judge became wealthy selling off his vast Ohio land holdings. One of those buyers was Robert Whipp who came from England in 1824 to graze cattle. He became a butcher and eventually acquired more than 2000 acres here. He became so rich that his second wife, many decades his junior, enlisted the help of her brother and another man to murder old man Whipp. The burly Englishman fought off his attackers. When he died in 1890 - of natural causes - his land was sold to pay debts. Much of it has been reassembled for Hinckley Reservation that spans more than 2,600 acres.

WALKS
Just about anything your trail dog desires is on the menu at Hinckley Reservation. For an easy warm-up there is an hour trip around Hinckley Lake, either on the paved multi-purpose trail or, better yet, on the clay-based Hinckley Lake Loop Trail. The water is in view less than half the time, however, but your dog can slip into the lake for a swim on the east side and at the boathouse.

Two separate sets of ledges and cliffs are standout attractions in the park. A short climb to one of the highest points in Northeast Ohio will bring you to the base of Whipp’s Ledges where your dog can easily scale the 50-foot high rock cliffs. Keep control of your dog as you cross the top of the ledges that feature sheer, unprotected drop-offs. In the southern end of the reservation your dog can wander the mossy Wordens Ledges with rock carvings of religious symbols.

Athletic dogs will want to sign on for the hill-and-ravine trails of Hinckley’s western section. These wide, wooded trails are seldom exhausting and frequently enjoyable.

BONUS

Every year on March 15 thousands of buzzards, or turkey vultures, return from their winter stomping grounds in the southern United States and points beyond to set up housekeeping in Hinckley Reservation. Why they come is a mystery. Local legend dates the phenomenon to scavenging the remnants of the Great Hinckley Hunt of 1818 to rid settlers of predators to their livestock. Naturalists point to the perfect nesting site in the park with abundant water, ample room to lay eggs on the rocky ledges above the lake, and open fields and nearby tall trees giving rise to the thermals on which the birds soar. Since 1957 the birds’ return has been celebrated and today is marked in the park by the East Coast Vulture Festival.

DIRECTIONS
From I-77 take Exit 145 and head south on Brecksville Road, SR 21. Go west on SR 303 and turn left on Slate Road. To reach the park office make the next right on Bellus Road.