Until today, my knowledge of the Mohican State Park (one of the largest parks in Ohio) was limited to the following:
* It is located in Loudonville, Ohio, a fun name to say.
* It’s home to the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run, one of the toughest foot races in the Midwest.
* It has lots of hills and trails. And a river, I think.
Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve visited this park — back when I was in college. That’s way before I took up trail running, anyway.
So yesterday afternoon, as I was driving to Wooster, Ohio, for a work assignment, I saw a higway sign for Mohican State Park on Interstate 71. And I knew what I needed to do.
I would check out Mohican in the morning.
It would be easier, in fact, than my original plans to hit the trails at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, some 50 miles north of my hotel. Mohican State Park was about 20 miles southwest of my hotel.
So in the morning, bright and early, I pulled on my running clothes and drove 25 minutes through rolling countryside to Loudonville. Once I got into the tiny town, I stopped at gas station for Gatorade and directions. Ten minutes later, I found the park.
Well, I found something resembling a park. This is a pretty big piece of real estate, thousands of acres of parkland, surrounded by thousands of acres of forest.
I spent 15 or 20 minutes driving around it, looking for a trailhead. I drove past a campground, along a river, through the woods and past a scenic overlook, without finding a trail. I guess that’s what you get when you try to explore a new park alone, without a map.
Finally, I spotted a scenic covered bridge, with a small parking lot at one end, with a sign for something called Lyons Falls Trail.
I squealed like a school girl, slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car.
I began running along the trail, glad to finally get out of my car.
But the trail was a bit tougher than I expected for two reasons. First, parts of the trail were sharply canted, sloping downhill. Several times I felt I was about to lose control and slide down a hill into the river.
Second, the trail was covered with snow and ice, making the footing and balance that much tricker. But the scenery was worth it — beautiful ravines, overlooks, piney forests, etc.
I ran this trail for about a mile, until it took me smack into a towering rock formation, with a waterfall and lots of ice. OK, I guess I know why they call this Lyons Fall Trail.
I spent a few minutes marveling at the falls, and then tried to pick up the trail again. But I couldn’t find it. It was buried under snow, and not readily visible. After several minutes, I gave up and turned around. Fifteen minutes later, I was back at my car, and off to find another trail.
And I found one, too, a mountain bike trail a mile or two away. It was a better experience. It ran through an evergreen grove, along gently rolling terrain. I trotted for another half-hour, enjoying the sights and smells of the winter woods.
Then I got back in my car for a five-hour drive back home — a chore made a bit easier by a fun morning at the Mohican.