It was Sunday of last weekend — sunny, not too cold, no big plans.
So we decided to take a walk.
Rails to Trails, if you’ve never tried it, is a wonderful place to walk. The path is level, clear, and takes you through some of the beautiful farmland and open spaces of Huron County. There is a very occasional road to cross, but mostly there are no cars to worry about. There are small bridges when the trail crosses a creek, and there are railroad tracks in places where, if you’re lucky, you can get a close-up view of a train.
It is officially called the North Coast Inland Trail. It goes beyond Huron County, both east and west. It will eventually span the whole distance from Lorain to Toledo.
We have tried hiking along different portions of the trail. This time, I thought my husband and I had agreed to park at Monroeville and walk along the trail toward Bellevue. In the back of my mind, I pictured a 90-minute walk — 45 minutes toward Bellevue, 45 minutes back, and then, as my reward, some ice cream at Twist & Shout.
To my surprise, my husband did not stop the car at Monroeville. He continued west along U.S. 20, and took a left turn at Sand Hill Road. Just south of U.S. 20 at Sand Hill Road was the trail. There was a nice space to park the car and we started hiking toward Monroeville.
I still had, in my mind, the thought of the enticing reward of ice cream. There’s very little as rewarding as that. So we hiked east, coming across surprisingly few people, a cute chipmunk, some early dandelions, lots of birds, and not much else.
It was farther than I thought from Sand Hill Road to Monroeville, but I wasn’t going to give up on the ice cream.
When we finally emerged from the empty fields and could see the backyards of houses along Ohio 547 just outside Monroeville, I was relieved — how far could ice cream be?
But it was quite a few more steps from where we got off the trail to where the ice cream was. Who knew Monroeville was so big?
We made it. We ate our ice cream, rested up, and started the hike back. At first I was energized by the food and the rest. But soon, exhaustion set in.
There was no choice but to keep walking. I checked my cell phone: by typing in “Sand Hill Road” from my present location into Google Maps, I found that I had quite a distance to go. I wished I hadn’t checked the distance.
This is where Zachary Ohler comes in. For his Eagle Scout project, he had built some benches along the way — enough to give our feet some rest and to pick up our tired spirits. How do I know it is him to whom I owe thanks? There is a plaque on those benches with his name. He sought approval and supervised the construction of those benches between 2008 and 2009, when he was 16 years old, according to an old Firelands Rails to Trails newsletter.
When I checked my cell phone when we got back to the car, I saw we had traveled 7.8 miles round trip, which was 20,674 steps.
Toward the end of the hike, I had to force myself to take each one of those steps. But three things made the trip bearable: the delicious ice cream at the halfway point, the beautiful weather and the benches we sat on as we made our way back, built by Eagle Scout Zachary Ohler nearly 10 years ago.
Thank you, Zach.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at email@example.com.