Knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel, the winding roads greeted me as I made my way deeper into rural Ohio. We’d just gotten our first real snowfall of the year, but looking back, it was nothing compared to was to come only a couple of weeks later.
After driving past my destination and having to circle back, I pulled into the small lot right off the main road through what I like to call “creepy town” aka Bath Township. The town reminds me of the Blair Witch Project mixed with a little bit of classic, farm town America. It’s small, quaint, and I can probably count on one hand the number of black people that are part of the residential population.
All in all, it’s not a bad place. In fact, I love hiking in the area, which is why I was pulling into the rapidly filling parking lot to join a mixture of friends, strangers, and acquaintances. After the customary “hellos” and a group photo, we were off to conquer a 3-mile hike as part of The Devil Strip‘s new community engagement initiative, Lift Akron. Each month, The Devil Strip team challenges residents to get out and engage with their community, which could be anything from taking a hike to supporting local art. Lift Akron’s goal is to push you to experience something new.
With bags in hand to pick up any trash we saw, the group took the Tree Farmer Trail that wrapped its way through the forest and around the Horseshoe pond. It was a muddy, slippery, slightly challenging hike for those who were inexperienced snow hikers. I learned from a friend who was familiar with the area that the mud, regardless of weather, was not uncommon.
About a quarter of the way in, the group split into three. The more experienced hikers took the lead and I hung back in the middle chatting with friends, taking photos, and attempting to catch my breath towards the end.
Beyond the chatter, it was a quiet sort of splendor as we approached a patch of pines that formed a line leading us forward. The air was crisp, the fog had begun to settle above, and the heavy tree cover cushioned the sound. There was something reverent about it. It felt like we needed to give this space the respect that it deserved, and in the wake of the government shutdown, I’d agree. After articles and photos surfaced of people desecrating park systems across the country, what better way to fly in the face of that disrespect than to show people what celebrating and respecting nature’s treasures looks like.
This was just the start of The Devil Strip’s Lift Akron. There’s still a little bit of time to check “Get Outside” off your list. But if you run out of time, don’t let that stop you from experiencing our robust parks system. Next month, we’re tackling “Helping Someone In Need” by volunteering with Akron Snow Angels on February 9th. That session is full for the day, but Akron Snow Angels has a range of slots available on other days for you to help out. Or you can pick out your own volunteering opportunity. I’m a fan of sorting at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
If you’re interested in getting involved, check The Devil Strip website, Facebook page, or reach out. I look forward to seeing you out there.
Thanks for reading,