Secrets from the Park Ranger Files: Cuyahoga Valley
|Waterfalls aren’t the only things that run wild in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. (Jim Schmidt/NPS)|
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a 51-square-mile dollop of rolling hills, hissing waterfalls, and mixed-mesophytic forests sandwiched between Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, making it one of the few places where nature reigns over a largely industrialized swath of the Midwest. The park is particularly popular with runners and hikers, as a portion of the 1,444-mile-long Buckeye Trail meanders through its boundaries, offering fun hills to tax the lungs and pleasing views over the Cuyahoga River below.
Not too long ago, Ranger Pamela Machuga was leading a group of about 40 people on a hike along the Buckeye Trail. About a mile into the 10-mile hike, her radio suddenly crackled to life. There was a runner coming toward them on the same trail.
“And he’s naked,” the voice on the other end of the radio clarified.
Everyone grew quiet.
“Do you copy that?” the radio chirped.
“That one would have been hard to miss,” Machuga says. “I indicated that I had and that I would keep my eyes peeled.”
Well, so would everyone else. People began picking up the pace, readying their cameras, and offering to help identify the guy should it ever come to a naked line-up.
“Everyone wanted to be in the front of the group,” Machuga laughs.
Another ranger pulled up at a spot where the road crosses the trail and hiked up ahead, telling Machuga to keep her group back. That proved to be difficult.
“I had a really antsy group of hikers who were moving faster than our normal fast pace in hopes of seeing a naked runner,” she says. “The ranger, not amused by the talk in the group, asked if I could keep them quiet. But let’s face it. A group of 40 people looking for a naked runner was not going to be quiet.”
In the end, though, the naked ambler was never spotted. Maybe he ducked off the trail when he heard the commotion, or maybe he turned around and found some skivvies to don. Either way, Machuga is sure it wasn’t a prank. “Law enforcement doesn’t do jokes,” she says.
As for the trail itself, Machuga says there’s no push to change its name, though one may seem more fitting now than Buckeye. “The Buck-Naked Trail?” she says. “I can’t believe one of us didn’t think of that.”
Don’t be that guy…
The section of the Buckeye Trail that Machuga and her group were hiking makes for a fun trail run. There’s not much in elevation gain, but it does wind through some quiet wooded sections that feel remarkably like wilderness. Head out from park headquarters for a 5.6-mile one-way run to the Boston Store, crossing some streams and “Ohio hills” along the way. At the end, pay a visit to Trail Mix, a great place to reward yourself for a job well done with an M & M ice-cream sandwich. Just keep your pants on, okay?
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication