Guide: Szalay’s Farm & Market

Fall. The one season with a mile long list of things to do and only a couple weeks to do them all. Between fall festivals, Oktoberfest celebrations, Halloween parties and the BEST weather of the entire year, it’s no wonder I have a jam packed schedule. Weekends during this time are precious, and I’d argue the best place to go for a worthwhile fall experience is Szalay’s Farm & Market in Peninsula. I truly love Szalay’s and here’s why: it seriously has something for everyone.

A creek runs through the Perkins Bridle Trail in CNVP

For the Outdoors-Person:

What really sets Szalay’s apart from other seasonal businesses is its location. Szalay’s is situated in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, making it perfect for the outdoorsy people of the world. If you’re a biker, you can ride down the Towpath Trail and arrive for a pit stop. If you’re out on a hike, you can swing by Szalay’s on your drive home- it’s just around the corner from some quality trails. My family and I hiked on the Perkins Bridle Trail, which was a short five-minute drive from Szalay’s.

For the Family:

Szalay’s has been a family owned market for four generations and offers fun activities for any age. Families can pick out pumpkins, take photos next to a giant hay bale spider, walk into “The Spinning Barn,” play mini games like ball tosses and target practice and meander through a corn maze. Even as adults, my family and I loved playing at the farm. Watch us discover one of eight hidden pumpkins in the corn maze in the GoPro video below!

For the photographer:

Szalay’s is a beautiful place with fantastic photo opps everywhere. You can see it for yourself when you search Szalay’s location on Instagram! It was funny to check the feed when we got home because almost everyone I saw there posted a photo of themselves at Szalay’s… including myself! From magazine worthy pumpkins to perfectly assembled ice cream cones, Szalay’s is a photographer’s paradise.

A stack of Pumpkins at Szalay's Farm & Market

For the Foodie:

It’s in the name: Szalay’s Farm & Market is a market full of delicious, locally grown food for you to enjoy there or take home! The market also has cozy rocking tables where you can sit, swing and eat a tasty snack. Order a hot lunch from one of their four food stands! I highly recommend the deli dog and lemonade.

For the Local:

In addition to the hot food stands, Szalay’s also has an extravagant market filled with seasonal produce, flowers and homemade products. If you’re looking for a new place to pick up your groceries for the week, Szalay’s has everything you’ll needto make a meal and at a competitive price.

For the Visitor:

If you’re from out of town, Szalay’s is hands down the perfect place to go for a genuine taste of Ohio. It shows a glimpse of the beauty Ohio has to offer both in the landscape and the people who live here.

Haley & Janine stand next to a hay bale spider
What to Wear

Ready to make your trip to Szalay’s? Don’t forget to pack a pair of sunglasses and wear older shoes. The farm and market can easily become muddy from heavy foot traffic.

What to Bring

Do NOT forget to bring cash to Szalay’s! Most of the family activities cost a couple bucks and unfortunately they don’t take credit or debit. However, if you do forget your cash, no big deal. There’s an ATM in the market area for guests to use. I’d also highly suggest bringing a camera- this place is too unique to not snap a couple photos.

My Eclipse Experience

It was peaceful but eerie. Astoundingly beautiful but kind of underwhelming, all at the same time.

It’s hard for me to find the right words to describe Monday’s partial solar eclipse, which is saying a lot as I’m “a professional communicator.” Knowing my words and photos will never do the eclipse justice frustrates me, but I find comfort knowing that some things in life just can’t be described. For one, this keeps me humble and reminds me how small I am in the presence of God. The world is often times indescribable, and the best we can do to understand it is to just experience it. So here goes my attempt to describe my eclipse experience.

1PM

I pull into the parking lot at Mogadore Reservoir, my choice viewing location. I pump up my stand up paddle board, put on my life jacket and start to paddle out. I travel away from the put in, through the Route 43 underpass and into the giant reservoir. It’s pretty “normal” outside. A couple people are in boats, fishing alongside a handful of great blue herons.

Mogadore Reservoir before the eclipse
2PM

The eclipse is in full swing at this point and the sky is noticeably darker. It’s a mostly clear day, but it looks and feels like it’s about to rain. Everything around me is extremely still, almost creepy still. The wind stops blowing, the herons are gone and I haven’t seen a fish jump in more than 30 minutes. It’s almost like the world is preparing to stop for the eclipse. I decide to stop as well. I lay on my board, put on my eclipse glasses and watch as the moon slowly but surely covers more and more of the sun.

Mogadore Reservoir is erie and dark during the eclipse
Haley lays on her board
2:30PM

The sky during the eclipse with a sunflare

It’s peak eclipse time now. The sun looks the same to the naked eye but behind my glasses the shadow of the moon has taken over. I tried to capture the eclipse in a photo, but it was nearly impossible with my standard iPhone. However, in the bottom right of the sky, you can see a small sun flare in the shape of the eclipse.

3PM

By now, the world feels like it’s spinning again and Mogadore’s environment returns to it’s usual rhythm. I start to make my way back. As I think about what I just saw, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed, wondering what a total eclipse would have been like. None the less, I decide I’m happy I went out. I’m thankful for the stillness and peace I experienced and can’t wait for 2024. In seven years, the next solar eclipse will occur, and Ohio will be smack dab in the path of totality.

How to Watch the Solar Eclipse in Ohio

Millions of eyes will be on the sky this Monday and for good reason. For the first time in more than 30 years, the United States will be the hot spot for a total solar eclipse.

The path of totality will pass just south of Ohio, but that doesn’t mean the event is a total washout. The moon will still cover 80 to 90 percent of the sun from our vantage point, making Ohio a great place to see this celestial treat.

NASA created a fantastic interactive map that shows exactly what time the eclipse will happen by dropping a pin on the location of your choice. For Northeast Ohio, the eclipse will start at about 1PM and end close to 3PM. The best time to see the eclipse will be at roughly 2:30PM.

A screenshot of NASA's interactive map showing what time the eclipse will be over Northeast Ohio
Where to Watch
Attend a watch party

The eclipse is almost as exciting as watching the Cavs win the NBA Championship in 2016, so it’s no wonder Northeast Ohio will be littered with eclipse watch parties Monday afternoon. WKSU created a list of watch parties happening Monday, check out their list to find a watch party near you!

Watch at a park or at home

Eclipse glasses

If you want a more private viewing, then you can always watch it from a park, or even your back yard! If you choose the park route, I’d suggest going to Howe Meadow or The Ledges Shelter in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Both have huge grassy areas to lay in. Bring a blanket, pack a lunch and don’t forget to wear your eclipse glasses to protect your eyes! As for me, I plan to be at Mogadore Reservoir on a stand up paddle board. If you’re in or around Kent, you’re totally welcome to join me on the water this Monday. If you can’t make it, no worries. I plan to share a post about my eclipse experience, complete with photos, on Friday 😉

Watch it online

Okay, the reality is majority of you have a job or are in school, so watching the eclipse in the middle of a Monday afternoon may not be possible- but don’t feel like you have to miss out! Thankfully, NASA will have a live video stream starting at 1PM called Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyes of NASAEven though you might be trapped in a post lunch meeting, you can still enjoy the eclipse online.

I’m beyond excited to see this solar eclipse, and I hope you can find the perfect place to watch that also fits with your Monday schedule. I look forward to seeing your photos and hearing your stories on social media!

 

*Photos in this post were found on the NASA website and are not my own. 

Finding Myself on the PCT

Let’s get this out of the way.

No, I’m not cool enough to have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail this summer. I’m not even cool enough to have hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail, to be honest. However, I am cool enough to have read a book about the PCT.

At this point, I’m assuming you’ve heard about Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The book was made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and also took the title of #1 New York Times Bestseller. The captivating story of a woman’s solo journey of healing and hiking has gained some serious popularity to say the least.

Although she and I had very little in common other than our short blonde hair, I felt oddly connected to Cheryl as I read her memoir. I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of two mildly-experienced outdoorswomen trying to process what happened in our lives and what we’re supposed to do now.

What happened in her life was wildly different than what happened in mine: She suffered through the death of her mother, destruction of her marriage and addiction to heroin. I did what most 22-year-olds do and graduated from college. Despite the extremity of her life compared to mine, we were both faced with the glaring realization that everything had changed and we were left in the aftermath of that change, unsure of what made us ourselves. By the end of her 1,100 mile solo hike, Cheryl was at peace with her past and confident in who it shaped her to be and as I closed the back cover of her book, I too felt confident in who I am becoming.

I’m no longer a college student, and that’s okay. I’m slowly but surely becoming a young professional, and that’s okay too because I’ve realized that “a college student” or “a public relations guru” isn’t who I am anyway. Instead, God reminded me that my identity is found in Him above all else. He tells me He chose me to be His forever, as His beloved, set apart from everyone else and cared for unconditionally for eternity (1 Peter 1). That, unlike where I work or what I do, won’t ever change.

Still, I admit adulthood and change and everything else that comes with that is terrifying, so I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Wild about fear:

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” -Cheryl Strayed

 

How to: Speak like a Climber

This semester I climbed at the rock wall periodically- yay for Free Climb Fridays at Kent State’s rec center- and I quickly learned there’s a certain culture that exists at the wall. Most people I met drink black coffee, wear khakis and flannels and spend as much time as possible outdoors. I fit right in.

However, the more time I spent with my friends at the rock wall, the more I noticed the language barrier that existed between us. There’s a whole slew of words and phrases that make up a climber’s vocabulary- from belays to arêtes to the Yosemite Decimal System– all of which make up this new language I’m learning.

Below are a couple common conversations I heard at the wall, translated into standard English:

Haley climbs a route.

What they say: “Can I get a belay?”

What they really mean: “Can someone hold my rope so I can climb up the wall and not fall to my death?”

What they say: “Oh that route’s tough. It supposed to be a 5.8 but it’s more like a 5.10.”

What they really mean: “The direction you’re supposed to climb up the wall is hard. On the Yosemite Decimal System (a system that rates the difficulty of technical climbs from 5.0-5.15) this route is labeled as a medium level route but it’s actually closer to medium-hard.”

What they say: “Let’s climb over by the dihedral instead. There’s a route there that has a couple nice jugs.”

What they really mean: “Let’s climb on a part of the wall where two planes of the wall come together to form a corner. There’s a way to get up the wall that has a couple super easy places to put your hands.”

What they say: “Try to get your legs up! You can smear your right foot and then stem your way up.”

What they really mean: “To climb higher on the wall, you’ll need to move your feet up the wall. You can put your entire foot directly on the wall for friction and then spread your legs into a wide V-shape to work your way up.”

What they say: “Take!” “Got you.” “Ready to lower.” “Lowering.”

What they really mean: “I’m at the top, can you get rid of any slack in the rope?” “I took the slack out, I’m holding on tight.” “I’m ready to come down.” “Bringing you down.”

Now that I’m not a student and lost a lot of the freebies that come with being in undergrad, I hope to spend some time at Rock Mill and Cleveland Rock Gym. Stay tuned for more posts to come this summer about climbing and other adventures! Until then, enjoy this super adorable photo of my friend Kait and I at the rock wall.

 

Guide: Gorge Metro Park

The abnormally warm weather we experienced in Ohio called for a spontaneous hike last weekend, so my roommates and I packed into my Jeep for an day hike at Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls.

The Gorge Metro Park has three trails: the Glens Trial, the Highbridge Trail and the Gorge Trail. We chose to hike the Gorge Trial, which takes you to Mary Campbell Cave, above the Cuyahoga River, through stunning ledges and past a small, drippy waterfall. It’s a 1.8 mile hike roundtrip, perfect for our afternoon adventure.

The Gorge Trail is the yellow blazes

It’s been a while since I went on a good hike, and I was reminded of a handful of hiking do’s and don’ts. Here are just a couple lessons learned at Gorge Metro Park.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Gorge Metro Park
DON’T wear Chacos

It’s February. It was 60+ degrees outside. The trail was exceptionally muddy. By the end of our hike, my feet were pretty gnarly. Enough said.

DO bring a nice camera

As I mentioned before, my roommates joined me on this hike and two of them were photography minors! All the photos in this post are from Ally and Emma. You should check out their Instagram accounts for more wonderful pictures: AD Productions and Emma Chu Photography. Needless to say,we have a lovely collection of pictures from our hike, including this one of me looking just like “the Snoop Dogg dog.”

Haley makes a funny face that looks like Snoop Dogg

 

DON’T forget to bring snacks

We left a little after lunch and hiked into the evening, so we were very hungry ladies! I almost always bring a granola bar or small snack but totally forgot to pack something for us that day. We were all a little hangry on our drive home.

DO have a good grip on your phone

This was probably the hardest lesson learned. The Gorge is full of beautiful rocks and ledges and although they’re made of soft sandstone, phones don’t stand a chance. I took out my iPhone 6 to snap a picture and proceeded to drop it on an exposed rock, shattering the screen. One week and $107 later I have a new screen, with a shatter resistant screen protector.

DON’T climb the rocks if you can’t easily get back down

If it’s hard to get up, it’ll be even harder getting back down. I climbed up into a cave which was super cool to see, but I definitely struggled with getting back down again. Thankfully I had my tall roommate as my spotter. Think before you climb!

Haley climbing into a cave Haley sitting in a cave

What to Wear

If you’re going on a spring hike like we did, I highly recommend wearing clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty. We climbed all over everything so I was covered in sandstone, mud and moss when we left. As always, proper footwear is the most important part of a good hike. Tennis shoes, hiking boots and Chacos are all good choices to me. You’ll want something with extra traction for this hike, especially if you plan on exploring the ledges!

Dara, Ally and Haley's shoes

What to Bring

SNACKS. Like I said, we forgot to bring a trail treat which was a sad mistake. I also suggest bringing a water bottle, camera and phone, with a phone case and screen protector of course. Maybe bring a couple baby wipes too if you plan to play. My hands were very brown when we left.

The National Park Service Goes Rogue

I don’t want to get too political here, but this is something worth talking about: our national parks are going rogue and Cuyahoga Valley National Park employees are part of the resistance.

Quote about park rangers leading the resistance

Why They Went Rogue

Okay let me back up- rogue Twitter accounts didn’t pop up just because they want to. Here’s a little background about what happened that led to alternate accounts.

On inauguration day, the Trump administration released alternative facts regarding the inauguration attendance, causing yet another controversial discussion about the legitimacy of his leadership. Twitter users responded, sharing comparison photos of Trump’s inauguration crowd next to Obama’s 2009 crowd, debunking the administration’s false claims. The National Park Service account jumped in and retweeted the photo, fueling the fire.

National Park Service Retweets inauguration post

The new administration followed up with an email to thousands of employees in the Interior Department, which includes the National Park Service, stating that all Twitter accounts are to be shut down “until further notice.” The administration now says the shutdown was to ensure the security of the accounts. Below is a quote from the email, originally reported by The Washington Post:

“All bureaus and the department have been directed by incoming administration to shut down Twitter platforms immediately until further notice,” said an email circulated to thousands of Interior employees.

By the next day, the National Park Service account was back up and running and issued an apology for its retweet, but new accounts like the Alt National Park Service and Badlands NPS Fans were also on the scene, sharing sassy posts and starting heated conversations.

The Parks Fight Back

Trump has made plenty of offhand comments about climate change and other issues relating to the parks, but his order to shutdown the National Park Service Twitter account seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Employees from Cuyahoga Valley and eight other national parks created the Alt National Park Service, a growing coalition of park employees speaking out against the Trump administration. They even have a website for people to join their movement to preserve the environment for future generations. Below is a photo of a beach in Acadia National Park, originally posted on their Facebook page:

Resist written on a beach in Acadia National Park

Individual parks also went rogue and nine national parks now have alternative accounts, but my personal favorite is Badlands NPS Fans. Although the Badlands account isn’t run by park employees, it still contributes to the conversation with its tongue and cheek posts about climate change and politics. Below are a couple of my favorite tweets, published on their feed:

Badlands tweet

Badlands tweet

Buzzfeed called this “the one protest no one saw coming,” a perfect description of the situation at hand. I mean, who would’ve thought that park rangers would lead a resistance against the President?

New Year, New You: Yoga Edition

So I’m not much of the new year resolutions type, but this year, I had an itch to rekindle an old habit: yoga. I was introduced to yoga when I registered for an “easy elective” yoga course my sophomore year of college. My class met just once a week for a little more than an hour, but that minimal time commitment brought lasting benefits like learning to focus on what really matters in life and destressing from my busy college schedule. Not to mention, I could finally touch my toes for the first time in years!

I decided to return to the practice this year and enrolled in a free, 31 Days of Yoga bootcamp from Yoga with Adriene. Let’s be real though- I’m just 7 days in and it’s totally kicking my butt. Yet, this core burning, sweat inducing yoga routine is so worth it. Here’s why.

Haley does a yoga pose
Why I Yoga
It improves my posture, strength, balance, flexibility and more

As I said before, yoga gave me amazing flexibility (I’m already inching closer to a no-bent-knees forward fold!). In addition to increased flexibility, yoga also creates strong core muscles, promotes better posture and improves your balance. I always go back to yoga because it makes me feel (and look) great.

I feel connected to God

Yoga is about connecting the mind, body and spirit, which makes it deeper and more spiritual than your average workout. Yoga encourages self-reflection and being present, and I love to use those principles to guide my thoughts during the practice. By engaging my mind, body and spirit, I feel close to the Holy Spirit and grow in my understanding of God, his character and his plan for my life.

I feel refreshed

I really feel fantastic after a yoga practice, no matter how intense or calm it was. Because of yoga’s peaks and valleys structure, I always end feeling refreshed and relaxed, more limber and loose both physically and mentally than when I started.

It’s free, easy and versatile

Yoga has to be one of the most low maintenance exercises out there. Ultimately, all you really need for a successful yoga practice is yourself. Of course, a mat and yoga instructor are important components but not so much necessary, especially if you’re an experienced yogi. But for those of us who aren’t totally comfortable going solo, there are some great online resources out there like Yoga with Adriene. On her YouTube channel you’ll find practices for every need, all for free! Because yoga is so minimalistic, it’s perfect to do at home, on vacation, at a park… really anywhere your heart desires.

Haley's cat near her yoga mat

And the final reason why I yoga? Cats. My cats love the texture of the mat and usually stop by to walk across it and rub against my legs. Ebony, the one pictured above, is a regular visitor.

Guide: Brandywine Ski Resort

Winter has officially begun, which opens up a whole new world of outdoor play. Northeast Ohio has it all when it comes to winter activities including a surprising number of ski resorts. My favorite? Hands down: Brandywine Ski Resort in Peninsula.

Brandywine is located in the heart of CVNP, next to it’s companion hill, Boston Mills, just off Riverview Road. The park does a great job directing you to the slopes- I drive by at least three signs on my way in. Parking is free, but lift ticket and rental rates vary depending on your age, time of arrival and whether or not you bring your own gear. Brandywine also hosts special events throughout the season that could affect the price. If you’re a college student like myself, the best time to go is college ID night as lift tickets and rentals are only $35!

My favorite part about Brandywine, aside from their College Late Night deals, is that this resort is perfect for all types of skiers (and snowboarders!). On the trail map below, you’ll see Brandywine has three green trails, three blue trails and three black diamond trails. The resort also has two terrain parks and a snow tubing area, making it ideal for extreme thrill seekers, 8-year-olds and everyone in between.

A map of Brandywine's trails, reposted from bmbw.com
*Shared from bmbw.com
My Top Two Trails

I started skiing in 4th grade when I joined my elementary school’s ski club. However, I didn’t stick with it like some kids do and became more of a casual skier rather than a die-hard winter sports gal. I’m an intermediate skier- I nailed the french fries pizza pie rule but no flips or jumps for me- so naturally, my favorites are the blue trails.

Outer Limits

This trail sits toward the back of the hill and is the longest trail at Brandywine. The trail has some huge rollers on it, making Outer Limits a long, fun trip down the hill. It’s also a little more private and secluded than the other hills so the trail feels less “commercial” than the others at the resort. And of course, the longer ski lift is a nice break from skiing and offers a pretty view of CVNP.

 Downdraft

Downdraft is a step-up from Outer Limits and has some exciting features to it like a sharp left turn and trees lining both sides of the trail. It’s also steeper than Outer Limits and gets your adrenaline pumping on your way down. I usually hit this trail last after warming up on a couple green and blue trials. It leaves a great taste in my mouth, making me want to come back for more!

What to Wear

Haley and her two friends at BrandywineFirst, make sure you check the weather. Ohio winters bring both sub zero temps and 40+ degree days. That being said, I almost always dress in slightly less clothing than I normally would for a winter day. Remember that skiing and snowboarding is exercise, and there’s nothing worse, or more dangerous, than sweating in cold weather.

When I dress for a night on the slopes, I try my best not to wear any cotton. Cotton holds moisture like sweat and melted snow, which makes for a long, cold uncomfortable night of skiing. I start with a base layer of non-cotton leggings, Cuddl Duds long sleeve software shirt and wool socks. Then, depending on the weather, I’ll add another long sleeve and a pullover. For my outer layer, I slide on a pair of snow pants and either my down winter coat or light rain jacket. Last but not least are gloves and a knit ear warmer.

For shoes, I actually wear boat shoes. Brandywine’s equipment rental includes ski and snowboard boots, so I wear my boat shoes because they’re comfortable to drive in and easy to slip on and off. Regular snow boots work fine as well, but mine are way too bulky for me to wear for a short amount of time.

What to Bring

Money, chapstick, tissues and your college ID, if you go for College Late Night. For whatever reason, my nose always runs when I ski, so tissues are a must. Brandywine also has a lodge with snacks and drinks, so bring a little extra cash in case you get the munchies. I’d also suggest bringing a water bottle to drink for the drive home.

Arial view of Brandywine
*Shared from Boston Mills Brandywine Instagram account, @bmbv_av

#OptOutside on Black Friday

Black Friday brings out the camper in all of us. But rather than camping outside your favorite retail store, why not camp in your favorite park?

For the second year in a row, Seattle-based outdoor co-op REI will close its doors for Black Friday and give its employees paid time off to #OptOutside. More than 540 other retailers chose to partner with REI and encourage America to stand outside rather than stand in line.

 

How To: #OptOutside in Ohio

You can join me and the 4 million people who pledged to #OptOutside this Friday. Be sure to share your experiences on social media and check out REI’s filters like the one I made below. Here are just 4 outdoor activities you can do in Northeast Ohio:

1.Go for a Morning Run

If you ate a little too much stuffing and mashed potatoes, consider a morning run to melt off Thanksgiving’s extra calories. Medina’s Buckeye Woods Park is my family’s favorite and great for some post-holiday dinner exercise. You can choose from five different trails, making the park perfect for any occasion. Run the yellow or green trail in the Schleman Nature Preserve for a quiet, woodsy experience or take the paved Chippewa Inlet Trail for a more open and urban feel.

This Black Friday I'll be outside2. Break out the Bike

Not into running? Me neither. I’d much rather be on a bike. The Towpath Trail offers 85 miles of bike-able terrain and follows the historic Ohio & Erie Canalway. You can pick up one of 50 trailheads anywhere between Cleveland and Dover. My family and I biked from Indigo Lake to Boston Store back in October.

3. Ice Skate Downtown

Feeling festive? Cleveland and Akron’s outdoor skating rinks are now open! Bring your family to Cleveland’s Public Square or Lock 3 in Akron for an afternoon of skating and other Christmas activities.

4. Visit Northeast Ohio’s Waterfalls

Ohio is home to many beautiful waterfalls, and a whopping 16 falls are here in Northeast Ohio! Make it a day trip and visit them all or choose just one to admire for the afternoon. Check out this interactive Google map of the waterfalls in our area:

So what do you say? Will you go out with me?