The Ruins at Ariel-Foundation Park

Ariel-Foundation Park is a fascinating 250-acre park in Mount Vernon, Ohio, that blends industrial ruins with reflecting ponds and landscaped terraces. It makes for a wondrous walk through an eclectic scene of beauty and art mixed with a working town’s history and its ruins dating back to the industrial revolution.

This was formerly the site of the Pittsburg Plate Glass (PPG) manufacturing plant. The complex was one of the largest of its kind in the world. Now, it’s a wonder of Ohio, and it’s free to roam daily from April to November.

The Ruins include the 1900 Coxey Building, an adjoining clay storage building, the 1945 carpenter shop, the 1951 smokestack, an event center, three stair/elevator towers, and the clock house. The PPG ruins spread across a vast grassland of rolling hills so visitors may appreciate the large-scale glassworks operation of Yesteryear. Its preservation and enhancements together pay homage to the town’s industrial legacy.

These ruins are an Americana complex of preserved and modified structures. Among them are the vestiges of the late 19th century Coxey Building pylons. A plaque, plenty describes the sites, and claims that historians report that the structural steel that sat atop the brick pylons was salvaged from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. That repurposed steel found re-use once again over 125 years later. This time, it was used to create sculptures within Ariel-Foundation Park.

There are stunning landforms that surround visitors at Ariel-Foundation Park. They are reminiscent of the ancient burial mound-building traditions of the Adena and Hopewell cultures, who once populated the ancient Central Ohio landscape. That said, the purpose of these terraced mounds is to create sweeping vistas that invite visitors to enjoy an assent to their summits.

Another plaque on-site explains that the contemporary inspiration for The Terraces in the park comes from the work of American landscape architect Charles Jencks. His works are located principally in the British Isles and are monumental in scale, measuring 1,200 feet wide by 100 feet tall with miles of walkways. Ridge trusses salvaged in 1893 from the World’s Columbian Exhibition and in 2013 from the Coxey Building stand guard in a canyon formed by the terraces. Climb to the summit of the park’s highest terrace to experience a dramatic view of the reflecting pools, ruins, terraces, and sculptures crafted of steel salvaged from the historic PPG Glassworks.

No doubt, the most interesting and captivating feature of the park is its surviving 280 feet high chimney. It served PPG from 1951 to the time of the plant’s shuttering in 1976. It was constructed of reinforced concrete by the slip form method. To preserve it as part of The Ruins, it was transformed into an observation tower. The tower is free to climb its 224 steps to the observation deck at 140 feet high. But the tower stands 280 feet high. It’s all open grate, so every step is like climbing the sky. At the top, the view is breathtaking…in more ways than one. This historic chimney is the highest structure in Knox County, Ohio.

Meander every nook and cranny of the park’s ruins and beyond. There are so many angles of view that create “wow” after “wow.” After venturing through the labyrinth of ruins and climbing the vantage points at each end for vast views, cut through the tree line and find hiking trails, lakes, and even a little island to wander, paddle, and picnic. The park also offers pavilions for groups and plenty of grassy areas for Frisbee tossing and kite flying.

Learn more about this fascinating newer Ohio park at https://www.arielfoundationpark.org/.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

Ohio’s Sand Dunes

Ohio’s Sand Dunes at Oak Openings Preserve and Metroparks Toledo

Travelers to the Outer Banks or Great Sand Dunes National Park temper your expectations. Ohio’s sand dunes are not that. But it is unique because these dunes, much lesser as they may be, are tucked into prairie woodland trees and brush tangled with the leftovers of an ancient shoreline.

When pioneers traveled Northwest Ohio, they suffered many setbacks in the Black Swamp area. When they reached drier land, it seemed like an endless woodland of oak trees. But the oaks were spaced so wide apart that they earned the name Oak Openings. Horses and wagons navigated them with relative ease, at least until those wagon wheels sunk in the sand.

The Sand Dunes Trail may seem like a mirage at first. It’s at a slightly higher elevation, so when splotches of the light brown hue come in and out of view through the woods, one may wonder just how much, or little sand awaits. It’s not a grand view to take an all-in-one panoramic scan of the eyes. It’s a winding adventure revealing surprises around every foliage-filled corner, revealing a new vista dotted with ferns, flowers, and trees. Look before stepping, and it’s likely plenty of animal tracks will be stamped onto the surface, especially after a rain. Plenty of benches are perched along a ridge for more of a bird’s eye view of nature’s collage. The trailhead is picked up at the Mallard Lake pavilion and playground parking area next to the Buehner Center. It’s marked as the Red Trail.

Today, Oak Openings Preserve at Metroparks Toledo spans 5,000 acres and has 70 miles of hiking, biking, and bridle trails. The park’s ecosystem combines wetlands with oak savanna and dunes. The combination makes it a popular respite for migrating birds.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

Ohio’s Mystery Rocks

Forgive me, but I must start by sharing a song I couldn’t stop singing to my wife’s embarrassment as we hiked, searching for spherical geological wonders. It goes like this…

“I believe in sphericals
Where you from,
You sexy thing.”

*miracles

As in the song, You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate

The optimism from the funky ‘70s song must have put good mojo into the universe because we went from disappointment to a garden of perfectly rounded stones.

Anyway, these miracle/spherical rocks look like they could be dinosaur eggs. Some mistake them for cannonballs or meteorites. Others imagine stone-chiseled Death Stars crashing into Earth.

But these mystery rocks are over 300 million years in the making.

What caused these geologic irregularities to take on such spherical forms, often in perfect balls (“Where you from, you sexy thing”)?

Like an egg, the peculiar rocks had an organic nucleus. Nobody is certain, but the prevailing theory is this. When sea creatures (preceding dinosaurs, by the way) from the Devonian Period died, they had sunk to the seafloor. At the time, Ohio was covered by the sea. Minerals cemented to it layer after layer filling in the porous surface. The forming rock may have slowly rolled from time to time along the ocean floor, smoothing it as it grew, becoming what is now termed – concretion.

When Ohio shale beds erode, concretions protrude from cliffsides and creek beds. These phenomena are in scenic clusters at Highbanks Metro Park just north of Columbus. Imagine the layers of shale as pages of a book. Then imagine placing a rock in the middle of the book and compressing it. The pages warp around the rock. This is how the eroding shale beds look when a concretion surfaces again. The contrast is astounding. Such geological time capsules may or may not have a fossil at the center. Usually, anything organic at the core likely dissolved, leaving a void.

Explore Dripping Rock Trail from the nature center at 9466 Columbus Pike in Lewis Center, Ohio. The hike ascends high cliffs. Follow the woodpecker trail markers for a time. When the trail comes to a “T,” go left over a footbridge. A map there shows a dotted hiking trail to pick up on the other side of the bridge. The hiking trail isn’t marked, so trust where you may see evidence of a dirt trailhead that’ll snake back to hug the creek bed. Follow the creek until concretions make themselves known. If the water is high, many of them may remain hidden.

Enjoy the hunt for Ohio’s mystery stones. Or enjoy this song by Hot Chocolate.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun!

Bridge to Nowhere at Hillandale Park

Admission to the bridge to nowhere (Hillandale Bridge) in Euclid, Ohio, is Free.

  • Open: Daily from dawn to dusk
  • Location: (Map It) 27598 Tremaine Drive at Hillandale Park in Euclid, Ohio
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The Bridge to Nowhere is open daily from dawn to dusk at 27598 Tremaine Drive at Hillandale Park in Euclid, Ohio.

It’s over 90 years old.

No expense was spared when constructing this bridge. It even has an elaborate “S” curve. No streets are leading to either side of the bridge, so no cars have ever crossed it that anyone knows of.

It was meant to be a part of a subdivision planned during the 1920s. But the completion of the project failed when the market crash of 1929 began the Great Depression.

Today, it sits in the middle of the woods as part of the trails in Hillandale Park. Use caution when crossing it. After nearly a century of decay, there are holes through its surface to the valley floor. There is also a guard rail missing.

It’s definitely a peculiar site.

Trails By Kathy

Avon Lake’s Best-kept Secret

A retired lady named Kathy traveled from Avon Lake, Ohio halfway across the country to save a dog from Texas that was scheduled to be destroyed. When she met up with an activist in a rest area somewhere in between, what she saw was the utmost neglect. The grown dog was depressed, riddled with fleas, mites, you name it. She called her veterinarian after hours en route home. This wasn’t the first such cross-country rescue for Kathy. So, the vet said she’ll meet her. It took two days to clean the pooch, and Kathy’s car, for the dog’s short trip to his forever home – Kathy’s place.

She named him, not knowing there was a Pink Floyd connection.

Side note: Kathy, before retirement, had her reservation messed up at a hotel in Cleveland during a real estate conference. The hotel had an entire floor off limits with a private key for the legendary band Pink Floyd. The band and hotel allowed Kathy to stay in a room on that floor. She would later say that she never met this man named Pink Floyd, but she enjoyed her morning chats with “a really nice fella named David.”

Kathy had many stories from her trailblazing past: kicked out of Catholic school for pranks in the 1950s, apron-to-punch card mother in the 1970s, a victim of sexism in the workplace, and then all-star realtor and manager. She was also a popular catechism teacher for high school students, but her teaching style to connect with them made the head nun have to talk to her from time to time. But through all her trailblazing, she was about to embark on the real thing.

When she drove her new dog to a nearby park in Avon Lake, she was excited to walk the dog trail someone had told her about. When the spry Kathy in her late 70s completed the walk, neither she nor her dog was satisfied, so they walked it again.

Kathy thought to herself, this will not do.

She later returned with her dog and yard tools. And went to work. She began clearing a new trail. But it ran into a middle-aged man’s secret binge drinking post. When Kathy completed her trail extension and marked it with a wooden homemade sign that read, “Trail by Kathy,” and an orange paw print to mark the way, a bit of a war broke out between her and the beer can litterer. He would leave his empties piled up at her marker and break the sign into pieces.

He didn’t know whom he was dealing with.

Kathy rebuilt what was destroyed and added to her quest to make more trails. More wood signs marked each trail: Pooch Path, Canine Crossing, Bow Wow Bend, Doggy Detour, etc. So, this cycle of trails by Kathy being met with piles of beer cans and some unmentionable protest by the beer guy went on for over a year. But in that time, Kathy would hear firsthand from many dog walkers that they loved whoever this “Kathy” was for making trails they loved to walk with their best friends. Within the next year, Kathy went from being anonymous to being known and loved as she was found adding a new loop trail here or a connection there.

One day, she looked across a ravine and thought, we need a bridge here. So, she had the lumber company deliver a load of precut wood to her measurements at the park’s parking lot. At 76 years old and with osteoporosis, she hauled 16-foot timbers to the ravine which is no short jaunt. And after watching a YouTube video, she built a bridge to start a new trail on the other side. She tumbled into the ravine once, knocking herself unconscious. Her dog guarded her until she opened her eyes. She called her grown kids in her fun, uplifting humor to say she almost died. After that, her daughter added a tracker to her phone as a precaution since she was so outgoing and often threw caution to the wind.

Side note: She started a senior biking club a couple of years earlier. At one time or another, each of the seven members ended up in the hospital after taking spills on the pavement.

One of her appreciative dog-walking friends – she has made dozens of them by now – said he was walking Kathy’s outer trail when something shocking caught his attention, and his head snapped up with jaw wide open. He blurted out, “She built a #$&%! BRIDGE!”

When Kathy took her dog Koda-Maria for a walk to the trailhead she had started on the other side of the bridge, she came upon the head city park engineer, a park worker, and another dog walker.

As she neared, she overheard the dog-walker exclaim, “Oh Kathy won’t like this. She won’t like this at all.”

When Kathy joined the conversation, the park people discovered that she was THE Kathy. But to Kathy’s surprise, they said they were very impressed with her sturdy well-constructed bridge. But they are going to bring a backhoe in to create a land bridge wide enough for a dog and person to walk side-by-side. And that they’d stack her wood if she wanted it.

Kathy said to the engineer, “This is a good thing because I was thinking in just a few years, I’ll be over 80 years old, and I may not be able to redo the bridge once it starts to decay.”

When Kathy came back another day to check on the progress, she noticed that her new trail work on the far side was blocked by a pile of dirt. She asked the engineer if it could be cleared. And when she returned the next day, she was amazed at the nice job they did to make her trailhead even nicer.

But what really caught the trailblazing Kathy off guard was an official street sign that marked the spot, “Kathy’s Bridge.”

This tribute melted her heart. She and the engineer and other park workers have become very friendly. She is charmed that they ask her opinion about things when they catch each other out on the trails.

Today, word of the “Trails by Kathy” is spreading. Delighted dog walkers have made it a local thing to post photos of them and their pooch at the sign, “Kathy’s Bridge.”

I wanted to publish this story much earlier but waited for other media to do it first. You see, Kathy is my beloved mom. And she lives to quietly make the world a better place, even if she creates a bit of “good trouble” along the way.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

Alms Park

Sometimes you just need to stop the world and take a break.

Whether it’s for an amazing view to sort your thoughts, a quiet place to read a book, or the perfect park bench to chat with a friend, Alms Park in Cincinnati is that kind of soul-searching place.

Perch yourself high atop a hill at an overlook with a clear view of a large bend in the Ohio River, surrounded by foliage, and lose track of time. Watch airplanes from a nearby airport rise to the clouds. Take a stroll through the gorgeous architecture of the pavilion.

There are hiking trails (leashed dogs are permitted), paved walkways, benches, restrooms, vast natural areas, and a playground. Hours are dusk to dawn at 710 Tusculum Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Shadowing The Great Seal of Ohio

Summit of Mount Logan at Ohio’s Great Seal State Park

Casting a shadow on The Great Seal of Ohio as we stand atop Mount Logan near Chillicothe, Ohio is the culmination of a great winter-spring hike. With no leaves on the trees, the view is panoramic. It is a pretty steep ascent and descent on par with Appalachian hiking. Mount Logan is famously shown in the official seal of Ohio, The Great Seal of The State of Ohio, and is located at Great Seal State Park near Chillicothe (the first capital of Ohio). Plan your visit at  https://www.ohiotraveler.com/great-seal-state-park/ 

Autumn Bursts on The Hargus Lake Trail

Hargus Lake Trail

Hug a lake during a 4.4-mile autumn trek on the Hargus Lake Trail at A.W. Marion State Park near Circleville, Ohio. Hiking its woodland hills and taking in the gorgeous lakeside views are a great way to spend an afternoon, especially when the setting sun bounces off of the colorful leaves and mirrors them in the water below. It’s a loop trail that permits leashed dogs. Oh, and there’s an island in the middle perfect for a kayaker picnic. The grounds and parking are free. Hargus Lake provides 145 acres of water, boat launching ramps, and public docks. Rentals are available from the concession on the northwest side of the lake. Electric motors only are permitted. Click here to plan your visit.

Hiking Buzzardroost Rock


This SATURdate was where spirits soar

The first thing you want to do when you go hiking is to make sure your source to find the trailhead is current.

We looked at an Ohio hiking book we’ve had for years to find our way to a very enjoyable hike with sweeping clifftop views that we had taken years ago. Following the written directions in the book, we turned onto an unpaved road and drove the distance, looping back, and starting over. We somehow missed seeing the trailhead. In another attempt, we missed it again and turned around on the narrow gravel road along a hillside. When we stopped where we figured the trailhead should be, it wasn’t there. I got out and walked the road looking for clues. I found a weathered board deep in the weeds of an overgrown trailhead that read, “New entrance to Buzzardroost Rock is 7/10 mile east,” or something to that effect.

Down the road (Ohio 125 about 5 miles east of West Union, Ohio) there were two gravel parking lots for the Buzzardroost Rock trail. One was on the south side of the roadway and the other was down a gravel drive north of the roadway. The trailhead is at the information kiosk. Conveniently, there’s also a port-o-pot.

Buzzardroost Rock is at the Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve. It’s about a 4.4 mile out and back hike with a small loop trail near the end. This hike is about a mile longer than the old route.  Either direction you may choose on the loop trail near the end is about the same distance to the observation point.

We’ve learned to bring two pairs of shoes and a plastic bag to put the muddy ones when done. It really came in handy on this hike. Trails under cover of the canopy of mature woodlands often stay muddy long after it rains. This was no exception. However, there was a wood plank networks placed over some of the soupiest parts of the trail. Still, there were other sections that had to be navigated with care as was evident by the number of feet and body skid marks where others slid or fell. The trek is uphill and ranked in our guide book as moderate to difficult. In the heat, we were pleased that we brought plenty of water.

When we got to the small loop trail we chose to leave the woods trail to explore the open prairie. With the sun shining, the blue skies with powder-white clouds popped against the lush green landscape. A couple of old farmstead buildings whispered to us from the overgrowth piquing our curiosity to explore what was behind the weathered boards still managing to stay erect. The wild prairie flowers are just a fragment of the nearly 500 species of plants that have been discovered in the Preserve, which is one of the most biodiverse natural places in the area.

After the trail returned to the woodland ascent, the sky could be seen through the timber on both sides. The peninsula narrowed and led us out to the top of the Peebles dolomite rock outcrop overlooking Ohio Brush Creek and the valley floor some 900 feet below and as far as the eyes could see.

A metal railing framed two long wooden benches and a sign telling about the scene. This is where we unpacked our bagged lunches and enjoyed a much-earned bite to eat while chatting with a few strangers. They shared a tale or two about their hiking and climbing adventures in Ohio and elsewhere in North America citing Red River Gorge in Kentucky, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and Yosemite in California.

A trip to Buzzardroost Rock [75 miles East of Cincinnati near the Ohio River] must also include a couple of stops to see what is known by locals as Wheat Ridge Amish Country. You’ll feel like you entered another period of time when you come out of the other side of the 1855 Harshaville Covered Bridge. Drive with caution around the bends and rolling hills because Amish buggies, bicycles, and scooters share the country roads. Tucked in this quieter Amish country are two jewels: Keim Family Market, and Miller’s Furniture, Bakery & Bulk Food Stores. Both are Amish-owned and operated and have been for generations. Make sure you have room in your vehicle to take home their legendary baked goods, gorgeous furniture, and plenty of fixin’s from the bulk food stores. And if you happen to stop here before the hike, their deli sandwiches taste best atop of the Rock.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

For more SATURdate ideas to spend with friends, family, or solo, visit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/saturdate/.

Click to enlarge photos

Secret Ohio Waterfall

Photo by Frank Rocco Satullo

Well, it’s not a secret to the locals in the Hillsboro, Ohio area. Several miles north of town at 10211 Careytown Road in New Vienna, Ohio is a simple wood board that reads, “Waterfall.” Pull off the road into a small gravel parking lot. A winding path stretches about a mile or so into the Fallsville Wildlife Area. First, you’ll hear the waterfall. Then, you’ll see an access trail to the top of the falls. But the best vantage point is down a hillside (it’s somewhat steep but well-traveled), leading to the base of the falls where people stand and take in the beauty of its cascade.

Photo by Frank Rocco Satullo

Photo by Frank Rocco Satullo

Photo by Frank Rocco Satullo