Wildwood 2000.08.29

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My friend L. keeps asking me why I stay in Toledo when, quite frankly, there isn’t a whole lot about the city to like. I guess part of it has to do with the fact that this is the only place I’ve really "known" in my life, and while I am steadily gaining courage to go out and forge new frontiers for myself, I’m not really ready for as big a step as leaving Toledo would be.

Besides, if there is one thing I like about my current situation, it’s that I’m a half-mile away from one of Toledo’s best treasures, Wildwood Preserve Metropark. Say what you will about Toledo as a whole, their park system is superb, and having the best of the nine metroparks so close to me is a definite boon.

Normally when I go to Wildwood it’s for inspiration, to look at all the beauty there, or else to clear my head (a couple of hours of walking in nature does wonders for that) or just for the exercise. But since L. has never been to Wildwood, I figured I might as well take some snapshots for her so she can see why I love the park so much.

The only problem is, as bad as I’ve been throughout my life about being in front of a camera, I’m only marginally better behind one. I’ve simply not taken too much photography throughout my life, and for what I thought would be a one-time thing at the time, I didn’t want to blow too much money, so I bought a $6.50 Kodak Max disposable camera. The camera had 27 shots in it, but you only see 23 here (and some of those are really clipped) because I kept dangling my finger right in front of the lens. Oops.

All in all, though, I think I did a decent job given my relative lack of experience in photography, and with the equipment I was using. Then again, considering what I was photographing, it would be hard to make it look bad. If anything else, it was a learning experience for me, as I’ll detail in the snaps below. And it’s definitely piqued my interest for more photography.

Shots 01-08 are from the trip to Wildwood and the Trailhead. Shots 09-12 are from the Ridge (Green) Trail. Shots 13-11 are from the Floodplain (Blue) Trail. Shot 23 is from the Meadow (Yellow) Trail.

Sadly, I had a harrowing experience on the walk back from my photography session, and it took me a while to get back to a mental state where I could go back to Wildwood. Finally, just as the leaves really started changing colour, I went back and scouted some locations so I could shoot some of the colours for L., but I’d bought a new pair of hiking boots since the last time I went, and unfortunately I hadn’t really broken them in yet. The end result was that I gave myself three very nasty blisters on my feet, including one on the sole of my right foot two inches long and half an inch wide, none of which have healed yet. So I missed the pretty colours. But Wildwood in the winter should still be fun to shoot, once I’m all healed up.

Click on images for larger view.

01. The Walk There
Normally I take one of two ways into Wildwood: either through the gate in the back of Stranahan Elementary School (my childhood school) or by sneaking in by the railroad that runs parallel to the edge of the park. But a few years ago the parks took the strip of land where the old railroad had run, and turned it into a six-mile walking trail, starting a couple of blocks west of where I live and ending smack dab in the University of Toledo. By the way, all those nice trees you see on the left-hand side? Those are actually the "shield" of a plant that produces industrial cleaners and chemicals.

02. Crossing the Street
So this is where I cross Holland-Sylvania to get into the park. Thankfully they erected a stoplight here, because trying to cross that part of Holland-Sylvania otherwise would be torture. To your left is the chemical plant. To your right is a used car dealership. Hard to believe ten minutes later you’re entering a slice of paradise.

03. Ten Minutes Later
Here’s my turn-off. I haven’t been much further down the trail, certainly not as far as to UT. This way usually takes me 20 to 25 minutes to get in, whereas my usual methods only take 12 or so, but this way has its merits, especially since otherwise I have to cross Holland-Sylvania on my lonesome.

04. The Path to the Trail
There’s about a quarter-mile connector from the University/Parks Trail to the epicentre of Wildwood, the Trailhead. The first part of the path is a lot like the Prairie (Orange) Trail; in fact, the two share a stretching station. The prairies are usually the best places to see deer, but none wanted to visit with me on this day.

05. Anyone for a Picnic?
The second part of the connector borders on the picnicking and play areas. This is one of the covered picnic stations; to the left are uncovered picnic benches, fairly well-shaded. I took a picture of those benches, but as you can guess by the clip job on this pic, my finger was really getting in the way here. Note to self: try shooting with two hands next time.

06. Playtime
This was about as close to the playground as I wanted to get. I never actually used the playground as a kid, I’m sad to say. As you can guess, the vast field between here and the playground is usually the site for many a baseball or football game on a mild weekend.

07. You Are Here
Wildwood is actually the former estate of the Stranahan family, of Champion Spark Plug fame. The trailhead is actually the former stables of the estate, with information buildings, exhibits, pop machines and amazingly well-kept bathrooms in them. Behind there is what I think of as the real trailhead, as this is just about where all the trails branch off. This sign helps guide newbies on their way through the trails.

08. Make Your Decision
This is where the five trails (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue – sorry, no Purrrrrrrrrrrple) first split, with the Meadow (Yellow) Trail hanging a sharp right. I always like colour-coding for things like this, which probably explains why I liked Washington DC’s Metro subway system when I visited there in junior high.

09. The Rabbit Goes Round the Hole
The Ridge Trail is actually just an offshoot of the Floodplain (Blue) Trail that’s a half-mile loop in some of the higher terrain of Wildwood. This is where the loop meets itself. When the high school cross-country runners practice in Wildwood in the summer, this is a favourite spot for them.

10. Best Intentions
As you can guess, I hadn’t exactly grasped the subtleties of making sure a scene had sufficient light before shooting at this point. What I’m trying to point out is that some thirty or forty feet below where I am right now is part of the Meadow Trail, but I couldn’t quite shoot that without pointing the camera too far down. Probably wouldn’t have seen it in the dark anyway.

11. Ever Heard of a Flash?
With a lot of these dark pics I’ve already done a lot of tone balancing to try to make the colours richer, but even at that, this is the best I can do. At least I can say I’ve learned my lesson, and next time I’ll be a lot more cautious about such things.

12. Still in the Dark
I think this is where the "unofficial trail" linking the Floodplain and Ridge Trails at a place further up the Floodplain Trail is, but I can’t be sure. You know, cut out the bottom half of the pic and it’s not so bad.

13. On The Boardwalk
Since the Floodplain Trail is, as you can guess, on a Floodplain (of the Ottawa River), a raised boardwalk is necessary for when the river swells. The boardwalk runs a good three-tenths of a mile, and because of the changing nature of floodplains you never see the same view twice.

14. Um … okay
I remember trying to find the most colourful flowers to show L. on the floodplain, but when your camera has no zoom it’s kind of hard.

15. Daylight!
Since I clearly wasn’t going to find the light, thankfully the light found me around now. But even here I wasn’t out of photographic limbo yet, as the branch in the upper-right hand corner drew focus away from the rest of the scene. But I’m learning.

16. Purty Yellows
There’s an awful lot of yellows bordering the floodplain (no, I don’t know the names of the flowers, nor do I care to know), and I found a nice cluster here.

17. A River Runs By It
Here’s the Ottawa River in all its choked glory. Back when I was a kid you’d see some people, usually teenage boys, wading in it, but I’m guessing even then the water was unsafe for that sort of thing; now it’s doubly so.

18. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrple
Not much body to these things, whatever they are, but I love the colour. I was thinking about taking some to send L., but the park rangers are uptight on that whole "take only snapshots, leave only footprints" thing.

19. Rushing River
I thought I’d clipped the benches out of this shot but I was wrong; in any event, at least it shows you there is ample seating for those who just want to partake of the beauty. It’s a good thing, too, because inspiration may strike me at any moment when I’m over there, and it’s nice to know I’m never more than half a mile away from a bench so I can take a proper seat instead of dirtying my pants.

20. The Long and Winding Boardwalk
This is about the halfway point of the boardwalk, nearing the true hub of the boardwalk where there’s a lowered platform right on top of the river with a lot of seating.

21. Stairway to the Manor
And in back of that hub is a long stairway leading up to the backyard of Manor House, the former estate of the Stranahans. It’s a nice enough place, but I prefer the beauty outside of it to the beauty inside.

22. One Last River Shot
I took this on the lowered platform, looking east as the river slowly tears itself away. About a tenth of a mile later the boardwalk ends and it goes back to being a regular trail, although they’ve paved part of it just in case a real big flood tears through.

23. Sunshine Over the Bridge
I’m a sucker for these "sun peeking through the leaves" shots, what can I say. I’m also unfamiliar with the concept of a lens flare, though, as this shot so clearly shows. Still, I like this shot an awful lot, as I stand above the bridge which crosses the Ottawa River and leads back to the Trailhead. (The actual meadow is behind where this shot was taken.)

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