Do you like solving puzzles? Discovering the natural and historical gems of Northeast Ohio? If so, Canalway Questing might be for you.
Quests are treasure hunts with rhyming clues that lead step-by- step to a hidden box. More than 20 quests let you explore locations within Cuyahoga Valley National Park; another 20 feature partner locations within the Ohio & Erie Canalway.
The annual questing season extends from April 15 to Nov. 15. You can pick up clues at Boston Mills Visitor Center. They are also posted online at OhioandErieCanalway.org.
Select the questing icon from the activities on the homepage. The website includes a table with information about location, topic, time needed to complete the quest, terrain for walking, and special considerations. Wheelchair accessible quests and quests designed for young children are noted.
This article features Questing Lock to Lock as an example. It takes you on a 35-minute stroll from Lock 29 to Lock 30 along the Towpath Trail in Peninsula. This section of Towpath Trail has numerous ruins of the Ohio & Erie Canal. The Quest will help you find them and appreciate their history.
Every quest starts with a Planning Ahead section that lets you know what to expect. The trail surfaces for Questing Lock to Lock are mostly flat and firm. However, the Planning Ahead section notes that the location is often congested on weekends, reminding you to stay to the right as you walk and be alert for cyclists.
The main section of the quest is a series of stanzas that reveal the clues. Some clues tell you where to start, when to make turns, and how far to go. Maps accompany most of the quests to help with orientation. Questing Lock to Lock starts:
"Begin at the kiosk in the parking lot.
On the back side, read the canal story plot.
A ditch once linked wilderness to the world.
The Ohio & Erie's history is about to be unfurled!"
Other clues ask you to observe your surroundings. For example, a stanza helps you find mason's marks carved in the sandstone blocks that make up the walls of Lock 29:
"Trek back down the steps--you are doing just fine.
Go under the bridge and enter Lock 29.
Find Roman numerals, such as V (5), VI (6), III (3), and II (2)
Carved on finished stones to be shipped by a mason crew."
Another stanza helps you imagine the canal during its historic period, providing the backstory of the trail:
"Find the bridge where drivers and mules once walked,
Pulling boats on the canal as the locals gawked.
Three mules per team along the path often plugged.
Eighty tons for eight hours those animals tugged."
With these types of clues, Questing Lock to Lock helps you observe and consider Lock 29, the site of the Moody and Thomas Mill, the Cuyahoga River, the site of an historic ice storage shed, Lock 30, the Peninsula Feeder, and its channel.
Late in the Quest, one stanza reads:
"At the base of the path, left, find a collapsed shelf of stone
With gaps hidden by loose rock and plants overgrown.
On the short end by our feed, behind the rock, reach inside
To find where the Lock-to- Lock treasure hides."
Where is this shelf of stone? I'm not going to tell you. You'll have to do the quest to find out. When you find it, you will have discovered the Lock to Lock Quest box. You can collect its unique stamp (it helps to bring your own inkpad), sign and stamp its logbook, and then re-hideit for others.
If you want help to get started with Canalway Questing, stop by to chat with Quest Crew volunteers at one of our Questing Drop-ins. You can make your own stamp that you can use to stamp logbooks. The next drop-ins occur from 3 to 6 p.m. on Friday, June 9 and from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sundays, June 11 and 25. They take place next to Trail Mix Boston, weather permitting.
The Ohio & Erie Canalway is a national heritage area, a program of the National Park Service. Heritage areas are designated by Congress to celebrate nationally significant landscapes. The Ohio & Erie Canalway helps preserve and celebrate the rails, trails, towns, and sites that grew up along the first 110 miles of the Ohio & Erie Canal. Trail Mix Boston is located at 1565 Boston Mills Road, Peninsula. For more information, call 330-657-2752.
Editor's Note: Vasarhelyi is Chief of Interpretation, Education and Visitor's Services at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.