I needed to stretch my legs.
After too many hours at a desk, I needed to get away from the stress of the newspaper office, away from emails and phone calls and tips and grammar and the Associated Press Style Book and politics and budgets — all the trappings of the business.
The sun was out. The air had warmed to 55 degrees. And I had a perfectly good camera.
So Wednesday I found myself at the Wellington Reservation Metro Park on Jones Road, just south of the village and its reservoir.
What better way to spend my lunch hour than on a spring hike, and one that could easily be turned into a photo essay?
There was also an ulterior motive: For the past five days I’d been searching the skies above Jones Road (without luck) for sight of bald eagles that have taken up residence in the treeline just to the north of the park.
Their home there has likely dashed plans to build a 20-acre solar field, according to mayor Hans Schneider.
My hope was to spot our national birds swooping low over the park’s lake to snatch up fish.
It’s fishing season for humans, too. Early in my trek around the 1.8-mile Lakeside Loop, I came across Bill Dunston of Elyria and his boys, five-year-old Cole and 12-year-old Lincoln. They had hunkered down on a little reedy peninsula off the beaten path, casting lines and looking for the bass to nibble.
“Nothing’s biting so far,” said the elder Dunston, pointing to the water, cloudy and high this year after a wet winter. That didn’t stop his boys from having fun as they sent bobbers out onto the lake, which is stocked with catfish, bluegill, and largemouths.
Continuing on my way, I found the day perfect. It was too cool for swarms of insects but just right for bird calls.
There were the strong cries of cardinals, the steady rat-a-tat-tats of woodpeckers, and tweets of sparrows. Tall conifers at the start of the loop gave way a quarter-mile in to lower deciduous trees, and there dozens of robins perched low, swooping down into the brush to peck at seeds and worms.
A half-mile in, I had passed the casual dog-walkers and was alone. With just the rush of the wind for company, I enjoyed the solitude.
Soon I realized I wasn’t alone at all.
There was a rustle in a thicket near the water and off went the white tail of a rabbit. At the top of the loop, I found hoof prints in the mud of a horse trail leading to the edge of a marshy area, what appeared a popular watering hole for deer. There were also honking geese taking their ease in the reeds — and above it all, the scream of a bald eagle.
Now I’m no wildlife expert, but I wanted to be sure. So I whipped out my phone and searched through a library of bird cries to make sure I was right. It was an eagle all right, but keeping out of sight.
Denied the perfect shot, my march continued.
Within a couple of minutes, I was overtaken by two professionals, Joyce Peterson of Wellington and Jenny Kelley of Wakeman, trim and ready with hiking poles.
It turns out they are experts when it comes to long treks by foot. Peterson and Kelley hiked the Grand Canyon in December and are now preparing to take on a 150-mile section of the Appalachian Trail.
They zipped off down the paved path and soon were out of sight — both in far better shape than I.
It took about 70 minutes for me to make the entire loop, stopping to snap photos, to scribble notes, or just to enjoy the rare silence for a spell on the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6941 bench, which gives a great view of the park’s visitor center.
If you’re eager for a little peace and nature, there’s plenty more to see. In addition to the Lakeside Loop, there’s also the 1.2-mile Killdeer Loop, the 1.1-mile Prairie Circle, a 1.38-mile horse trail, and other pathways winding through the brush.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
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