Friday, December 16, 2016

Spartan Up For The Holidays

Photos by OHventures and Spartan Race

[Editor's Note: Make it to the end of this entry for details on how to win a FREE Spartan Race entry!]

The Spartan Race was one of the greatest challenges I have ever embarked on, and one that was unforgettable and incredibly fulfilling for the adventurous spirit within me. On May 8, OHventures traveled to Cumberland in Southeast Ohio with my high school friends Matt & Anthony to tackle all of the mud, obstacles, and burpees that make up the grueling course. I had previously run the Spartan Race in October 2014 with my brother Curt, but that was coupled with hail, snow, and a ton of unexpected twists and turns.

Showing off our finisher medals!

Our Spartan Sprint in May was a chance to redeem myself. Having nicer weather and a shorter course were certainly contributing factors. But, also a better understanding of what to expect, coupled with proper training and a great mindset, were the true reasons why this stab at the Spartan Race was a better success (plus the parking debacle that we dealt with last year was fixed - for the most part - this year).

Map of the Spartan Race Ohio from May 2016

For those that don't know, the Spartan Race is not just one event, but several events that you can mix and match. As mentioned, we chose the Spartan Sprint, which is the shortest distance offered in Ohio (the next highest is Spartan Super followed by the Spartan Beast). Just because it was the shortest did not mean it was easy! It was 6 miles, with over 1,000 feet of total climb in elevation (which was probably the most challenging part, since there were many steep hills that were caked in mud.We found ourselves grabbing roots and trees to claw our way to the top of these massive walls of dirt). In all, the course took us about 2.5 hours to complete (see map above for more detail).

The finish line of the Spartan Race Ohio

Some highlights of the course include:
  • The Javelin Throw: None of us successfully completed the javelin throw, but that's because you only get one chance! We all got pretty close, but alas we had to take the 30-burpee penalty.
  • The Rope Climb: I was so proud to have climbed the rope near the end of the course. I really didn't think I had it in me, but because of the support of my friends cheering me on, I gave it my all and made it up to the top of the muddy, 25-foot tall rope (which had NO knots to help me in my climb)
  • Sandbag Carry: I was absolutely drained by the time I reached this task. We had to heave a giant sandbag onto our shoulders and carry it for what seemed like an eternity! You can see in the photo below just how miserable it was. But it was a sign of strength being able to get through this!
  • Barbed Wire: This is a classic! We had to army crawl underneath a series of barbed wire. But, this honestly has to have been the longest barbed wire obstacle I have ever seen. It stretched for so long and it seemed like it would never end! Definitely got beat up on this one, but it was fun, in a weird way.
  • Fire Jump: Who DOESN'T love this part of the Spartan Race?! With the finish line in sight, me and my buddies leaped over the flames lining the course, and ran to victory (see photos above and below)!

We were so thrilled to finish the Spartan Race, we were all talking about someday tackling the BEAST! But first, we enjoyed a cold beer and a ton of celebrating!

So why am I bringing up the Spartan Race now, in December, when it happened months ago? For starters, it is one of my favorite events of 2016, and this is a time to look back on the year as it comes to a close. BUT, also, I am bringing it up because there are a ton of big things happening with Spartan Race in 2017!

For starters, there will be brand new medals, which you can see in the medal reveal video below!


There are also brand new "Open" and "Elite" Season Passes available for the 2017 season, which allow you to run again and again at as many venues you want - all for one easy price. So, not only do you get to Spartan Up in Ohio (May 20, 2017), but you can visit any other place in the US! You might want to consider some of the early races in 2017 that are fast approaching: So Cal (Jan. 28-29), Houston (Mar. 11), Atlanta (Mar. 18), Las Vegas (Mar. 18), and Arizona (Feb. 25-26)!

There are loads of new obstacles coming your way in 2017, including things like The Ape Hanger, Thigh Master, and Stairway to Sparta! So you will never be without a challenge, even if you are a seasoned Spartan! 

And to prepare yourself for next year, be sure to tune in on  to the 2016 Reebok Spartan Race World Championship, Christmas Day on NBC, 5:00 PM EST.

Now that you made it this far, it's time to offer all readers of OHventures a chance to win a FREE entry to ANY 2017 Spartan Race (in the US)! Here's how: just go on Twitter and Tweet to @OHventures between now and Christmas Day with the hashtag #SpartanUpOH and a reason why you want to tackle this challenge! Everyone who does this will be entered to win a free entry and will be contacted via Twitter on Christmas Day at Noon! 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Top 10 OHventures of 2016

While many people will look back on 2016 as being one they wish the could forget (all of the celebrity deaths, the contentious and controversial Presidential race, the national and international catastrophes), it's more important than ever to try to find the light within the darkness! We had a great deal of excitement (both good and bad) happening at OHventures, that we didn't even get to post as much as we typically do. But, it's not the amount of times we post that counts, it's the quality of the posts - and this year, we have a lot of high quality adventures to look back on.

As with every year (see 20122013, 2014, and 2015), I give to you the Top 10 OHventures of 2016. There were many to choose from, but if you needed to see the best of the best, here they are (in no particular order)!

Use this list to start planning some awesome bucket list items to do in 2017.

1. BrewBoat ClevelandPart bike, part boat, and part bar, the BrewBoat in Cleveland is a one-of-a-kind experience that will guarantee to be a hit for you and your adventure-and-beer-loving friends.When trying to find a perfect birthday gift for some family members who "have it all," I decided to get creative and book a reservation aboard the BrewBoat! Follow us on the adventure on the Cuyahoga River.

2. Escape Room DowntownWhile I am usually posting about adventures that exercise the body, escape rooms exercise the mind. They bring people together to use their brains to accomplish the goal under the given time limit, which is a huge adrenaline rush! Join us as we head to the Escape Room Downtown in Canton to tackle "The Missing Detective's Office"!

3. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: ALL ABOARD! The CVSR can be found in Northeast Ohio, running through the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (the one and only national park in the state of Ohio). The main portion of the railway runs northbound from Akron in Summit County, all the way to Independence in Cuyahoga County.

4. Red Maple InnThis summer, I was invited to stay at the Red Maple Inn, a beautiful boutique hotel located in the small town of Burton in the heart of Geauga County's Amish Country. With unbeatable views of lush green fields, a selection of spacious rooms, and hearty Amish-style breakfast buffets, the offer to stay was impossible to pass up.

5. HalloWeekends at Cedar PointFor the past 20 years, Cedar Point has been hosting HalloWeekends, on the weekends that fall between Labor Day and Halloween. The entire 365-acre park transforms into a spookier, scarier, and more thrilling experience for guests, with pumpkins and cobwebs decorating the queue lines, and ghosts, goblins, and ghouls roaming the midway. For the first time EVER, I finally went to HalloWeekends!

Photos by OHventures

6. SegAway Tours of ColumbusSegAway Tours of Columbus offers a series of tours for anyone interested in uncovering hidden secrets about the city while leisurely gliding through the parkways, riversides, and sidewalks of downtown, Arena District, Short North, and Victorian Village. It was a challenging experience, but one I will never forget. I am hooked on Segways!

7. Findlay Market CincinnatiEven on a Sunday afternoon, the Findlay Market located in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is booming with activity. As Ohio's oldest public market (having been established in 1852), the Market shows no signs of slowing down. With the brightly colored Italian-style architecture, you'll immediately feel in a cheerful mood, ready to explore the Market head on! 

8. Spartan Race OhioThe Spartan Race was one of the greatest challenges I have ever embarked on, and one that was unforgettable and incredibly fulfilling for the adventurous spirit within me. On May 8, OHventures traveled to Cumberland with our friends Matt & Anthony to tackle all of the mud, obstacles, and burpees that make up the grueling course.

9. Winans Chocolates + CoffeesTwo things that most everyone can agree on is delicious chocolate and quality coffee. Winans Chocolates + Coffees, based in Piqua in Miami County, has got you covered! I had the pleasure of receiving some Winans products to review, and it wasn't long until all of my chocolate and treats were gobbled up, and all of my coffee was gulped up! I also got to visit the Winans to Winans Half Marathon in September!

10. RNC in CLE: This year marked an historic time for the City of Cleveland. The Republican National Convention (RNC) was held in town for the first time since the 1930s, bringing in thousands and thousands of visitors from across the country and the globe. No matter your politics, you can enjoy some of the photos that we were able to take during this week in July.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Guest Post: A Beginner's Guide To Canoeing

Photos by OHventures

The following is an abridged contribution from Joey Holmes, a blogger for Cool of the Wild

To read this article in its entirety, please visit this link.

Young or old, trying something new is always exciting, and open canoeing, or Canadian canoeing, is a wonderful way to experience time on the water in a new way, whatever your age. 

Who is it for?
Canoeing is for anyone who loves being outdoors and exploring. So long as you are wearing a buoyancy aid, you don’t even need to be able to swim. The waterways often take you far away from roads and towns so it’s a great chance to get away from it all. Canoeing is also ideal for families, as the wee ones can just chill out in the boat whist you put in all the hard work. Plus, the older they get, the more they can get involved providing you with a your very own gondolier to escort you down the river!

[Editor's Note: See the photo below and the corresponding OHventures post, when we took the WHOLE family canoeing - everyone from 5 years old to 60 years old!]

Where can I do it?
Well, although this may seem like an obvious question, there are actually loads of ways to approach where to go paddling, depending on your level and intrepidity. For total beginners, the best place to learn is on a lake or a slow moving river or canal. As you progress, you can take your boat to faster rivers and sheltered ocean bays, and then to the open seas and on gnarly whitewater river descents.

[Editor's Note: Consider visiting our post on Where to Canoe in Ohio]

What to expect
Total serenity, closeness to nature and a slowed down pace of life. You can take photos, have a picnic in the boat or on the river banks, and if you are paddling downstream then you can often just sit back and let the current take you. But that’s only if you’ve mastered how to make your canoe go in a straight line! Otherwise, you should expect to slowly pin-ball from bank to bank as you overcompensate for every misjudged paddle stroke. This can be a little frustrating to say the least – especially when you see other paddlers going in a totally straight line with seemingly zero effort.

You should also expect to get a soggy backside, cold hands and a good shoulder and core workout.

[Editor's Note: Check out one of our very first OHventures, titled Tip-A-Canoe, where we certainly did NOT know what to expect!]

How to get started
Unfortunately, canoeing isn’t the easiest sport to just buy the gear and then go do. Not impossible though, and you can pick up some fun inflatable canoes without breaking the bank. But the best and easiest way to give paddling a go, is to rent a canoe. Most decent rivers will have a canoe rental outfit during the tourist season, where you can rent boats, paddles and safety gear for an hour or even a whole day. On safe rivers, you won’t need any prior experience and you’ll be dumped in your boat, have to fend for yourself and be expected to be back at base at an appointed time. Although this can be great fun for the more adventurous, it can also be a little daunting without the knowledge of how to turn or stop your boat, or the all-important knowledge of how not to capsize!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Happy Holidays From OHventures

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to all of my readers of OHventures! Thank you so much for your continued support in my quest to show everyone just how cool Ohio can be! May the next year bring you an endless thirst for adventure! See you in 2017!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hiking Haunted Ohio

Moonville Tunnel - Photo Credit: Trek Ohio

The following is a post written especially for OHventures by freelance tourism writer Jenny Holt!

Ohio is a state that has ghostly stories around nearly every corner. Haunted locations and tours abound. Here’s a little taste of dark and creepy adventures for you to take when visiting the Buckeye State.

Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Ghosts In Nature
Punderson State Park in Newbury, Ohio is lively enough during the day, offering fishing and other outdoor activities. At night, the liveliness continues. People who have hiked the grounds have reported spotting the ghosts of people who died in the lake.

There’s also a popular lodge on the lake that reportedly has several spirits in residence. Guests have claimed to see the ghosts of long dead servants around the grounds and some who have spent the night have reported invisible visitors taking a seat on the edge of their beds.

Dark Road
Staley Road in New Carlisle, Ohio has been drawing reports of ghostly nuisances ever since two bodies were found in the surrounding woods back in the 1970s. People have reported being pushed by invisible forces. They also have claimed to hear chanting coming from the woods, though nobody can be seen through the trees.

Up the road is the old flour mill built in the 1800s. Rumor has it that the owner went on a killing spree in 1905. The apparition of someone lying in the road has been seen and phantom gunshots have been heard near the old building.

Moonville Tunnel - Photo Credit: Trek Ohio

Tragic Landmark
The Moonville Tunnel in Zaleski, Ohio has a dangerous history. The tunnel was built just big enough for one train track to pass through it. This made it very dangerous for men whose job it was to keep the track clear of debris. People have reported seeing a mysterious light in the tunnel, thought to be the ghostly lantern of an engineer who was struck by a train.

There have been many deaths reported near the tunnel including a teen-aged girl who was hit by a train. People have reported hearing her crying as she searches for the boyfriend she was trying to meet up with.

Ohio has many haunted locations including several that can be found by hiking through the dark woods and down long, windy roads. Are the accounts of ghostly specters real, or are they just stories? The only way to be sure is to take a road trip and become part of the state’s haunted history.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Northeast Ohio WaterFALL Hikes

Chagrin Falls - Photos by OHventures

The roar of rushing water echoing throughout the wilderness is a welcoming sound when hiking through Ohio’s parks and trails. Whether manmade or created by Mother Nature herself, waterfalls provide an element of excitement and wonder to any outdoor adventure. Add to that the changing colors of autumn’s leaves, and you are bound to take your scenic adventures to an entirely different level.

Growing up in Northeast Ohio, my friends and I loved to explore the woods throughout the year, but nothing would compare to the times when we’d hike in autumn. In our expeditions, we sought out many notable waterfalls, which have become some of my favorite landmarks. Here are some of my top picks for Northeast Ohio waterfall hikes:

Chagrin Waterfalls – Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga County
The waterfalls in the quaint city of Chagrin Falls can be easily found, and they don’t require any hiking boots or gear! These impressive 20-foot high falls are located right in the heart of town square, and can be accessed via a series of staircases. I always take a pit stop to see the Chagrin Falls after having dinner or shopping at the many establishments lining Main Street. The leaves turn golden yellow and fire red during autumn, which provides a beautiful frame for the cascading waters. Just hurry and catch them before they freeze for the winter!

Gorge Metro Park – Cuyahoga Falls, Summit County
The Gorge Trails at the Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls are full of remarkable rock formations along some slightly rugged terrain. A boardwalk and wooden staircase were recently installed to make the hike less advanced. The unmistakable sound of crashing water can be heard while on the majority of the 1.8-mile path. The falls you see are primarily due to a manmade dam, but you can also spot some natural cascades, known as the Big Falls (pictured above). You can take a detour out of the woods and spot the Little Falls, located in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. These waterfalls is how the city received its name.

Cascade Falls – Nelson Township, Portage County
As a teenager, my friends and I often visited Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park, located along U.S. Route 422 in Portage County. The rocky cliffs proved to be a challenging endeavor, and the nearby quarry gave us a place to cool off in the summer. When the leaves changed, color, we would still head to the park, but stick to hiking. We’d explore the exciting rock formations, like Devil’s Icebox and Indian Pass, and we’d always uncover the gorgeous Cascade Falls. Surrounded by mossy rocks and russet leaves, the 50-foot tall Cascade Falls is a slender, less robust waterfall than the others on the list, but is striking nonetheless.

Brandywine Falls – Northfield, Summit County
By and large, the most picturesque and the most breathtaking of all of the waterfalls I have visited in Northeast Ohio is Brandywine Falls (pictured above). Located in northern Summit County (in between Akron and Cleveland), Brandywine Falls are approximately 65-feet tall, with rushing waters encapsulated by bright orange leaves in the autumn. When frost and ice form, the flow of the water changes as well, making for an interesting sight to see. These falls are a very popular spot for photo shoots, be it for a wedding, engagement, or just because (which is exactly what I did with my dog this fall). There is a small 1.5 mile hiking trail that leads to the falls, as well as a wooden observation deck, which is always bustling with visitors.

Lanterman’s Falls – Youngstown, Mahoning County
As a student, we took countless field trips to Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, where we could go see Lanterman’s Mill and its accompanying waterfalls! Our teachers would take us here so we could learn how the water from the creek is used to power the gristmill to grind grain. We would always tour the mill and take home some grain products that were made on site! The waterfall next to Lanterman’s Mill is only about 15 feet tall, but it works in conjunction with the mill and a nearby covered bridge to create a beautiful backdrop.

There are countless other waterfalls in Northeast Ohio (and the state as a whole) to check out in the fall (or any time of the year). Some other good ones to check out are Buttermilk Falls in Brecksville, Cuyahoga County, and Paine Falls in Painesville, in Lake County.