Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Lake Milton State Park

Photos by OHventures

Lake Milton State Park
16801 Mahoning Avenue
Lake Milton, OH 44429
(330) 654-4989

I've driven both eastbound and westbound on I-76 countless times over the past 15 years, always gazing at the beautiful crystal clear waters of Lake Milton, on the edge of Mahoning and Portage Counties. There is rarely a time I drive by in the spring or summer that the lake is not peppered with dozens - if not, hundreds - of outdoor enthusiasts

Most of the people I see at Lake Milton State Park are actually ON the water. The lake (truly, a reservoir, impounded by a dam in 1913), is the clear centerpiece of the park, sizing up at 1,685 acres. Unlimited horsepower is permitted on the lake, so it is not uncommon to see motorboats whizzing by, toting water skiers, wake boarders, and the like. 

Fishing is also a favorite at Lake Milton, with a large variety of fish found in the waters: walleye, largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, brown bullhead, yellow perch, white bass and muskellung.

Since I decided to stop on a whim one blazing hot August day without a boat or fishing gear, I opted to enjoy the shores of Lake Milton. With my dog in tote (always a plus when a park is dog friendly), we walked along the edge of the water, interacting with other dogs, and soaking in the scenery (I particularly like the small black and white lighthouse found at one of the picnic areas). There is a designated swimming area (where dogs are NOT allowed), but alas I didn't have a swimsuit. The best I could do is dip my feet in (next time, I will come prepared).

There are plenty of picnic tables, pavilions, and a gazebo that can be used for parties or just for sitting and relaxing (learn about making shelter reservations here).

There's a 1.25 mile easy nature trail located by the park office (at the address listed above). Additionally, you can hunt in designated areas, or enjoy the basketball and volleyball courts. In the winter, ice fishing, snow mobiling, and cross country skiing are popular. 

Looks like a new trip to Lake Milton State Park will certainly be in my future very soon.

Warrior Dash Ohio II 2016 Photo Blog

Who: You and 10,000 fellow runners
What: The craziest frickin' day of your life (AKA Warrior Dash Ohio II 2016)
When: Various dates across the country. These pictures are from August 21, 2016.
Where: North Lawrence, Ohio.
Why: To challenge yourself physically and mentally to run through crazy obstacles and get dirty!
How: Visit the official Web site to find out more!

Photos by OHventures and Gameface Media

Are you ready for the battleground?!

All smiles after jumping the fire - it's one of the best parts of Warrior Dash!

Enjoying our complimentary beers (and buying a few more) to reward ourselves for a job well done!

Wearing our red viking hats (every warrior gets one in their race packet), and showing off our matching tattoos! That's (from l-r) me, my dad, and my brother. We have my other brother's initials NME on our backs.

My 13-year-old niece braving the slippery balance beam.

My dad showing off his skills at the fire jump.
The look on my face says it all: this obstacle proved to be nearly impossible due to the slippery rings!

My warrior father taking on the ropes obstacle!

My brother impressed us all by successfully making it across the slippery rings.

Okay, I lied: THIS was the most fun of all the obstacles - the Goliath slides!

The famous Shock Top car!

The gals showing off their brute strength after dashing their way through the course!

Action shot of my mom sliding into the mud pit! Maybe not HER favorite.

Father-son bonding at the Warrior Dash!!

The balance beam was harder than it looks!!

Last one to the beer tent buys!

This was the worst of all the obstacles - really pretty scary. I don't want to talk about it! ;-)

Find your inner warrior!

Group shot BEFORE the mud...

...and AFTER the mud!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Warrior Dash Ohio II Recap - By The Numbers

Photos by OHventures and Gameface Media

Since I have run the Warrior Dash for 6 years in a row, and I have blogged about it every time, I thought I would change things up in my post this year to make it more fun! 

6 - Number of years that I have run the Warrior Dash
And it never gets old!

11 - Number of runners in our #WarriorFam this year
Some seasoned vets like myself, some who had done it a couple times before like my friends Erik, Ryan, and Stacey; and some who had never done it before at all!

3 - Number of generations running from my family!
How cool is that? My mom, dad, niece, and aunt joined my brother, sister-in-law, and me. That makes 3 generations of Evans family conquering the course!

13 - Age of the youngest warrior in our group
That's right! My 13 year old niece joined us this year. I was especially proud of her for conquering her fears. She had some trouble on the heights obstacles, but she never gave up.

62 - Age of the oldest warrior in our group
That would be my Aunt Patty! She kept up with us the whole time (even though we didn't "dash" the whole way). 

3.2 - Number of miles in this year's course!
Surprisingly, it wasn't even that muddy, even though it had been raining that week. We ran up the hills and just took our time so we enjoyed ourselves and stuck together. There I am running and jumping over the famous fire obstacle near the end of the course!

12 - Number of obstacles in this year's course
Some old favorites (like Alcatraz and the Trenches), and some new surprises, too (like Risky Business, a slippery balance beam, pictured above with Stacey).

4 - Number of Shock Top Twisted Pretzel beers I had after the run!
This stuff is so tasty. I can't say enough good stuff about it. It's hard to find in stores, so we took advantage of the finish line beer tent!

  5 - Number of hours we spent having fun at the event
We could have stayed all day, with all the shenanigans on site. Warrior Dash is more than just the course - it's an entire experience. There's music, food, drinks, photo ops, and other fun things to do, like these practice rings my dad and I are doing. 

0 - Number of f*cks given
No amount of mud, sweat and tears will keep us from making a fool of ourselves every year at the Warrior Dash. Some people don't quite understand why we would pay to get dirty from head to toe and put ourselves through physical challenges. We do it to create memories and to have a blast with thousands of others who are part of the Warrior Nation. You can't take yourself too seriously at the Warrior Dash. It's a muddy obstacle race like none other, and if you haven't tried it, don't knock it! Instead, get out there and join us for some muddy fun!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Geauga County Amish Tours

Photos by OHventures

While staying at the Red Maple Inn in Burton this summer, I took advantage of the fantastic Amish Tours that they offer! These two hour excursions take you and up to 14 others in a conversion van through the rural roadways of Geauga and Trumbull Counties, telling stories and making stops along the way. Guests of the hotel, or any member of the public, can book a tour by calling ahead (any day except Thursday or Sunday). The cost is just $25-$29, and it is definitely worth it.

While on my tour, I learned a great deal about the history of the Amish culture, and the area itself. We stopped at the home of an Amish family to have a snack on homemade zucchini muffins and have conversations about their way of life. Here, we saw chickens, horses, and kittens, as well as freshly picked vegetables, hand-powered washing machines, and handmade soaps!

We also visited a schoolhouse (school is currently out of session) and a bakery (where I bought some delicious fry pies). The tour guide was able and willing to answer all questions we had about the Amish culture. She was a wealth of knowledge of the area, and of the Amish as a whole. One factoid we learned was that Geauga County is home to the 4th largest Amish population in the world!

The tour also took us to Mesopotamia, a town just across the county line in Trumbull County. Here, we stopped at the "End of the Commons," which is Ohio's oldest general store (and probably the one with the most character)! There was SO much to see at this store, that it most certainly calls for a separate visit. Last, we stopped at the Middlefield Original Cheese Co-Op for some yummy cheese samples!

The two hours aboard the van flew right by, and soon it was time to be dropped off back at the Red Maple Inn. It was incredibly educational, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area. Soon, it was time for me to check out of the hotel, with a promise to return in the near future with my friends and family! I know for certain they'd appreciate the comfort and charm of the Red Maple Inn!

Red Maple Inn

Photos by OHventures

Every once and awhile, I find it necessary to escape from the fast-paced world of the big city by visiting Ohio's serene countryside. Nestled not far from Akron, Canton, Youngstown, and Cleveland is Geauga County, home of the world's 4th largest Amish community, and a perfect place to make that restful retreat.

This 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.

Arriving at the Red Maple Inn, I was "greeted" by Rut Maple, a horse and carriage crafted out of recycled steel parts by local artist Chris McConnell. This striking artwork sits right outside the entrance of the hotel, and sets the tone for the whimsical stay guests are about to experience.

There are 17 rooms and one suite available, each with handmade furniture crafted by the Amish from various types of wood. This makes each room a bit different from the others. However, all rooms come with a flat screen TV, fireplace, coffee maker, balcony with outdoor furniture, and my personal favorite: a jacuzzi tub! Talk about relaxing!

All guests have access to an on-site fitness facility, a library and gaming nook, You can also enjoy complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres at certain times during the week. After enjoying a glass of red wine and checking into my room, I went out to explore the surrounding area.

Railroad car at Century Village Museum

The Red Maple Inn is located in walking distance to a number of worthwhile tourist stops. For starters, a small footbridge leads you from the hotel property to the Century Village Museum, a series of buildings and artifacts that serve as an authentic representation of life in the Western Reserve during the 1800s.

Burton Log Cabin & Sugar Camp

Walking a little further takes you to Burton Square,the center of town, modeled after the village greens of New England. Here, you can visit the Burton Chamber of Commerce Log Cabin & Sugar Camp, where pure maple syrup and other related products are made and sold. I took home a bottle of syrup, as well as some maple candies for my aunt (she loves them!).

Nearby is Warren's Spirited Kitchen, a rather new establishment in Burton, with a more modern feel to it. I sat and enjoyed a cocktail (a Cleveland Old Fashioned) while listening to a local guitarist, before retiring to my room at the Red Maple Inn.

On my way home, I stopped at Mary Yoder's Amish Kitchen for a home-cooked meatloaf dinner. If there's one thing that's consistent in the Geauga County Amish Country, it's how flavorful and filling its food is! I went home with a full belly and a happy heart!