“Where are we. . . ?” my fellow cyclist questioned. “I want to be able to do this again! What was the cross street we took to get here? I was chatting, and didn’t notice, but I want to get back here!”
It’s a one way street, but the two- and four-legged foot traffic moves along, at varying speeds, in both directions. Most cars are creeping along, sightseeing along the way, or nervous about pedestrians that might be just around the next curve. Some move slowly but adeptly, as they prepare to make a turn onto one of the narrow side streets, or into their own driveway.
Less than half of the houses you pass have driveways with access to Walhalla, but they all want the Walhalla address. The houses without street access can be approached in two ways. First, they can be found by wandering the surrounding streets, whose street signs bear 2 sets of address numbers, for Walhalla and for whichever street you are actually driving on.
The second, more adventurous, way to approach these homes is to make your way down Walhalla on bike or by foot, then walk up long, narrow, aged staircases, to the homes that loom above. Some of these staircases are made of crumbling stone; others are wooden, and leaning at awkward angles. A few residents have put in steps in the last decade, but most are decades old, covered in moss, ivy or fern, and look like something out of an enchanted fairytale.
I’d ridden down Walhalla numerous times, in large groups of riders on a Tuesday Night Ride (TNR). I wasn’t able to do a lot of exploration of what we were racing past, needing to maintain an awareness of where the other bikes were. More experienced (or daredevil) riders whizzed by, with a polite “On your left.”
Glimpses of the winding creek, flashes of sunlight off of large bay windows, and the smirk of a garden gnome would catch my eye. I’d watch for the bright blue of a three-tiered, five-foot structure (a bird house?) because it would remind me to enjoy the last little stretch. We’d be to High Street, and the end of the downward glide soon!
There are rumors of hauntings. . . in those mansions at the top of the hill. But I’ll leave that to the ghost hunters and “Weird Ohio” to figure out (see link below). And perhaps I won’t visit in the dark of night.
Only descending by foot am I able to really take it all in. The first time I walk down through the ravine, I pause at that small blue structure that I’ve passed so many times, perched atop its wooden post. I notice it’s a closed structure, with see-through windows, and a metal plate, where the post meets the little structure.
Can I access it? Glancing to my left, I notice a dirt path, lined with small stones and pieces of wood, guiding me a few feet onto the property. The path splits – to the left it leads past a pile of old wood that looks like it has been used as a fire pit; to the right it leads to my mysterious structure. I notice a carefully landscaped patch of garden on the way, with ornamental shade plants, decorative stepping stones, and concrete figurines.
This path leads me to a Little Free Library, with three shelves for books. The metal plate identifies the structure as an officially registered library, #27819. I open the tall door and explore the meager offerings inside – I know I’ll be back soon, to fill the shelves, with tales of adventure!
I’d never imagined that this was a library. It needs a sign along the road, to encourage walkers and cyclists to stop and take a peek inside, perhaps to alert them when there are new books inside. Small things like this connect the community, build relationships, and encourage return visits to the ravine.
Low cement walls protect vehicles from driving too close to the edge, and into the creek. Chalk messages decorate one of these, directing visitors to: “Put your Phone Down & Enjoy Nature Before Humans Destroy. Sit. Watch. Learn! Be Kind.”
It’s rare for me to descend Walhalla alone; it’s typically a shared adventure.
Just now I realize that I’ve never made the trip in reverse, the “wrong way” along the one-way street, though I’ve admired those who are working hard to make the trek up. I wonder how much longer it takes, in reverse, and what might emerge out of the extra moments of conversation, on the shared journey.
Let’s do it again! Ready for a climb, back up to the start?
Join me on my next adventure,
Walhalla Ravine: https://walhallaravine.org/
Little Free Library: https://littlefreelibrary.org/
Weird Ohio: http://www.weirdus.com/states/ohio/road_less_traveled/walhalla/index.php
a hidden gem