I inherited a cigar box full of old topographic maps from my friend Lee Smith. Lee, born in 1906, was a long-time volunteer at Rocky River Nature Center who loved hiking. Lee wrote notes, hike routes, dates, and mileage all over his maps, and these notations tell stories about him. By looking over Lee’s maps, I have learned that:
Map showing Lee's hiking routes
- Lee liked long hikes! A 1937 hike through the “magnificent scenery” of the “Switzerland of Ohio”, amounted to 30 miles. In Chardon in 1929, Lee covered a total of 95 miles in four days, which he thought should really be “a 3 day walk without sauntering”. No wonder he lived to be 101. He also walked fast, frequently noting his time and speed. On one hike his “net walking time [was] about 12 hours or less, making an average speed of 3.458 miles per hour.”
- Lee took time to meet people. In 1938, Lee talked to a Mr. Wright: “The elder Wright brother, born in 1859, [is] now 79 years old. Both brothers aging much…have old age pensions”. Even older was “Mr. Douglas, age 91 yrs “. What incredible stories these men must have shared with Lee about Ohio in the 1800s!
- Lee liked dogs. He marked the locations of “Brownie, the Parkers’ dog”, “Topsy on Barrett Road in Berea”, and of the dogs that followed him on his “solo hike except with the Blossom dogs”. Not all dogs were friendly, however. His Mentor map notes the location of “Jerry, an unfriendly Irish Setter”.
- Lee was usually adept with map and compass. Occasionally, however, he had what he called a “blunder”. He noted a 1936 hike in the Chardon area which was originally planned as a 34 mile trip: “Blunder in following route…resulted in 7 ½ miles additional.”
- Lee hiked in all kinds of weather. “92 degrees in shade, hot all day” were the conditions for a 30 mile stroll in 1937. The day before Thanksgiving in 1936, Lee hiked an incredible 41 ½ miles in heavy snow: “Walking conditions poor … bad northwest wind. 4 hours sleep preceding night”. I wonder if he slept through his wife’s turkey dinner the next day.
- Lee provided me with a glimpse of Ohio during the Depression years. Near the Ohio River, he passed an area where “the river towns [were] often a crumbly lot of houses and humans. All day, the humans [seemed] mostly to be ‘living lives of quiet desperation’. ’ [There is] poverty in abundance’”.
- Lee could be poetic about Ohio’s landscape: “The river scene at Clarington, with the few clouds touched by the setting sun, and the grand hills made a superb scene, which possibly, was the high spot of a glorious walk…a country glorious, the finest walking trip I’ve yet taken…would like to spend days, weeks among the hills, country, and the river curves.”
May Lee still be taking a glorious walk, the “finest trip he’s taken yet”!
Lee and friends signature fungi
Kathleen Schmidt, Naturalist
Brecksville Nature Center