A decent car ride away from my home is a hiking path that’s well worth the trip. It’s a picnic area named for a misunderstood stone carving, known locally as the slightly pejorative name ‘Squaw Rock,’ contrary to its creator’s intent. One hundred and thirty years ago, a local artist and blacksmith named Henry Church carved the rock face into an image of a woman fleeing a serpent under changing moons; an allegory for the forced removal of Native Americans from their native lands.
But this simple carving pales next to the beauty of the Chagrin River it stands beside. Glaciers carved the river here, leaving it wide but shallow, swirling around sandstone and shale boulders that rise from its surface. These shallow waterfalls inspire a different kind of awe than that of the great Niagara. It’s more gentle and fragile, accompanied only by thought and birdsong. Here, you can stand in the cool water and watch the water caress the rocks eventually into sand without fear of being carried away in the torrent yourself.
But a half-waterlogged can of Budweiser swirling in an eddy among the water weeds reminds me that this place is becoming known. Online articles are spreading stories of its natural pleasures—its greenery, its hidden deer paths and kingfisher sightings. I know what will happen: car engines and radios will split the sound of running water, the greenery will be trampled, and the trails will broaden and erode until they rival the size of the river and its new, oily sheen. Either that, or the river will become barred to us all, fences erected to protect one more last little scrap of nature.