Ron and Amanda recently visited the Mill Creek MetroParks near Youngstown, Ohio, in order to scout for our upcoming photography workshop in June. We were joined by our friends, Jack and Monnie Ryan, of nearby Niles, Ohio. Monnie shared our weekend adventure on her blog, and has agreed to let us share it here. So, introducing our "guest blogger," Monnie Ryan!
On June 12-14, West Virginia friends Amanda Haddox and Ron Gaskins, operators of Mountaineer Photo Excursions, will be leading a photography workshop at Mill Creek MetroParks. Stops are expected to include the MetroPark Farm and the wetlands on Calla Road, but the primary focus will be on the park itself.
This past weekend, as is their custom in planning one of their workshops, Amanda and Ron visited the park to get the lay of the land (Amanda has been here before, but it’s all new to Ron). Of course, we tagged along, pointing out places that might be of interest to the workshop participants while they took notes (and lots of photos, as did we). We started at the Visitor Center and Fellows Riverside Gardens, paying particular attention to the very photogenic Victorian Gazebo, the rose garden (no roses yet, of course, but they should be in full glory at workshop time) and other scenic areas. The rows and rows of tulips weren’t showing their colors yet, but daffodils and pansies added a touch of color here and there. Amanda and Ron climbed the observation tower to get views of Lake Glacier and the grounds below and I was happy to see the water turned on at a couple of fountains – a sure sign that spring finally is here to stay.
From there, we made quick stops at the Old Log Cabin and Lake Glacier waterfalls before heading on to the Parapet Bridge and the Lily Pond (we got out for a bit at the small waterfall near the Lily Pond, but since we didn’t see any signs of wildlife, we moved on for a quick look-see at Ford Nature Center (I love the old building) and the Axtmann Nature Trail for All People, which is barrier free. We decided to get in one more hot spot before lunch – historic Pioneer Pavilion and Mill Creek Furnace. The pavilion is one of the oldest structures in Youngstown, a sandstone building constructed in 1821 (it can be rented for group activities). Mill Creek Furnace, the remains of which are located behind the pavilion, was the first blast furnace in Youngstown.
Lunch was at Davidson’s in Cornersburg – a relatively short drive from the park. It’s on the suggested list for a lunch stop during the June workshop, too, so since we all were in need of a rest, it provided both delicious food and a test run. Finishing up, we got back in the cars (I rode in Ron’s and Amanda rode with Jack so there’d be no problem with getting lost) to hit the next attraction – the wetlands at Newport Lake, the largest of the three lakes in the park. We followed the walkway to the end of the observation platform. I was dismayed to see that most of the foliage surrounding the walkway has been beaten down – whether by nasty weather or human hands, I don’t know. I do know it sure changes the look of the place, and not necessarily for the better – those tall grasses and weeds really added character to the place, IMHO – but a gorgeous blue sky and big puffy clouds made for a worthwhile stop from a photography standpoint.
Our final stop was at the showpiece of the park – Lanterman’s Mill. Needless to say, we spent quite a bit of time here capturing the historic building from just about every angle. The mill was open, but we didn’t take the time to go inside (summer hours begin May 1). For the record, the mill was built in 1845-46, and it continues to operate today. The stone-ground flours and meal can be purchased in the gift shop. An observation deck overlooks Lanterman’s Falls and extends out over the river a bit.
I love the mill, but I love the covered bridge behind it even more. It’s relatively new – completed in 1989 – and designed to resemble a bridge that was used by farmers who brought their grain to the mill back in the 1800s. The weathered wood is beautiful, and walkways allow visitors to watch the river course its way under the bridge toward the mill. Visiting later in the day this time out was a first for us (virtually all of our photo outings begin in mid-morning), and we were delighted to get some photos with late-afternoon lighting.
Since a little bird told us Ron loves Italian food, we’d made reservations at one of the area’s best – Salvatore’s Italian Grill in Austintown – for dinner. Our friends from Niles, Jerry and Barb, joined us there, and we all had a great time before finally calling it a night. I love eating there, BTW, and I highly recommend the Linguini Fra Diablo – crabmeat and shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce served over linguini. It’s hot enough for most folks on its own, but I (of the cast-iron stomach) always ask for it extra-hot. Delicious warm rolls and squares of fresh-baked pizza are complementary pre-meal temptations.
On Sunday morning, Amanda and Ron made the trip to Calla Road to check out the wetlands and relatively new observation deck as well as the MetroParks Farm near Canfield. As luck would have it, this was the Sunday the park celebrates the annual Baby Animal Shower, so they were able to get photos of some newborn pigs, calves, bunnies and such (and, until we thought about how many munchkins would be there, made us jealous that we declined to go). Since both the Calla Road wetlands and farm are on the workshop itinerary, though, so a stop here was important in getting a better idea of how and when those places will fit into the schedule.
Needless to say, we’ll be tagging along at least for part of the June workshop, and if you’d like to photograph some beautiful scenes and get instruction from the experts, we encourage you to sign up. Trying to list all their accomplishments of Amanda and Ron, both of whom have won awards for their photos dozens of times over, would be impossible. I will note, though, that Amanda is president of the Charleston Camera Club and Ron recently served as artist-in-residence at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. If you’d like more information on the workshop at Mill Creek Park, here’s a link to the Facebook page with more information. This workshop is limited to 12 participants and they all tend to fill up fast, so if you’re interested, get your reservations in ASAP!