The canawlers who plied the Ohio and Erie Canal in the early 19th century enjoyed their beer, especially when they got to the summit at Akron. There, boats passing through the extensive series of locks connecting the Ohio River and Lake Erie watersheds would back up traffic for hours, kind of like the interchange at interstates 70 and 71 during a light snow.
While waiting, the operators, or "canawlers" as they were commonly called, would leave the boys who drove the canal-boat horses and mules in charge of the boats and visit a tavern or two, which probably did nothing to help move traffic along. The canal boats are long gone, but the thirst for beer — hail King Gambrinus! — lives on along the old canal.
As in many places, craft brewing has boomed in the greater Akron area. Last year, the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau launched the Summit Brew Path, showcasing 14 of the region’s craft brewers and brewpubs.
Thousands of visitors received free "passports," and more than 2,600 had them stamped at all of the participating breweries — I hope not all in one day. Visitors who finished the trail received a commemorative T-shirt. But best of all, they got to taste a lot of great beer in an interesting and historic part of Ohio.
The Summit Brew Path program will be repeated in 2018. Details about participating breweries and other information will be available in March. For the latest information, visit summitbrewpath.com.
Before or after enjoying a brew, visitors can also explore parts of the old canal and towpath, preserved within the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area. To learn about the parks, historic sites and hiking trails that still tell the canal and canawler story, visit ohioanderiecanalway.com.
Hocking Hills hygge
Denmark is dark and cold in the winter. Perhaps that’s why the Danes need a special word, hygge, that roughly translates into "snuggling up for a peaceful, cozy day by the fire — hot chocolate and affectionate friend or pet optional."
Hygge is as difficult to pronounce as it is to precisely define, but sounds something like "HWOO-guh." And there are plenty of places to find it, even if Copenhagen isn’t on your travel itinerary.
Ohio’s Hocking Hills region is currently promoting itself as the perfect destination for a bit of hygge. The area, admittedly, doesn’t offer much in the way of Danish heritage, but it’s an ideal spot for spending a snowy winter weekend cozied up with your best snuggle-pal.
Visitors to Hocking Hills can find dozens of inns, cabins, cottages and lodges with hygge-centric amenities such as fireplaces and hot tubs and no distracting hygge-harshing city lights, traffic noises or even, in some cases, cellphone signals. Plus, when you’ve had enough of the hygge, already, you’ll find plenty of parks, hiking trails, restaurants and other attractions to fill the less-cozy time.
For information about Ohio’s Hocking Hills Region call 1-800-462-5464 or visit www.explorehockinghills.com.
And you know what I just remembered? Those young boys who drove the canal-boat horses? They were called "hoggees." So when they bedded down next to their charges on a cold night? Yep. Hoggee-horsy hygge.
Er, I'll just let myself out.
— Steve Stephens can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SteveStephens.