Hike & Picnic: Gorging on Homemade Sushi at The Gorge

words and photos by M. Sophie Hamad

I’m a bit of a food geek. I read labels. I question ingredients. I get excited about trying new-to-me cuisines. I have practiced different eating habits and researched different diet/lifestyles since my teen years. For my senior project at Sierra Mountain Independent High School, I gave a presentation on macrobiotics, and for the visual aid, I rolled sushi in front of the senior project panel. I got an A. But more importantly, I’ve never forgotten how to roll sushi.

That being said, it’s somewhat time-consuming, and it’s a commitment. You have to make sushi rice ahead of time (which includes rinsing 5-6 times and draining for 30-60 minutes), season it while hot, and let it cool to body temperature before rolling. Meanwhile, you have to prepare all your fillings. Then the rolling itself is tedious, especially if you are out of practice like I am.

It’s worth it, though, because homemade sushi is so delicious. Plus—you can pick your own fillings. Yay! You can get as wild and crazy as you want, or as boring and typical as you need.

I purchased most of the ingredients at Hana Asian Market in Merriman Valley. Not only do they have excellent prices on nori sheets, wasabi, pickled ginger, sushi rice, mirin, and rice vinegar, but they also have fresh produce and sushi grade fish, chopsticks and bamboo sushi-rolling mats.

Homemade sushi rolls
Homemade sushi rolls

It was amazing, and I made a ton of it for dinner one night (a dozen or so rolls), so there were leftovers for a hike the next day. There was a tasty variety in my picnic cooler the next morning: tuna avocado rolls and two different veggie rolls: one was cucumber, carrot, avocado; the other was egg, asparagus, yam, and umeboshi (pickled plum paste). I even packed little containers with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi. I went straight to a picnic tables before the hike, because my sushi willpower is negligible.

There is a group of picnic tables at the Gorge, at the trailhead West of the Cuyahoga (not the Highbridge trailhead), right near the parking lot under the shade of some trees. I set up and demolished the sushi in about 15 minutes. Then I dropped the cooler back off in the car, and started out on a hike.

Pudding Rock
Pudding Rock

I had been to the Gorge, but never far enough down the trails to see Mary Campbell Cave. I had briefly looked at the map online, but didn’t double-check the trail map once I got to the park. Oops. Let this be a reminder: always double-check the trail map!  Instead of starting out on the lower trailhead, which begins with a wheelchair-accessible quarter-mile, I started at the top. It didn’t make much difference, since it is a loop, but I kept expecting to be turning left, when I was supposed to be looking to the right for the turn-offs. Essentially, I did the 1.8-mile hike backwards.

The first mistake was turning up a path with a sign marked “Albemarle Ave.” Don’t do this. It was littered with broken glass, and the steps were broken, and it only leads up to the street. It was kind of terrifying.

So I walked back down the shady trail and got back to the Gorge trail. As I hiked on, I kept looking to the right for the shortcut up to Mary Campbell Cave. Once I got to the cave, without any turns, I realized I’d been travelling the upper section of the trail. Still, I missed the shortcut from this direction, and kept going up the trail, starting down the primitive trail section. Luckily, since I realized my mistake, I turned left down the easy bypass before the most difficult section of the trail. On the return leg of the loop, I got some great views of waterfalls, including the epic falls over the dam. I also got a great workout going down the steps to the lookout point, and then back up to the trail.

The hike was just what I was looking for: challenging with beautiful scenery. I’ll definitely return to hang out at the fishing dock and to catch some more beautiful views of the falls.

Hana Asian Market
Indian Rock Centre Shopping Center
1390 N Portage Path
Akron, OH 44313

M. Sophie Hamad already wants more homemade sushi.

(Featured photo is Mary Campbell Cave)