Finally. A Hike

Ohio has endured a long, dark, cold, windy and overall nasty winter. There’s been almost no snow to pretty things up but we do have a nice coating of mud on everything in sight.

It has been bleak.

And the few rays of sunshine seem to never fall on weekends so this has not been a good outdoors season.

So imagine the thrill yesterday when it wasn’t raining and I had free time to hike! It was a cold morning – about 28 degrees – so I layered up like Randy on A Christmas Story and logged about six miles.

There were few others out in the state park that early so I had the place mostly to myself. Well, it was me and the deer!

This place is typically overrun with tourists which makes it even more special when you realize you have the whole place to yourself.

Take thirteen seconds and just breathe. Enjoy the gushing water and the beauty of Ohio’s Hocking Hills.

Happy Sunday!

Notes From the Field

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Most of my hiking trips are squeezed in between work and chores at home – usually no more than two or three miles in an evening. It’s usually enough to get some exercise and to make me want more time. Saturday morning’s goal was to get out for a longer hike in the Hocking Hills.

Evidently, that was everyone else’s goal too. Fall is a busy time at our local parks. It’s more or less the Smokys of the north so there were a lot of people, even in sections of the trail that normally are sparsely populated.

Here are a few notes from the field.

  • It’s funny how people behave differently in groups than they do alone. There were a number of groups – anywhere from three to fifty people – clumped together, talking and seemingly paying no mind to their surroundings. I was sad for them because there’s so much beauty to be enjoyed and not just visually. If you’re quiet, you can hear an orchestra of birds, the chatter of squirrels and leaves crunching underfoot. If you take a moment to breath deeply, you’ll notice how the turning leaves almost flavor the air and that sharp intake of a cool fall morning will give new life if you let it.
  • On the other hand, I’ve been seeing an uptick in people hiking alone. I’ve always seen men going it alone but there was a huge number of ladies out solo yesterday. A few had dogs but most were just alone and it made my heart happy to think that I’m not alone in my belief that you can’t wait for a partner to go out and live your life!
  • There was an unusual number of dogs off leash yesterday. You may love your pet but it’s alarming to see someone’s Great Dane barreling down the trail when you’re timid or afraid of strange dogs.
  • More people than normal appeared to be lost. I gave directions to several groups that had launched out without maps or any clue where they were going. If you know the area, offer to help. Most people are thrilled to have a little guidance.
  • Along those same lines, if you see someone taking a selfie, you may offer to take their picture. I noticed a woman struggling to get a selfie with her dog and thought she would cry when I offered to take their picture. She said they have few pictures together because they’re always alone. If you’re on vacation, you typically want some pictures of yourself in context or your entire group together. It takes just a minute to give this gift to a stranger.
  • The best thing I saw all day was a man helping a female companion along the trail. I thought that he was just being sweet until I got closer and realized that she was blind. Ironically, it made me think of those groups of people who seemed to be oblivious to their surroundings and I realized that this woman with visual impairment probably would absorb as much or more of her surroundings than those people did. It also made me happy to think that she’s not allowing anything to hold her back.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Hike

I am fortunate to live close to several Ohio State Parks but have struggled to get outside this winter. Rain, cold, early darkness, my busy life and occasional laziness have largely kept me inside.

This week I’ve been dying to breathe some fresh air and stretch my legs. There’s nothing like a hike to clear the mind and help reframe troubles into something better.

So I headed out to Old Mans Cave in the famed Hocking Hills yesterday. There were flurries in the air and it wasn’t quite thirty degrees but proper layers kept me warm enough. Unfortunately, the entire park was basically a sheet of ice. There’s no preparing for that.

I hiked about 2.25 miles and didn’t fall despite the fact I was wishing for ice skates most of the way.

It was a short hike but quite challenging and indescribably beautiful. I’m glad I went and was equally glad to get out safely.

People often say they don’t like winter hiking because of the cold and I’ll never understand that. Despite the cold and ice, yesterday’s hike was far more pleasant than the hot, humid ones of summer in Ohio.

If you’ve never done it, my advice is to layer up and plan to reward yourself with some pancakes afterward like I did!