June 11: The time has come to put on my big boy pants and hit the wilderness. I had taken a scare at Burr Oak and left the not exactly well-tended Buckeye Trail for a few days. Alas, walking on highways is just a slow motion version of driving them. Sure you make some miles, but what do you actually see? For days I had heard from Ohioans that Hocking Hills was a special place not to be missed.
My first glimpses of the park's periphery are making me a believer. There is a primeval feel about the place. A variety of evergreens grow high and thick in the dark forest like that tall, mysterious, and handsome man you've always wanted to meet. The real draw, however, are the rock outcrops and overhangs that dot the park. There are caves here said to have been inhabited many thousands of years BDC (before Dick Clark), adding to the aura of a land that like Mr. Clark has seen many ages come and go while remaining unperturbed.
I managed to meet a group of people as engaging as the scenery. Traipsing thru Wildcat Hollow in the early afternoon I ran into a spot of ground dotted with tents and caravans. There were no obvious signs indicating a campsite so I tentatively wandered in to investigate.
I was greeted by Michael and Sabina Koehler, who quickly made me feel welcome, filling my water and explaining that this was a private site their friends and family (of which they have many) had rented for the weekend. We chatted awhile and they invited me to stay the night. I'm trying to slow down so I don't overshoot a rendezvous with my family and they mentioned something about beer, so I was glad to accept.
We spent the afternoon in the solitude of the cave at the back of the grounds, getting to know one another as a small waterfall dripped playfully over the rocks behind us. Occasional sips of Red Stripe and Great Lakes Lager, my first Ohio brew, added a buzz to the proceedings. Great Lakes Burning River IPA, which celebrates one of the great moments in Cleveland's history, is a must try for the future. Michael and Sabina's terrier Griffin provided entertainment, brutally attacking dogs twice his size and paying the price on every occasion.
In the evening we sat around the fire and told traveling tales. I heard the story of a cross country bus ride full of thieves, prostitutes, and lunatics that made the dangers of my trek pale in comparison. Making matters worse, their journey ended in Detroit. Talk about going from the frying pan...
For dinner Michael's brother John grilled some mouth-watering barbecue chicken. As the guest of honor I got the second best piece.
I could write much more about Koehler and friends but I shan't bore you with details. Just know that I met a battalion of intelligent, giving people with interesting personalities who possess tremendous group chemistry. I reckon I'm pretty glad I decided to head for them there hills.
11 miles/631 total miles