I’ve been adding a lot of pictures to my Photobucket recently, so check out these slide shows to see how walking through each state has been like!
For a long time, Kansas had been the thorn in my side. From what I had been told, Kansas was nothing more than a flat-as-a-pancake, farming no-mans-land, where the high winds blow the smell of manure right up your nose and even driving across makes some people go crazy. I was worried about the monotony, the increasing distances between civilization, and also the complete lack of natural shelter from the elements. I received a warm welcome in Kansas from my own dad, who happened to have a business trip in Kansas City around the same time I would be there. The indoor waterfall and red carpet spiral staircases in the downtown Marriott were a significant change of scenery and I was even asked to leave once or twice because security must have thought I was a bum. One thing’s for sure, I definitely did not don the suit and tie like most of the dudes in this place. That doesn’t mean that we can’t both share some amazing barbecue though! Initially, Kansas surprised me in that it was much more hilly than expected, there are very few trees, the people are much more friendly than some folks in Missouri think they are, the towns got smaller and smaller, and the distance between them got farther and farther. The farther west I walked into Kansas, all these things became increasingly more apparent- getting flatter, trees only growing in dry creek beds, towns that are barely towns at all, filled with the most trusting and down to earth people anywhere, and huge stretches of absolutely nothing but post-rock barbed-wire fences surrounding colossal pastures. I saw antelope and imagined myself running with the Tarahumara people- the true masters of endurance. I learned a lot about how important agriculture is, not only for the well-being of Kansans, but for the well-being of the entire US population. The recent lack of moisture causing the drought in that area over the past few years has made an evident and severe impact on the land. Farming is one of the most demanding jobs out there, yet it’s still a rarity to find a farmer who doesn’t have a second job to pay the bills.
I am now more than halfway across the country, and I intend to enjoy the next half as thoroughly as I can. There is a lot to see in the West, but unless I want to go broke on the road, I’ve got to finish sometime. This means longer days (I can do a 20 mile day no problem now, my longest in Kansas was 25) and a more direct route from here on. I’ve done quite well remapping my route as I go, and now my only guideline is to, as they say, “Go West, Young Man!”. I’m excited for everything I have yet to see, and I know I will enjoy every second of it. Even Kansas, the state I was dreading the most, turned out to be a really enjoyable and beautiful walk. Rockies, here I come!
Thanks to JD and his family from Kansas City for coming up clutch and showing me a great time in KC instead of being stuck in a snowstorm!; to my Dad for having great timing and sweet connections; to my cousin Luke Allinger for catching up with me over lunch in KC; to Janet the Planet from KC for the best show I’ve seen in a long time; to Sue and her family from Lawrence for reminding me how cool it is to be a kid and how hard but rewarding it is to be a mother; to Michael and his bros from KU for lettin me kick it for a day; to Cole from KU for lettin me kick it for a night; HUGE THANKS again to Deb Ratliff for being there at a moment’s notice; to Gerard and the Bryans in St Mary’s for welcoming a 14th kid for a night; to Alex, Matt, Jeff, Dillon, Sam, Nate, and all the homies I met in Manhattan for giving me a taste of the Little Apple; to the Cromers for just happening to drive by and laxin’ with me for a day in Junction City (see you in Reno!); to Chenani, Matthew, Pat, Jeremy, and Amos for helping me kill time at the Ad Astra Coffee Shop in Salina; to Dick from Salina for keeping me well-informed and out of harms way; to Amy and her kids from Brookville for having time to talk, eat, and play a little guitar too; to Doug and his friends from Wilson for showing me the side of Kansas that not many people see; to Alex from Russell for undoubtedly being the chillest kid in town, if not in the state; to Ben and his family from Victoria for understanding how much of a difference a night on a couch can make; to Jared and his bros from FHSU in Hays for showing me a night on the town and for introducing me to Redd’s; to Arthur’s Pizza and Mexican Food in Ellis for defeating me with their pizza challenge; to Chester from Wakeeney for taking me out of the cold and into good company; to Norman and Shelley from Collyer for being great hosts and showing me a bit of what lies ahead; to the Grainfield Methodist Church for letting me sleep inside during an 8° night; to Lee and his family from Monument for hosting me 2 consecutive nights and teaching me some things about life in the plains; to Scott and his family from Sharon Springs for working hard for what you have and having time to help others on the way; and to Jonathan and his family from Weskan for letting join them for a very relaxing Easter and ensuring me a safe crossing into Colorado Springs.
From May 1804 to September 1806, Meriwhether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery into the West on an expedition that would change the course of history. They left in the pursuit of knowledge, and for the sake of documenting the adventure. In some ways, what I am doing is similar; I am embarking on a long journey into unseen lands, exposed to experiences that harden the spirit and open the mind. I am forced to learn as I go just like they were.
For the most part, however, our journeys are drastically different. They often had to fight to survive and possessed little to no knowledge of what was around the corner; their supply of resources was determined almost exclusively by the time of year and the land that surrounded them. Today, the resources are nearly unlimited if you know where to look or who to ask, and with access to the internet I can see what’s ahead of me from 50 feet to 50 miles.
As I walked through Missouri, I was greeted with hospitality and kindness as I have learned is customary in all the states I’ve walked through. This time, however (perhaps because of the cold, the power of networking, or shear dumb luck), I found more hosts for a longer period of time than I have seen so far while walking across the nation. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and Missouri went by in a flash. I went to the top of the St. Louis arch, switched from a backpack to a pushcart, saw a flower-covered Stan “The Man” Musial statue the day after his funeral, got a tour of a former Uranium and TNT processing plant at Weldon Springs, watched a newborn calf being born after a day at the spa, went to a pig roast with a Brady-Bunch-Esque family, toured the capitol building in Jefferson City, had the greatest weekend ever at Mizzou in Columbia, got snowed in near Kansas City during 2 consecutive snowstorms, and stayed at the Marriott in downtown KC.
Now that I’ve crossed under the gateway to the west, there’s no turning back. I am at the halfway point, and I am feeling great. I am reminded daily that I can’t do this without the help of others, and that learning to be self-reliant sometimes means leaning from others. As March approaches, I look forward to warmer weather and the vast expanse of unknown that is THE WEST.
Thanks to Karl and Shirley from Chesterfield for being the most gracious and helpful hosts a dude could ever ask for; to Walter “Stormy” Crawford for an exclusive tour of the World Bird Sanctuary; thanks to Kathy (and Leo the lion) from Augusta for the reminder to live life to the fullest, everyday; to Kim, John and their family and friends from Augusta for a wicked awesome night of fun and music (especially the drum circle); to Marybeth, Ed and the Brady Bunch from Washington for showing a hobo a really good time and understanding the value of thinking outside-the-box; to Simon from Kirkwood for being a lifelong teacher and a great friend; to the BALTIMORE RAVENS FOR COMING UP CLUTCH; to Ryan from Jefferson City for going out of your way to make sure I don’t miss what’s right under my nose; to Deb from Washington for being the greatest surrogate Aunt ever; to Cory from Columbia for kicking my ass on our 20+ mile bike ride and showing me everything Columbia has to offer; to Rachel from Columbia for being my Valentine; to the Police from Sedalia and La Monte for helping me get out of the cold at night; to Al and his family from La Monte for supporting another (albeit slower) cross-country traveler; to Alec and Ryan from UCM in Warrensburg for a solid disc-hucking session and letting me crash on your couch; to Jenny from Holden for giving me much needed shelter when I was sick and tired of being sick and tired; to everyone at Jamie’s restaurant in Holden for making my birthday a great one without even knowing it; to Pete from Kingsville for making my day, making my night, and making the next morning too; to Trina for being an awesome mom and looking out for the son of a worried mother; to Sean from Lee’s Summit for taking me out of the snowy, frozen real world and into the incredibly addicting world of Skyrim; and to Shami from Raytown for a delicious gyro and making a very convincing argument to travel to Pakistan.
Illinois didn’t take long compared to the other states I’ve walked through, yet I saw some of the most amazing things I’ve seen so far while passing through the Shawnee National Forest. Namely, I got to see the Garden of the Gods. I had heard about the epicness of the bluffs and giant sandstone rock structures in the Shawnee National Forest, but it was grander than i could have possibly imagined. Coupled with the breathtaking views, I rarely had to sleep outside while walking in Illinois. This must be the famous Midwestern hospitality I’ve heard so much about. Way back in 1994, I was born in Lombard, Illinois- much farther north from where i was hiking- on the west side of Chicago. My mind wandered through vague old memories on the days there wasn’t much to see. I learned a lot about my favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, as Illinois hosts many historical monuments from Lincoln’s time. I saw the Mississippi River in all of it’s glory. Well, some of it’s glory. The water level is extremely low right now as a result of the low levels of rainfall within the past few years. I couldn’t help but think of floating down the river on a makeshift raft, Tom Sawyer style. I saw the home of Popeye the sailor man in Chester Illinois and even got a free t-shirt from the Popeye shop. Overall, I really enjoyed Illinois for the couple weeks I was there.
Thanks to Heather and Ezra from New Haven for the warm welcome; to Tony Cox from Shawneetown for boosting my connections; to Dave Howard from Shawneetown for living the dream like so few people do; to JoJo at the High Knob Campground for being so helpful and generous and helping fellow travelers; to Jalina and Shawn from Minnesotta for living in the moment and being great company; to Pat and his family from High Knob for letting us be part of your family for a day; to Jimbob from Herod for a solid night of kicking out the jams; to Larry from Eddyville for totally saving my ass and others’ too; to Ben at the Hayes Canyon Campground for being so hospitable when I really needed it; to Mike Scott and Sophie from Simpson for having great taste and being the voice for the people; to Tom from Vienna for helping me get some reflection time; to Dan Yoder for being Amish and proud; to Desi, Mackenzie, Emily, Joe, Ellen, and Will from SIU for showing me how the Salukis do it; to Brad and Anne from Carbondale for some dank camp sandwiches; to Juan and Jay from SIU for keeping it real and chillin face with me; to Ike from Chester for being so nice and having the nicest view in Illinois; to Debbie from Chester for reminding me to always eat my spinach; to Todd, Lisa, and Mark from Evansville for helping those who truly need it; to Will, Tim, and their mom from Red Bud for the chill chillin and the jammy jammin; and to Brenda, Stan, Aaron, and Todd from Waterloo again for letting me join their family for a few days.
Indiana’s state nickname is “The Crossroads of America”. What an appropriate name for such a diverse and interesting state. In my mind, Indiana represents a great transition. I no longer feel close to home, yet i feel so far from California. Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to stay motivated with such generous hospitality pushing me forward. I was surprised by how vigorous some of the terrain in Southern Indiana could be, but walking through the hills of the Ohio River Valley only strengthened my willpower. The greatest challenges were often mental rather than physical: learning to cope with the cold, rerouting on a moments notice, homesickness, etc. There’s nothing like a few hours of walking to clear the mind, though, and I quickly adapted.
I traveled out of Indiana twice before making it to the Illinois state line- once to visit my brother in Chicago for Thanksgiving, and once to go back to Maryland to celebrate Christmas with my friends and family. What an amazing sensation it was to see what “normal” used to be, considering I have learned so much from my newly adopted lifestyle. A friend of mine described the sensation well when I asked what it was like to come home from college after her first semester. She noticed that, above all, she had changed. Our hometown was nearly the same, but we just saw it differently. Have you ever heard that Blink182 song where they say “I guess this is growing up”. Well I think i know where they’re coming from. It was great to see all my friends, and I’ve never had a more relaxing holiday before, but i couldn’t fight the fact that my mind was still on the trail. I’m not done just yet. When i reached the crossroads, I put my options in front of me and chose to keep moving. I’m glad i did.
Thanks to Dotty and her husband for helping me be with family for thanksgiving; to Kristen and Tim for keeping my dad momentarily free of worry; to Tom at Camp Chazon for letting me bunk up in the off-season; to the entire town of Friendship for being (you guessed it) very friendly; to Pete from Hanover for being an understanding traveler; to Monica, Joyce, and Bob from the Gallery on Main in Madison for a pleasant stop to rest my feet; to Grace, Mackenzie, Anna, Bridget, Nikki and everyone at Hanover college for being super chill and helping me with a few new dance moves; to Paul and Chris and their family from Lexington for a brand new experience and a new stove too; to LeRoy at LeRoy’s in Lexington for a scenic calender and a fine sandwich; thanks to Steve from Henryville for a small miracle of sorts; to Michael and Don from the Silver Street UMC in New Albany for making sure I am in a good place; to Nathaniel from Maplewood for sharing stories and killing some time; to Tim from the Pfremmers Chapel UMC in Corydon for just making sure things are OK; to Kendra and Larry from Corydon for being great hosts and wonderful people; to Paul and Michelle from Jesus Cares at Exit 0 for changing the world one small act at a time; to Debra from Sulphur for hot chili and a warm smile; to my boy James Cromer at the Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington for being my number 1 source of musical inspiration and for hooking a brotha up- also to Erich for using music for a purpose, Greg and Morris for reminding me how the world can be both big and small, and Olivia and Annie for a lovely (and very spicy) dinner; to Brother Raven from St Meinrad for being so generous and helpful; to Double D’s in Tennyson for the best friend chicken I’ve ever had; to Mary and Bob from Boonville for not treating me like a king and not like their sons (hahaha!); to John and Kate for being so down to earth and proving that what I am doing is not only possible, but also a crazy amount of fun too; to my one and only Nana for being the best Nana of them all; to the endless list of people i should be thanking from Eldersburg for cheering me on- I wouldn’t be able to do this without your support; and to the food pantry in Mount Vernon for kickstarting me back into my hike.
My next big milestone will be crossing the Mississippi river and going under the St Louis arch- the Gateway to the West. Indiana was just a transition. I’ve got a long way to go, but needless to say I’m in for the long haul
While people cheered and danced, fireworks like cannon blasts, I stopped for a second to soak in the joy of being with true friends. Happy New Year! While the opportunity to be home during the holidays was nothing short of fantastic, in that particular moment my mind was back on the trail. What’s next? Where’s next? What can I do differently this time that may help me be more comfortable and efficient? ? What do i want to accomplish this year? But seriously- what DO I want to do this year?!
As I walk, I have all the time in the world to get lost in my thoughts and daydream. I sometimes think about what the future holds for me and what I would like to do in the meantime. I have been working on a constantly growing list of life goals, dreams, and ambitions for months now and I think it’s about time to start crossing some of these things off my list. Consider these my resolutions for this year, some vague, some concrete. I expect certain goals to be easier than others, but my expectations have been proven wrong before; who knows what will be crossed off first? Here’s my favorites from the list
Some of these goals are entirely dependant on my own willpower and motivation like doing 100 pushups; there is only so much someone could do to help me accomplish that goal. In the end, it is up to me. There are other goals that are impossible without the help of others, like petting a bald eagle. If I am to cross that one off, I will just have to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. In my eyes, this balance helps me maintain confidence, faith in humanity, and the motivation to keep walking. If you can help me cross something off my list, I will stop at nothing to help you cross something off yours.
Also, check out some of my most recent pictures from Indiana. I’m almost to Illinois, so I’ll put another post up soon about my experience in Indiana and the people I need to thank. One of my goals should be to post on the website more often- I know I’ve been slacking on that.
It took me about 40 days, but I finally made it through Ohio! I am constantly astounded by what each day brings, and Ohio brought me a lot of firsts. I got my first American Discovery Trail T-shirt, experienced my first below-freezing day on the trail, got my first food sponsors, cleaned/fixed my guitar for the first time, weighed my full pack for the first time since i left (55 pounds?!), saw my first snow on the trail, saw my first tree fall (it made a sound, probably because I was there), made my first reroute from my original plan, drank my first whole pot of coffee (yuck!), got my first ticket for “illegally camping”, filled my first journal, tried fruitcake for the first time, saw my first band on the road, cleaned dishes to earn my meal for the first time, smoked a hookah for the first time, played chess with a fellow traveler for the first time, rode my first greyhound bus, talked to fellow American Discovery Trail hikers for the first time (on their last day of hiking!), saw my first movie in theaters while on the road (SKYFALL!), and visited my family in Chicago for the first time since i left to celebrate Thanksgiving. Before I set forth on my journey, I toyed around with idea of creating a list of goals to complete while on Dudetrek. Looking at this list, it almost seems unnecessary. I am experiencing many things I otherwise never would have experienced had it not been for being in the right place at the right time. I think I’ll save the goals for my New Year’s resolutions.
With my reroute, I am no longer certain on exactly how many miles I’ve walked so far. However, I know that sometime within the past week i passed the 1,000 mile mark. That number seems unreal to me. When Vanessa Carlton sings that she’d walk that far just to see someone, she makes it seem so impossible. She was clearly just making a point- I can’t imagine her strapping a backpack on her back or going a week without a shower. If she were to do so, however, she might realize how much fun it actually is. While there would definitely be painful moments, she would quickly find out that the journey is more important than the destination. This is what I’ve found at least.
Thanks to Monique from Belpre for reminding me to endure no matter what; to Pete Shew from Shew’s Orchard for the apples and the inspiration; to Tim from Belpre for opening my eyes to a lot; to Randall, Bambi, and the Fairview Holiness Church in Glouster for opening their doors and keeping me in their prayers; to the greatest Nana in the whole world for making memories I’ll always cherish; to Dave from Columbus for keeping it real; to John from the Guitar House Workshop in Columbus for jamming and fixing/cleaning my guitar; to Misty, Wesley, and everyone at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls for totally saving me from being out during Frankenstorm; to Andy, Randy, Cassie, and Keith from Hocking Hills Resort for taking the time to chill out with me when i really needed to; to Granny’s Pizza and Restaurant in Londonderry for making a good week a great week; to Sarah in Chillicothe for extending a helping hand just because; to the 1st Baptist Church in Greenfield for having the most ingenious emergency shelter ever; to Stephanie’s in New Vienna for staying open a little later; to Norma from Blanchester for being enthusiastically kind and having a big heart; to John, Vicky, Ben, Cody, Eric, Courtney, the Lawson Family, Marsha, and EVERYONE at the Plain Folk Cafe in Pleasant Plains for quite possibly the best night and morning I’ve had so far; to Andrew and Scott at the Loveland Running Spot for revamping my excitement for the West coast; to my new best friends Holly and Brenda at the Branch Hill Coffee Company for helping me warm up on a dreary day; to Chill Bill and his bros from Xavier University for changing hookah Thursday to hookah Monday and being on TV with me; to Trent with the crusty Carhartt for stumbling upon me in the middle of the city and for the friendly games of chess; to Con Mon and my newfound friends at Dayton University for the chill chillin and the jammy jammin; to Chanelle, Taylor, and Bizzy for being so down to earth and for your hospitality; and to Ben and Brittany for showing me an awesome night on the town and bringing me to my first Catholic mass in years the next morning (and for the Goetta!).
Now that I’ve hit the plains, it should be smooth sailing for a while!
So I haven’t posted anything since Halloween, and I’m going to make a couple posts to cover the shear insanity that has been November.
When passing through Tar Hollow State Forest, the day after my last post, I decided to change up my route a bit. My original plan had me going South through many state parks and state forests in Southwestern Ohio. With winter swiftly approaching, and the sun setting earlier and earlier, I noticed that my daily mileage had been (and still is) slowly decreasing. I simply can’t walk as far as I could when Dudetrek first began. While this forces me to find creative ways to occupy my non-hiking time, it now takes me longer to get from town to town. This means less access to important resources like food, water, cell service, etc. Up to this point, I had been following nearly every turn of the American Discovery Trail, seeing some of the same sights I’ve heard and read about from former hikers. With a couple hundred miles under my belt, it was time for a bold change.
View Ohio in a larger map
I decided to hike into Chillicothe, where the giant mall on the North side of town provided every resource I could possibly need, and the historic B&O railroad bed would take me straight to Cincinnati. I called the local police station while entering town, and they recommended i sleep in their lobby. Initially, I felt fortunate to have shelter from the rain and the cold; my gratitude would soon become frustration. After I gave a homeless dude a cheeseburger, he decided that he would spend the night in the police station with me. I soon found out that the police station lobby was a common sleeping spot for the local homeless people. I set up on a bench, and 2 other dudes preferred to sleep on the floor. At 4 in the morning the cleaning lady came out to vacuum, pushing the noisy machine inches from our heads to clean as much carpet as possible without actually touching us. The other homeless dudes paid no attention to it, but i couldn’t possibly sleep through this. I was tired and pissed, and started my day at 4:30am. I walked until 6:00pm, when I arrived at the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park and boiled water for my dinner. Before I could even take my first bite, a park ranger showed up and wrote me a warning for “camping illegally” and “being in the park after dark”. At 6pm, the sun had just set, and I was just sitting under a pavilion trying to eat dinner- no tent, no tarp, just my mess kit. It was a terrible way to end a long day. The park ranger recommended that I walk across the street and camp along the bike trail, which is also illegal, but not under his jurisdiction. I had no other option. I was even beginning to catch a cold, so I was nearly passing out from exhaustion. I spent the next 3 days sleeping along the railroad tracks, waking up every 2 hours when a train screamed by. To be frank, it was a really shitty week. However, on November 10th, I entered Pleasant Plains, Ohio, and things completely turned around.
Pleasant Plains has a population of roughly 160 people, and is what most people would call a small town. I stopped at the local market/deli/carryout to get some soup and a bag of BBQ corn chips, and the chick at the counter asked me about my backpack. After learning about my travels, she insisted that i go down the street and talk to Cody at the local cafe. “He’s a traveler too, and they’re into all that 70′s stuff over there. They have hippie buses.” This seemed like exactly what I needed, and I could probably use a coffee too. I walk between the 2 Volkswagen Microbuses that sit out front, and enter the old school building-now coffee shop/restaurant/music venue. I immediately begin conversation with Eric Nassau, a traveling musician that performed here last night. As i drink my coffee, I talk with Eric and his girlfriend Courtney about being open-minded, embracing the good and bad of being on the road, and the bluegrass band that is performing tonight. We even play each other a few songs. Eric gives me a crocheted mushroom/lighter holder as he leaves, and I decide that I will stay to see the bluegrass band (called Lawson Reunion). Hopefully it will pick me up from this gloomy mood I’ve been in. As I wait for the Lawson Reunion to arrive, I talk to John, the owner of the cafe, and a few locals who ask about my guitar. The word is that people travel from all around to experience the fun that goes on here. Before I know it, the traditional family bluegrass band arrives and begins to set up. Below are some videos I took of them. They could seriously shred! It was awesome.
That night, I slept at John’s, where I met his wife Vicky, and chilled with his buddy Ben and Cody the traveler. It was a great change of pace. The next morning, the restaurant was very busy for breakfast, and I helped with dishes to earn some food of my own. Boy did they feed me well! As i finished my 2nd plate, the weekly Sunday open jam session began. The session host played a short set of his own to kick things off, and it was evident that he had a lot of experience. Over the next 2-3 hours, there were about 10 people jamming at any given moment, playing any songs they knew the words to. The session host seemed to know them all, and the upright bass player could follow anything even if he had never played it before. I wish I could have stayed forever, but San Fransisco is calling me. As i left, the entire cafe wished me luck, and even hooked me up with a little cash for the next couple days.
I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am to have met so many kind and friendly people in one unexpected event of epicness. If you are ever remotely near Pleasant Plains, I highly recommend stopping at the Plain folk Cafe. It was a real highlight of my adventure so far.
In a single day, I managed to experience more comfort, fear, thrill, and awe than I have within any given week of Dudetrek, perhaps since I began.
Hurricane Sandy began wreaking havoc on the East Coast sometime on the 29th of October, showing her full force throughout the night and into the 30th. I could hardly believe the stories I heard, and the pictures I saw. I was just in Ocean City, Maryland for “Senior Week“- where Maryland high school Seniors take over the entire city in massive numbers to party nonstop for an entire week at the beach. Now, some of the same places I had just visited we’re under a few feet of water, and slowly being dragged into the Atlantic. Even more recently than that, Dudetrek began at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware. They too, we’re being hammered (not quite like Senior Week) with crazy floods and inevitable property damage. The worst was near NYC, where millions lost power and Obama declared both New York and Massachusetts to be in a state of emergency.
The day I speak of was yesterday, Tuesday, October 30th and it snowed almost all day in the part of Ohio I happened to be passing through. Not even close to the worst part of the storm, but certainly unexpected weather as far as late October goes. In a weird way, I was excited to hike through the snow. It’d my first taste of what winter will feel like on foot, and it gave me a perfect opportunity to test out my new waterproof, thermal pants. After an equally unexpected, yet amazingly comfortable night at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls, I was feeling up for the challenge. First came Cedar Falls.
Lol. They should call it Jonah Falls instead. Believe it or not, there’s more!
Quite a close call, huh? Well it scared the crap out of me, so I made sure to be extra cautious from then on out.
It’s a strange feeling to break-in a clean sheet of snow with some fresh footprints, but I did just that almost all day. I arrived at the Ash Cave Firetower eventually, and still had enough guts to climb to the top.
I had a perfect signal from that height, so I made sure to call my mom. I figured I would fill her in on my previous night, tell her of my near-death experience, and ask how she’s doing. She had just left to go to Las Vegas the day before, and it turns out she was one of the very last flights to leave the airport before they shut everything down for the storm. It was a relief knowing that she was headed for better weather. Not too long after, I made it to Ash Cave.
I stood there for a little while, soaking it all in. Essentially right around the corner from Ash Cave, I saw a sign for a restaurant with a Thanksgiving buffet. While the holiday is another month away, the thought of it sure made me hungry. I climbed a steep hill to get to the Grouse Nest restaurant at Hocking Hills Resort, and it is closed. Bummer. However, when I stop for a few minutes in the main office to rest my feet, I meet Randy, the owner, and priest at the resort’s chapel. He is über chill, and my quick stop soon leads to tea and chili, while talking about life. I also meet Cassie and Andy, who join in on our little break and add to the general conversation. Randy says he couldn’t be happier doing what he’s doing, and i can’t blame him- he’s in a good place surrounded by good people and good food. Andy shows me how to play ‘Stuff That Works’ by Guy Clark, and Cassie wishes me luck before I get back to the trail.
The snow soon turns to rain, and I pick up the pace to stay warm and find a place for the night before dark. I go off a tip from Randy, and stay at the abandoned Macedonia church. The night is cold, but snuggled up in my -20 degree sleeping bag after a day like this, I sleep like a baby.