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.