I've been meaning to post all week about my overnighter at Tar Hollow, but the press of work has prevented me from doing so.
Sometimes I feel like a don't belong on BPL at all. Most of my frequent hikes are weekenders. My job and family commitments keep me out of the mountains and away from long-term walks.
But I try to get out at least a couple of weekends a month, and Ohio is loaded with state and national forest backpacking trails that afford plenty of opportunities for people like me.
One such place is Tar Hollow State Park/ Forest, a figure-8 with a firetower and backpacking campsite at the cross of the "eight," about 19 miles all tolled.
It was an odd trip for a couple of reasons, one good, one bad.
The bad was the trail itself. There were a lot of downed trees, especially on the southern loop. Most of them were old and familiar, and they had developed work-arounds over the years. A few still had fresh leaves on the trees, and they involved a bit of belly crawling. So be it -- kind of fun actually.
However, the southern loop has some recent logging that quite literally left fresh logs around the trail. (State Forest means logging, sadly.) The second to last mile of the loop was particularly bad. About half a mile of trail is now a very wide logging road -- so recent that it was being bulldozed/ "smoothed out" as I walked it. The mud was ankle deep, the road was two lanes wide, and I had to stand aside for a couple of minutes while a bulldozer backed its way toward me smoothing the road! Yes, the logging was that contemporary to my walk.
The issue with the north loop is more chronic. It takes you into the midst of car campers on several occasions. They seemed noisier than usual, but I was perhaps still PO'ed about having to share the southern trail with a bulldozer.
I had already set up camp early Saturday morning before I walked both loops. When I got to the "backpacking camp" at the firetower Sat. morning, only two campsites were still available. I set up the tent, and decided to carry everything else with me on the hike.
The camps, as it turned out, were populated by boy scouts (two packs) who were remarkably quiet and well mannered. In fact, one of them came over and invited me to attend a ceremony that I found surprisingly moving: a flag retirement.
Don't get me wrong, folks. I love my country, the land and its people, with great fervor. The flag, however, is but a symbol of the nation, a piece of cloth that represents our national patriotism, but only represents it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, not the presentation.
However, the simple sincerity of the ritual of flag burning, the cutting of the stripes, the recitation of the meaning of the flag's parts, the fact that each scout dropped a single stripe of the flag onto the fire, was moving beyond description. The flag was still a piece of cloth, but those kids invested the moment with meaning that is impossible for me to describe or explain.
My non-hiking friends often kid me about my obsession, and the truth is, I probably go out more often than I should.
But here's another truth. I've had my share of painful experiences, but I go out because something wonderful always happens. The fact that it's unpredictable is part of the joy. Learn not to expect something wonderful and to free your mind of expectations, and the wonder will come rushing at you.
That's it. Go hiking.