Fiction: The Day Columbus Crumbled

By Joegrimes at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The day Columbus crumbled Mark had just picked up his daughter and was heading to Quinn’s house. The plan had been for the two families to go apple-picking together, but the universe had other plans.

Traffic on the way there was unbearable; nearly stop-and-go the entire way. Constant sirens blared in the distance and at some points people even got out of their cars and milled around while they waited.

After what seemed like ages, traffic started crawling forward again. Mark muttered, “Finally” under his breath.

As he approached the exit ramp, he could see the source of the traffic jam. More police vehicles than he had ever seen in his life were off to the side of the road. Their red and blue flashing lights glinting off the white concrete of the bridges and retaining walls near the ramp.

“Oooh Police!” his daughter squealed with excitement in the back seat. She had been getting quite impatient in the stopped traffic.

Mark directed his little Honda Civic across the lanes to get to the exit ramp. It was clogged with other vehicles trying to flee the traffic jam and then not knowing where the exit actually went. He looked over at the car next to him on the ramp. The driver wore the unmistakable look of confusion. Mark could tell that she was definitely lost. Her eyes darted this way and that as she craned her neck trying to read some of the nearby exit signs.

He laughed to himself and said, “Almost there, sweetie” to his daughter.

Most of the traffic from the highway was going straight or turning right. The road cleared up when Mark instead turned left into the nearby housing development. He quickly drove the last couple miles to Quinn’s house and parked his car on the road out front.

Quinn’s garage door was open as were both of the liftgates on his vehicles. Mark could see suitcases, boxes, bags, coolers, and other miscellaneous items crammed inside them.

He walked around the car and unbuckled his daughter from her booster seat. She held his hand as they walked up the steep driveway together.

Mark stopped suddenly.

He thought he had heard something.

Up the street it sounded like someone in one of the houses had screamed.

He tilted his head and listened.

“What’s wrong, daddy?”

There it was again; definitely a scream. Followed by the sound of glass breaking. The sound had come from further up the street toward the end of the cul-de-sac.

Mark hurried up the driveway into the garage. The door to the house was open a crack and Mark could see commotion inside. He clutched his daughter’s hand and reached with his other hand into his pocket to grab his phone.

Quinn came rushing out of the garage door carrying two large suitcases.

“Mark! I’m glad you are safe!”

“Quinn,” Mark said, “I think something is going on up the street. I heard someone screaming.”

“Really? Where? Did you see anything?’

“No, it came from up the road that way” Mark turned and pointed up the hill

“Ugh.” Quinn let out a frustrated sigh. “We really need to get going. We have to get out of here. There is some bad stuff going down in Columbus.”

“Don’t you think we should go check it out though? Maybe call the cops?”

“Get Renee inside. Audrey can watch her while we go see what’s going on.”

Mark scooted past Quinn in the tight space in between the van and the garage wall. Quinn went around to the back of the van and started loading the suitcases inside.

Audrey was in the kitchen with her head in the fridge frantically pulling things out and putting them in a cooler beside her.

“Hey, Audrey, can you watch Renee for a second? Quinn and I need to run up the street real quick.”

Audrey stopped loading the cooler and looked over. “Oh, hey. I didn’t even notice you come in. Yea, sure. I’ll keep an eye on her. Did Quinn tell you we are leaving?”

“Thanks, he mentioned something about it.” He turned to his daughter, “You wait here. I’ll be right back.”

“When are we going to pick apples, daddy?” She whined impatiently.

“Soon, sweetie.” He stepped back out into the garage. Quinn was waiting for him at the bottom of the driveway.

They started walking up the hill together.

“So where did you hear it from?” Quinn asked.

“I am not 100% sure. The first time was pretty quiet. Like in a house. The second time was louder and I thought I heard glass breaking.”

The street was eerily quiet now, but they could hear distant sirens out on the nearby highway.

They were almost at the end of the cul-de-sac when Quinn pointed

“What’s that?”

In front of the house to their left, glass lay over the flowers and bushes in the flowerbed maybe fifty yards away.

The large front window was shattered. As they continued to walk, closer they could see what looked like blood on the sharp points of glass still in the window frame.

“Holy crap” Quinn said involuntarily.

“Hello? Is everyone okay?” he called.

There was no answer. They were at the foot of the walkway now. Five yards from the front door with a clear view into the house through the broken window. It was mostly dark inside and hard to see in with the bright sun shining outside.

The blue curtains slowly swayed in the breeze, but there was no other movement within.

“Hello?” Quinn called again.

Still no answer.

Mark, still holding his phone, unlocked it and dialed 911.

“You gotta be kidding me,” he said as he pulled the phone away from his ear. “I got a busy signal!”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Quinn muttered.

“There’s something going on in Columbus, Mark. We are leaving. We’re heading to my dad’s farm. You should come with us.”

“What do you mean? For how long? I don’t have any of my stuff.”

“Shh” Quinn shushed him

“Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Mark asked puzzled.

“Listen” Quinn pointed to the door

They listened in silence for a moment

Then they heard it; a crunching sound. Someone walking on glass; crushing it against a hard floor.

A shadow moved in the back of the room.

“Is everything okay?” Mark called timidly. “I heard someone scream earlier.”

The shadow stopped. Quinn and Mark held their breath. Still no one answered.

Then the shadow started moving toward them.

A loud thud from above startled them.

They both looked up to see a second story window thrown open.

“RUN!!!!!” a woman’s voice screamed from inside.

Ironman 70.3 Ohio

After completing my first Ironman 70.3

After completing my first Ironman 70.3

Well I did it. I mentioned in my previous post that it had always been a dream of mine to compete in a triathlon. I completed my first Sprint distance triathlon last September and wanted more. I was out of shape and rocking a dad-bod. This challenge was twofold. It would help me get in shape and it would help me accomplish some of my life goals. That was what I thought initially, but it ended up being so much more.

The four most common distances in Triathlons are:

Sprint: Swim .47 miles, Bike 12 miles, Run 3.1 miles
Olympic: Swim .93 miles, Bike 25 miles, Run 6.2 miles
(Ironman)70.3: Swim 1.2 miles, Bike 56 miles, Run 13.1 miles
(Ironman)140.6: Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles, Run 26.2 miles

As I mentioned earlier, I did a Sprint distance race last September. I had just bought my bike earlier in the year and I thought that race was rough! I signed up for an Olympic distance race at the end of June this year, but unfortunately, the swim portion of the race was canceled due to flooding. I still competed in the duathlon, but felt like it wasn’t a full race.

I had signed up for the Ironman 70.3 Ohio back in December of 2016. At that point I had only one Sprint under my belt and I thought my sanity had lapsed. One of the things that this experience has taught me was discipline. I’ve never been a particularly disciplined person. My friends know that I am more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” type. I was so nervous about my race, that all of that changed. I started planning each and every week around my training schedule. I said no to plans on Saturday mornings that would interfere with my long workouts. I left events early so that I could get to bed on time. This experience really changed me in ways beyond fitness.

Ironman 70.3 Timing Chip

Ironman 70.3 Timing Chip

When July 30th, 2017 (Race Day) finally came. I had an odd sense of calm. I woke up before my alarm went off at 4am and started getting ready. Coffee was already waiting for me downstairs and I ate a nice breakfast before heading to the race start. We had to be out of T1 (Transition 1, swim to bike) by 6:45am, but my wave didn’t start until 8:12am. So I had a lot of time to kill. I hit the porta-potties multiple times and made friends with some of the more veteran triathletes.

As my wave time neared, I put on my wetsuit and got ready. (I was very happy they announced at 5am that the race would be wetsuit legal by .2 degrees!) I assumed that I would be part of the slow group. So I lined up in the very back. This was my first mistake of the race. Swimming in a huge group is difficult enough, but trying to maneuver around people and pass them is even more difficult. After the first turn, the swim headed directly into the sun. This made it almost impossible to see the buoys. So my swim was all over the place and added a couple hundred extra yards to my 1.2 mile swim.

When I ran up the beach into T1, it was already mostly empty due to how late my wave was. I hopped on my bike and took off for the 56 mile bike ride. The weather felt great and I had remembered to actually kick my legs during the swim. So they were warmed up for the bike. This was my first experience with biking aid stations. Trying to grab a water bottle from someone while you are going 15 mph on a bike can be pretty difficult. Luckily, I didn’t wreck! I started to feel a little fatigue in my legs around mile 46, but pushed on. At mile 50 while going down a big hill, my chain popped off. I had to pull off to the side and put it back on. I quickly finished the last 6 miles and headed into T2.

As I sat down to put my shoes on at T2, I was already tired and I could feel the mid-day sun blasting down on me. It had gotten hot and the temperature was almost 90. The run was brutal with very little shade and I hit a wall at mile 2. I had to run-walk the rest of the half marathon and was disappointed in myself. The run seemed to drag on forever at my slow pace, but the other athletes were so encouraging. Everyone I saw was also doing a run-walk due to the heat. When I finally was on the last mile heading back to the stadium, I got a second wind. I knew my family was waiting to cheer me on and when I finally saw them my heart soared. I sprinted around the stadium track to finish.

A wave of relief washed over me. I almost felt like crying. I had trained so hard for this and I did it. I completed it. Unfortunately, I missed my goal time by 9 minutes due to my very slow run split, but I finished. It just means that I will have to come back next year and do even better!

I always used to believe that people that competed in these endurance races were crazy and superhuman. I didn’t think that I would ever be doing one, but now I have. It just proves the old mantra that you really can do whatever you set your mind to. You just have to have the self-discipline. So get out there. Set a goal. Then crush it!

Ironman 70.3 Ohio Finisher Medal

Ironman 70.3 Ohio Finisher Medal

Featured Adventure: Symmes Creek/Morgan Sisters’ Backpacking Trail

Lake on Symmes Creek

Lake on Symmes Creek

The Trail

Symmes Creek & Morgan Sisters is actually a combination of two different trails with four separate loops that interconnect. It is located in Southern Ohio near the town of Rio Grande. Because of the different loops, there are multiple options for distance as well as trail heads. To do all of the trail is just over 14 miles.

Official Trail Map

Official Trail Map

Getting There

Kevin and I have both been battling nagging knee injuries. So we decided to make this trip just an overnighter. It was late October 2016 and we were prepared for cold weather. The trail provided multiple options for distance should either of us find ourselves in too much pain to continue. We met early Saturday morning at Kevin’s house and drove the hour and a half down to the trail head. The trail head is off of a non-descript gravel road in the middle of nowhere. We were the only vehicle there, but there was evidence that locals use the trail head parking lot often as a bonfire/drinking spot. There were also ATV/4-Wheeler tracks setting out in all different directions from the trail head even though they are illegal in this area of Wayne National Forest.

Rock Formations on the Trail

Rock Formations on the Trail

Day 1 on the Trail

We grabbed our gear and quickly set out on the trail. We noticed very quickly that this would be a challenging trail. The trail immediately started with a steep climb up a hill with the trail badly washed out and rutted from the illegal 4-wheeling. This was my third attempt to complete this trail. Twice before I had taken friends that were new to backpacking on this trail and had been rained out. So I had only completed the first loop. I was hoping this adventure would be different. Despite the poor trail conditions, Kevin and I made good time. We reached some caves by lunch time and decided to take  a break. I was starting to develop some blisters (I’ve been away from hiking too long!) and we were both hungry.

Our pre-lunch hike

Our pre-lunch hike

After a quick bite and me putting on two pairs of socks, we set off again. We quickly made it to the connector trail that led from Symmes Creek trail to the School House loop. This was officially new trail for me. Despite it being  late fall (and us having packed for cold) we found ourselves sweating in 77 degree weather.

Our second half of the hike for the first day

Our second half of the hike for the first day

The second half of the hike had even more elevation change and was very difficult. The autumn leaves covered the ground and the seldom used hiking path was very difficult to see. We lost the trail multiple times and found ourselves trailblazing through thorns. Furthermore, the crisscrossing ATV paths often made us question our bearings and more than once we accidentally followed an incorrect offshoot. We followed the North section of the School House Loop to the North section of the Ridge Loop and finally to the Coal Branch Loop. We stopped to admire a beautiful lake as a family was setting up tents along the shore.

Symmes Creek Lake

Symmes Creek Lake

It was clear that few people used the Coal Branch Loop trail and we soon found out why. It started with a steep 500+ foot climb with no switchbacks. After completing this loop we were exhausted (especially after climbing back to the top of the South section of the Ridge Loop). So we found a nice flat spot on top of the ridge with massive ravines on either side of us. We cleared the sticks and leaves away and setup camp. While clearing the site Kevin found a large machete buried in the leaves (luckily he noticed it before his foot found it). We quickly set about coming up with creepy stories about how the machete came to be there. That night we had a lovely fire and enjoyed the unusually warm night as we stayed up talking.

Rock Formations on the Trail

Rock Formations on the Trail

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast in camp. Although, we did use the little water we had left to make coffee. We underestimated the amount of water that we would need due to the warm weather (lots of sweating). Luckily, we eventually crossed Symmes Creek again and were able to filter and refill some of our water bottles. Throughout the morning, we continually lost the trail. It was covered in leaves and we could not find regular blazes. The main trail was crisscrossed with ATV trails, hunting trails, and logging roads. When we found ourselves a mile down an ATV trail and clearly no longer on the main path, we were both nursing painful knees and unwilling to hike all the way back to try to find the trail. Instead, we followed the ATV path out to Symmes Creek road and just walked the road back to the trail head. The trail was challenging and beautiful. Had it been blazed better it would not have been as difficult to follow. We lost too much time trying to figure out where the trail was supposed to go and following offshoots. I would not recommend this trail to beginners, but for experienced hikers willing to do some navigation, it is beautiful.

Kevin looking beautiful

Kevin looking beautiful

 

More information on the trail:

http://www.backpackohio.com/trails/symmes-creek-morgan-sisters-trails/

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/wayne/recarea/?recid=6237

http://www.neohbackpackingclub.com/mapLib/Morgan.pdf

Triathlon

It’s been my dream since I was a kid to compete in a triathlon. Swimming was my favorite event to watch in the Olympics, I always enjoyed biking, and I’ve always admired distance runners (although I typically hated doing it myself). Putting all three of those events together seemed like quite a feat. Previously, the main thing that had held me back was my lack of a good bicycle. In my previous post, I mentioned that a friend of mine found me a great used bike that I purchased and used to train for/ride in Pelotonia. After I proved to myself that I could train for a bike race farther than I had ever ridden before, I decided that it was time to sign up for my first triathlon. Triathlons come in many different styles and lengths. For my first one, I decided to start out easy with a Sprint distance Triathlon. This race was was a 1/4 mile swim, a 12.4 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run and the competition was to be held in Hocking Hills, Ohio.

I was number 4

I was number 4 (with sexy tan lines)

The race was set to kick off at 9am. So I got up at 5:50am to eat a big breakfast and let it settle before the race. I also wanted to get there early to setup my transition area and survey the course. When I arrived about 8am, there were already quite a few people there. I went to registration to sign in, get my shirt, and get inked with my race number. My only goal was to finish the race, but even so, I started to feel some nerves set in.

They called everyone together for some announcements and rules, then lined us up on the beach. A timer counted down and we were off for the swim!

Triathlon Swim

I promise that isn’t me in the red

Even though the swim was “only” 400M, I was exhausted and winded. I’ve never swam with that many people before. It made the water choppy, people were accidentally grabbing/kicking me, and I really had to focus on where I was going.

Triathlon Transition 1

I got out of the water towards the front of the pack (to my surprise) and headed into Transition 1. When I practiced transitions at home, I never practiced running through sand and dirt before getting to my transition area. My feet were filthy and I hadn’t accounted for that. I wiped them down as best as I could and jammed them into my bike shoes. As I stood up to grab my bike I heard a *CRUNCH* and realized I had just stepped on my sunglasses… (Note to self: don’t put sunglasses on the transition mat next time.) I jammed the broken lens back into the frame and hoped it would hold as I jumped on my bike.

Triathlon Bike

I was so winded from the swim that I immediately started questioning what I was doing in this triathlon for the first couple miles on the bike. Finally, I settled into my cadence and started feeling pretty good; that is until the half way point… The turnaround for the bike was at the top of a 300ft + climb at the steepest incline I had ever attacked on my bike. My heart rate was spiking at almost 180, I couldn’t breathe, and I felt like I couldn’t even get my bike to budge while standing on my pedals in my highest gear.  My speed slowed to a crawl, but it must have been just as difficult for everyone behind me because I did not get passed. When I finally reached the top and turned around, I hit over 40 MPH on my way down the hill and slowly started to get my breathing back to normal. I pushed it back to the transition area and changed into my running shoes.

Triathlon Run

I kept a pretty good pace throughout the 5K despite feeling exhausted. As I was heading out on the run, I started counting the people coming back to try to get an idea of what place I was in (secretly hoping for top 10). Alas, top 10 was not to be, but as I saw the finish line, I eagerly sprinted in to see my place and time.

Triathlon Finisher

I finished in 13th place (out of about 60 people) with a time of 1:18:24. It was an amazing experience and I felt such pride as the realization of what I had just accomplished hit me.

Now I’m looking ahead to 2017. If all goes as planned, I’d like to do another Sprint Triathlon, then move up to an Olympic distance Triathlon, and finally compete in a 70.3 Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). Let’s see if I can do it!

What have you always dreamed of but have been too afraid to try/didn’t have time/insert other excuse here? Tell me in the comments and then get out there and attack it!

I’m Back with New Adventures! Pelotonia

It’s been quite some time since my last post and I’m excited to get back into the swing of things. In Ohio there is a huge charity event every year called Pelotonia. It is to raise money for The James Cancer Center. 100% of all proceeds raised go directly to cancer research. The event itself is a bike race with distances ranging from 25 to 180 miles. Riders commit to raising money based on the distance they are going to ride. I’ve wanted to participate for years, but I didn’t have a bike and I was intimidated by the amount of fundraising required. This year I decided to take the leap.

A friend of mine sent me an advertisement for a used bike at a local shop. It was in great condition and the price tag didn’t make me choke. So I bought it. I started training in June and signed up to do the 50 mile ride for Pelotonia on August 6th (I hadn’t really ridden a bike since college).

Because I was so nervous about riding 50 miles, I trained multiple times a week with a long ride every Saturday. One Saturday I rode 52 miles. At about 43 miles, I pulled my bike over to the side of the trail and just laid down. I thought I was going to die. Thankfully, race day was not that bad. There were stops every 12 miles serviced by awesome volunteers who provided drinks and snacks. Plus, due to the amount of riders, the pace was much slower than what I was used to. It was a great event that I was so happy to be a part of!

Fund raising is still open and you can donate to my ride until October 7th at www.Pelotonia.org/Alexander.

I’ve enjoyed riding so much that I’m going to continue training and I hope to do a Sprint distance Triathlon this fall! Maybe next year at Pelotonia I will do 100 miles!

Pelotonia Opening Ceremony Selfie

Pelotonia Opening Ceremony the night before the race.

Getting ready to set out. Over 7,700 riders participated in Pelotonia

Getting ready to set out. Over 7,700 riders participated in Pelotonia

 

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The Monetary Costs of a Thru-Hike

As someone hoping to do a Thru-Hike someday, I found this fascinating. I have much of the gear. So hopefully the costs would be even less.

Jill and RT PCT

I’m a little bit of a numbers geek, so naturally I wanted to know how much money Rt and I spent on our thru-hike. We asked previous year’s hikers on Facebook how much they had spent on their trips while researching for our own. The general consensus was about $5000 per person for six months of hiking. That number can vary wildly with factors such as how much gear you already own, how many off trail expenses you are paying, and how much you are willing to spend in towns. Five thousand was the most common number thrown around for a comfortable hike. I figured I would put together a blog post just in case any readers or future hikers wanted exact monetary figures for a five month hike. I went through Rt’s and my bank account and added up every dollar we spent from April 11th to September 20th…

View original post 496 more words

Hiatus

Hello All,

I have been absent for a bit. My wife and I recently welcomed a new baby into the world. I will be taking a short hiatus from my writing and adventures to focus on a different kind of adventure with my family. Be sure to subscribe to receive updates in the future as the adventures continue!

Reader Submission: How do I choose a rain jacket?

I received an email from a reader asking for advice on how to stay dry on her upcoming trip. When shopping for rain gear, the options and price ranges can be overwhelming. I’ll publish my reply in hopes that it can help others in their rain gear search.

Alex Wet Thumbs Up

Hi Jill,

Thanks for reaching out! I’d be happy to help. I have plenty of experience getting soaked by torrential downpours. There are two primary types of rain jackets, coatings and laminates. The type you choose will depend on a couple factors. First, how much rain are you expecting? If you are expecting quick showers that don’t last more than an hour, coated jackets are much cheaper, lighter, and are usually more breathable. If you are expecting lots of rain for indefinite periods of time, coatings can become saturated and lose their ability to repel water. For these situations you will want a laminate (think Gore-Tex) rain jacket.

My go-to jacket for backpacking is a Helly Hansen DWR-coated jacket similar to the one in the first link below. It’s very durable and (usually) keeps me very dry. On a recent backpacking trip, when we experienced unending rain for hours, it completely soaked through (you can read more about that here: Wet Backpacking Trip). The next step up from that is a Gore-Tex lined North Face jacket highlighted in the second link below. It’s heavier, more expensive, and less breathable, but it can survive the hours of rain. I hope this has been helpful!

(They sell female versions of both the below jackets)
(I am not affiliated with either of these brands)
http://shop.hellyhansen.com/us/item/stanley-park-h2flow-62369/?t_type=src&t_type=cat

https://www.thenorthface.com/shop/mens-dryzzle-jacket

Sincerely,
Atlas Alex

Questions? Comments? Do you have recommendations for great rain gear? Leave them in the comments below! Remember, you can also submit questions or article ideas directly to me at Alex@AtlasAlex.com

Featured Adventure: Wildcat Hollow Backpacking Trail – Part 2

Shot up Sign

Day 2

I awoke around 7:45am the next morning to Ruby tilting her head, staring at the tent wall trying to figure out what the noise outside was. That noise was my brother’s snoring from the other tent. I laughed to myself and unzipped the tent to let Ruby out. Then I got dressed and followed her. For a weekend in June, the night had gotten pretty chilly and the morning chill nipped at me when I emerged.  I put on a fleece and went about my morning routine. When I had a nice pot of coffee ready, I used this information to entice Caleb and Kevin from their tent. We ate a leisurely breakfast of Pop Tarts © and oatmeal and then broke camp.

Setting out Day 2 Selfie

Setting out Day 2

On the trail

We set out on the trail at about 11 am. Had I been able to see the future, I would have gotten us onto the trail earlier. Given the pace we had been keeping the night before, I naively expected us to be able to keep a similar pace throughout our day of hiking.

We hiked through the lush trails in the forest enjoying the fresh air and overcast skies. The trail dipped and climbed repeatedly and soon took us briefly along a back-country road. As we followed the blazes to head back into the woods, we passed an abandoned, one-room schoolhouse.

Abandoned One Room Schoolhouse

Abandoned Schoolhouse

After we finished exploring the schoolhouse, we headed back into the woods. We encountered some volunteers from the Buckeye Trail working on maintaining the trail. They had cut a a nice path through all the tall grass and we profusely thanked them as we continued on.

We hiked for a couple more hours until my brother started to complain that his feet were starting to blister. The trail was overgrown where we were. So there wasn’t a very good place to stop to rest. He sat for a moment on a log and adjusted his socks. We then hiked for maybe another 20 minutes and found a great campsite to rest at about 1:30pm.

Resting on a log

Resting on a log

At the campsite, Caleb tended to his feet by creating moleskin bandages while Kevin and I prepared lunch. We snacked on Caleb’s amazing trail mix and ate tuna and crackers. By this time, we were all starting to run out of water. It was hot out and every stream we had crossed was bone dry. We were just past the halfway point on the trail so we had a significant amount of trail left to cover. Our pace wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. So we really needed to find water soon.

We didn’t rest long after lunch. The trail headed into some really steep ups and downs and after a couple miles, we were all getting tired again. The sun came out and made everything even hotter. Caleb was the first to run out of water since we were using his water jug for most of the cooking in camp the previous night. I refilled his water bottle from my Camelbak so we could keep going.

Ruby looking back at Caleb

We covered continuous steep ups and downs

As the trail continued, it opened into a pine grove and the trail widened. The path here was pretty open and we enjoyed the slightly easier passing. Through the trees, Caleb spotted a pond and went running towards it screaming something incoherent about water. Ruby seemed to have the same idea and was the first to get close. As soon as she approached the shore however, she immediately sank completely into the mud. Luckily, she was able to free herself and jump back out. The pond was a stagnant bog and we decided that it would not be in our best interest to try to drink this water. We continued on as I thought about how I was going to have to spend the night in a tent with my very muddy companion.

Caleb Kevin and Ruby Smiling on the Trail

Taking a quick break on the trail.

We continued on, hot and thirsty, hoping to find water before we made camp for the night. When we were about 10 miles into the trail, we were hiking around a large incline and all just sat down to rest on the side of the hill exhausted. Kevin, Caleb, and even Ruby all fell asleep for a bit.

Ruby napping on the trail

Ruby napping on the trail

They awoke feeling reinvigorated and we made great time. We covered the next mile very quickly. As we came down around a bend we spotted what we thought might be water in a creek through the trees. The overgrowth was so thick that we couldn’t see clearly and we couldn’t find a good way to get through. According to the map, we were going to cross this creek in less than a mile. With this in mind, we picked up our pace even more, praying that the creek would not be dry.

Enjoying the creek

Enjoying the creek

To everyone’s delight, the creek was not dry! Caleb quickly started soaking his blistered feet. Ruby ran up and down the middle of the creek drinking water the entire time. Kevin and I took turns filtering water to refill our supplies. Back on the trail, we headed from the low point of the creek up a very steep 350 foot climb. At the top we were all exhausted and decided to look at the map. There were still another two visits to the low point and two more 350 foot climbs.

Caleb was visibly exhausted and was unsure if he could do two more climbs. We encouraged him with the prospect that he would not have to do these climbs in the morning. He reluctantly agreed. By the midpoint of the last hill, he was stopping repeatedly and we were all exhausted. When we finally made it to the top of the hill, we found a beautiful campsite in a pine grove. Caleb collapsed on the ground happy to have made it.

Caleb exhausted at the top of the hill

Caleb exhausted at the top of the hill

After we setup camp, we had an awesome dinner of Dinty Moore beef stew. We stayed up cooking S’mores around the fire and feeling triumphant.

The next morning, the hike out was only a little over a mile. It didn’t take us long to be back at the trailhead. We piled into the Jeep, cranked the A/C as high as it could go, and headed for home.

Finished the trail selfie

Finished the trail selfie

Featured Adventure: Wildcat Hollow Backpacking Trail – Part 1

Wildcat Hollow Trail Sign

The Trail

Wildcat Hollow Backpacking Trail is a moderately challenging 15 mile loop trail in Wayne National Forest. The trail head is in Southern Ohio near the town of Corning. It is also close to Burr Oak State Park and shares many of the same beautiful features that have made that park so popular. Elevation on the trail ranges from around 750 feet to about 1,100 feet. Most of the streams on the trail are dry during the summer and water can be difficult to find.

Group picture before we hit the road

Group picture before we hit the road

Getting There

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon when we all met at my house to get ready to go. Kevin was ready to get back out on the trail. I think he’s been bitten by the backpacking bug! My brother, Caleb, and my dog, Ruby, were also joining us on this trip. It was about 1:30 pm when everyone arrived and, as usual, it took us much longer to pack up and get ready than we anticipated. We ate an amazing lunch, posed for our group picture, and hit the road around 3:30 pm. Wildcat Hollow is about a 1.5 hour drive from Columbus, Ohio and we made good time. The trail head is well off the beaten path and can be difficult to find. Caleb and Kevin were helping me navigate the back-country, gravel roads.

We were about a mile away from the trail head when, suddenly, warning lights started flashing in the dash of my Jeep. I watched as my front, passenger tire PSI went steadily from 40 down to 10. There wasn’t anywhere to pull over and I needed new tires anyway, so I just drove the last mile on the flat.

When we pulled into the trail head parking lot it was packed. Some locals had turned the large trail head area into a drive-in camp site and were busy setting up huge tents.

Kevin and I got to work on the flat tire. As if on auto-pilot, we jacked up the frame and removed the flat. As soon as we did this, the suspension released and the axle housing dropped almost all the way to the ground. Now we were in a pickle. We had the jack up as high as it could go, but we couldn’t even get the flat tire back on. So we decided to check the vehicle manual. Apparently, this Jeep was equipped with auto-leveling suspension and the jack is intended to be placed under the suspension to keep it from releasing. OOPS!

We headed over to some of the other campers to ask if they had another jack we could borrow. A tall, wiry woman piped up that she had one. She led me over to the back of her fully packed minivan and began tossing things out onto the ground. Finally, she reached in and pulled out a huge two-ton shop jack. Kevin and I both laughed in surprise. It was exactly what we needed. We jacked the entire Jeep up and were able to get the new tire on.

Day 1 on the Trail

By now it was much later than we had planned to be on the trail and the party at the entrance meant that all of the close campsites were full. We put on our gear and hurried onto the trail to make up for lost time. Just a half mile into the trail, we found open campsites again and the area was no longer crowded. We assumed that most of the other campers weren’t planning on backpacking the trail. With the fast pace, we quickly covered another mile or so and decided to take a quick break. It was hot out and we needed to adjust our packs. My brother broke out huge, gallon bags of a trail mix that he had made himself. It was spectacular. Kevin and I downed enough for a full meal while we were resting.

It was already getting dark so we decided to head up the next hill and start looking for a campsite. It didn’t take us long to find one and we started setting up the tents. We had covered less than three miles the first day, far less than I had planned. That was going to leave more tomorrow than expected and my brother had already told us he was feeling out of shape.

Ruby in camp

Ruby in camp

We finished setting up camp and Caleb got a great fire going as Kevin and I cooked dinner. Late into the night we sat around the fire catching up, playing with Ruby, and laughing together. We finally decided that we had better get some rest before our long hike the next day.

Dinner and a fire on Wildcat Hollow Trail

Dinner and a fire on Wildcat Hollow Trail