On Friday evening, we arrived at the backpacking trailhead for Zaleski State Forest. Actually, we arrived at the trailhead, took a detour across the road to the Iron Furnace trailhead, then finally walked back across to the proper starting point. Thanks for nothing, map! Oh well, at least we caught a glimpse of Bambi in action:
Once we hit the correct path, we crossed a small bridge and were met with soft pine and knotted roots beneath our shoes. The sun set on the forest floor and we had a few short miles of night-hiking to approach the first campsite on the map. The area was packed full of fellow backpackers, already having pitched their tents for the night and building their fires. Trying not to disturb them, we (reluctantly) settled for a little chunk of land on a hill close to the trail.
Before settling in for a good night’s slumber, Bailey (my wife, not my dog. Yes, we know you or someone you know probably has a dog named Bailey) discovered a hitchhiker on the inside of our tent fly, but thankfully not inside the mesh since we would soon discover that our guest happened to be a black widow spider:
If your love of spiders outweighs your fear of this particular spider’s toxicity, allow me to apologize now, because we weren’t exactly thrilled with the proximity of it to our faces.
The thought of waking up with no feeling in our legs would be pretty difficult to handle considering the necessity of them for hiking. So, we captured the black widow and escorted it down to the local spider bar where it could socialize with the rest of the arachnids. Just kidding, I stomped the life out of it and packed it out in a ziplock. Leave No Trace, remember! Hate me now, thank me later when you aren’t waking up with muscle spasms.
The plan was to wake up early and break camp before anyone else, noting how crowded the next location might be if we didn’t arrive at a decent hour and pick out a good spot for the following night. With this in mind, we were up before daybreak and blazing our way to our next destination. Along the way, we stopped for a few photos:
Bailey was as bouncy as a kid on Christmas with the crazy amount of frogs we passed as we made our way to camp. Look, camouflage:
Soon after, we made it to the campsite and it didn’t take us long to snag one of the best on the block. The benefits of an early start can definitely be worth their weight. We watched several other backpackers pass us throughout the evening, settling for what remained as we had done on the previous night, although this section had many more to choose from with much more room to work with.
Tell me you own a Thermarest Z-Lite and you’ve never attempted to use it as an accordion… and I’ll call you a liar. Immature? I know you are, but what am I? Right, I’ll stop.
As the sun beamed at its highest point, the local wildlife took to the trees to tan their tiny legs:
Once night fell and our fire had faded to January embers (my heart burns there, too!) we retreated to the tent and proceeded to get butt naked. Because dudebro, it was like, stupid hot outside. I still don’t understand my desire for a fire when it’s 300 degrees. Fortunately, we were still able to get some relief and rest, thanks to a nearby thunderstorm blowing up a bit of a breeze.
The next morning, we packed up and began our hike to the end of the backpacking loop. Today’s jaunt would be filled with multiple uphill climbs, jolting the joints in our legs before finally dropping us all the way back down to some comforting caverns and rock formations.
We stopped briefly at a nice little bench and awning. This is a courtesy provided by nature after having kicked us in the crotch all day. Thanks for letting cooler heads prevail, homie! Happy we could reconcile our differences, we pushed forward until we were back to the beginning of the trailhead, cranked the AC, and sped off for a well deserved lunch at Melt: Bar and Grilled. If you’ve never been before and ever pass by one, do yourself a favor and stop in. It’s like a paradise for hiker hunger!
Look at all those delicious calories! The Cleveland Cheesesteak combined with the Chocolate Sombrero by Clown Shoes (yes, that’s a real beer) almost brought a tear to my eye. Yum.