Tag: Hiking


2021 Week 30 – First Summer Road Trip (Part 4 – Final)!

In the post last week we were camping in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) and dealing with daily rain. By this point I was used to getting wet and was concentrating on keeping my sleeping gear dry.

My first stop of the day was the Kinzua Bridge State Park in Kane, PA. At one point this massive railroad bridge spanned a big valley and was used quite extensively. In 2003 a tornado came through and brought down half the structure. It was determined it was not worth replacing so they turned it in to an overlook and viewing platform. The visitor center and gift shop are very nice and the bridge itself was a lot of fun to walk out on. It even has a “glass floor” you can stand on and see the valley floor below.

As it was nearing lunch time and I hadn’t eaten anything yet so I drove into Kane, PA and checked out Texas Hot Lunch 4-Sons, a local diner that specializes in “Texas Hot” chili served on burgers and hot dogs. I ordered a chili dog and a hot ham and cheese. They were both very tasty, and if I wasn’t going to be in the car all day, I could have gone for another chili dog (or two).

After lunch it was time to track down a waterfall I found on the map and spend some time driving on muddy forest service roads. The All-Wheel Drive and new WildPeak tires on the Subaru came in handy. Although the roads were in fair shape the rain had made things slippery, especially the hills. With little to no cell service it was not advisable to end up in a ditch.

Once parked at the trailhead I walked down an unused forest road to Hector Falls. It was a nice little 2-mile hike with no one around. Considering the amount of rain we had I was honestly expecting more water, but it was a beautiful hike with a lot of scenic views along the way.

After the hike back I spent more time driving deeper and deeper in the forest using a Gaia GPS map in Offline mode to guide me along. Gaia is a great resource with a TON of map overlays you can use for just about every outdoor activity. I ran into a few “road closed” gates and managed to work my way back to civilization and the Kinzua Dam.

The Kinzua Dam area was very well kept with plenty of places to picnic and fish. There was even a fishery on the other side of the river, and it had a lot of activity going on from what I could see. As you can see in the picture below there were some HUGE fish swimming around the top side of the dam. These were easily 3-foot in length and would probably put up a hell of a fight if you hooked them.

That evening, after setting up camp (and attempting to dry some things out), I built a nice fire, listened to a ball game, and enjoyed a few cold beers before turning in for the night. Of course, it rained overnight…

Day 5 had arrived, and I woke up to a campsite with a lot of standing water. With another band of rain on the way I packed things up quickly headed west to my first stop of the day. As I approached the I-90 toll booth the gate was up, and I totally missed the sign that said “pull a ticket”. I was thinking this toll booth was one of the ones that reads your plates & sends you a bill (I’ve long since lost my EZ-Pass) like the Louisville Bridge or I-90 in PA. Without a ticket I proceeded to my exit where a super friendly toll booth attendant helped me out and rang it up as a damaged ticket and charged me the standard toll for my trip.

The Vermilion Farm Market was a destination I’ve had on my list ever since we stopped by there on a whim several years ago. They have an amazing bakery and one of the BEST cookies I have ever had. The Coconut Pecan cookies are so good I bought all 5 boxes they had in the case. I also picked up a few other snacks before heading to Port Clinton for another must have when in the area…

The Jolly Roger Seafood House is famous in this part of the country and they have moved into a MUCH larger building since I was there last. The old place was small and had its own charm but the new location is a huge improvement. I’m happy to report the food is just as good. I opted for the Fried Clams and Chips (onion rings in my case) and a 1/2 pound of peel and eat shrimp. After savoring every last bite, I took a walk along the Lake Erie shoreline to work off some of that food.

Wrapping this adventure up I called an audible and decided to head home a day early when I saw the campsite in the East Harbor State Park. It was tiny, wet and had no less than 4 tents right up against where I would be sleeping. After being alone all week, I wasn’t in the mood to be surrounded by a bunch of people partying into the night (which is typical when you have that many people camping together). National Forrest sites are SO MUCH better than state parks and will be my preference going forward.

After 1466 miles my week-long adventure had come to a close and, even though the weather didn’t cooperate, I’m glad I did it. I’m already planning on a return to the ANF to check out the south end this fall.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back next week with a wrap up of Week 31, 2021.

2021 Week 20 – Mini Road Trip Part 2

photo of lightning

Picking up where we left off last week. After I finished checking out Spring Mill state park I headed to another item on my travel list, Hemlock Cliffs.

Located on National Forest Rd, in English Indiana, Hemlock Cliffs is a little out of the way and on this Friday afternoon the parking lot was pretty empty. I could see this place getting really busy on a weekend. The trail loop out the the cliffs is about 2 miles long and easy to moderate in spots. It’s NOT accessible buy wheel chair or stroller as it has some narrow parts and several sets of steps.

Here are some short videos I made of the various waterfalls in the area.

While heading to the next destination I saw a sign for the Winzerwald Winery in Bristow Indiana and decided to check it out. They had a nice tasting room where you could get 4 samples for $4. I chose the flight of their “dry” wines which consisted of the following:

  • Black Riesling (Red)
  • Blaufränkisch Rosé (DEEP Red)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (Red)
  • Grüner Veltliner (White)

All were quite good but I settled on the Grüner Veltliner to purchase and enjoy at home. Winzerwald Winery also sells a Pumpkin Spiced wine that I was too scared to try this time around.

Pumpkin Spiced Wine…

I was surprised to see the number of wineries in the area. On Google maps I counted at least 12 within an hours drive of this one.

Next we’re headed to one of the reasons for the trip. The 18-hole Disc Golf (DG) course at the Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana.

Unfortunately this is where the trip goes south. After 9-holes of DG the skies opened up and there was no end in sight. Between the rain and lightning I decided to cut the trip short and head back to Indy. I’m glad I did as the rain continued into the evening and setting up all your camping gear for a single night is just not worth the effort (or the cleanup afterwards). I already have a return trip planned and hope to finish out my round of DG and get a night of camping in the books.

That’s it for now, enjoy the warmer temps this week. I think summer is finally making an appearance!

Gear Review – Altra Lone Peak 4 Trail Runners

I’m back!  I kind of lost interest in the blog over the winter and made the (mistake?) of purchasing Red Dead Redemption 2.  That game is a HUGE time suck but amazing and I don’t regret it.

I also got hooked on some new YouTube channels* over the winter and it’s rekindled my desire to be outdoor more often.  I already enjoy cycling and kayaking but haven’t really been camping/backpacking/hiking since I was in Scouts.

After a long winter of watching these channels I could not help but be ready for better weather and a chance to get outside again.  Several of the YouTubers are through hikers and have either hiked the Appalachian trail or are in the process.  While I think that would be an amazing accomplishment It’s not something I see myself doing in the near future.  I’m just fine with shorter adventures.

A piece of gear that’s critical when hiking is footwear.  I’ve always worn traditional hiking boots.  They provide great ankle stability but they’re heavy and, if waterproof, make your feet hot and sweaty.  They also really suck if you happen to get water IN them.

A new category of footwear called the “Trail Runner” was introduced to me over the winter.  These are a hybrid between a boot and a running shoe.  The most popular appear to be from a company called Altra and the model mentioned more than anything else was the Lone Peak 4.

Altra Lone Peak 4

After a few hikes around Indy in my traditional hikers and a pair of low rise boots I realized my feet were going to be an issue.  I already have a pair of custom orthotics that I wear in some of my shoes but they’re not very comfortable to walk in for miles at a time.

A review in Outside Magazine help me decide to purchase these shoes and then it happened…  REI had one of their big sales & I was able to pick up a pair of Lone Peak 4’s for 30% off!  I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the sale.  REI was selling these things like deep fried Oreos at the State Fair.

In the store the Lone Peak’s felt a little weird at first because the front (toe box) of the shoe is very wide and they have what’s called a “Zero Drop” which puts your foot level with the ground vs raised in the back.  They also fit different and I ended up going 1.5 sizes larger than I typically wear.  I was a little concerned this was going to be an issue and worried about blisters which I got a lot in Scouts with traditional hiking boots.

Altra Lone Peak 4

Following the advice in the Outside review I ordered a couple of pairs of Merino Wool Socks for breathability and the ability to keep your feet warm and dry.  I’ll detail it more in an upcoming trip report but let’s just say the combo worked better than anything I have ever tried.

I decided to try the Altra’s out on a 6-mile rugged loop at Turkey Run State Park (I’m planning on a trip report soon).  As soon as I started walking I could feel an immediate difference.  The Merino Socks were a little slippery and the shoes were “Squishy” (technical term).  

After the 2nd mile on the trail I was a fan.  My feet felt amazing and the rock guard build into the sole kept the bottoms of my feet protected and comfortable.  I usually have issues with rocks (gravel especially) bothering the balls of my feet when trail walking.

Then came the ultimate test.  Time to get my feet wet as the trail went up, through, and along a stream (several in fact).  The Outdoor review was totally right.  As soon as you leave the water the shoes pump the water out and the wool socks help you feet dry out and stay warm.  I’ve NEVER had so much FUN getting my feet wet!  Normally this is something you want to avoid when hiking but I was stomping through the water like a little kid and enjoying every minute of it.  

Traction was excellent and after finishing the loop my only complaint was some knee pain which I later found was a result of descending the numerous hills, and something I can help with some more conditioning and maybe some better insoles.

I’m pretty much sold on the Trail Runner concept and I look forward to putting a few more miles on these shoes this weekend. If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional hiking boots you should give these a try. They make different versions for different situations but I’ve found the Loan Peak 4’s to be a great all around shoe for my needs.

*The YouTube Channels that hooked me (in no particular order):
Outdoor Adventures
The Outdoor Gear Review
Dan Becker
Homemade Wanderlust
Darwin on the Trail