The family and I arrived at the Old Man’s Cave parking lot at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. I was concerned the parking lot would be filling quickly but turns out we were one of the first to arrive. The 46th Annual Winter Hike at Hocking Hills was well attended but that didn’t keep the wildness of the hike at bay. What I’m about to reveal to you may come as a great surprise, but if you have spent a fair amount of days (and nights) in the wild, you may not be so shocked.
We were less than one mile into the hike when I heard footsteps behind me that sounded a bit strange—as if a large animal was on and then off the trail. Since I was the last in the family train on the trail to Cedar Falls, I was aware that the wife and kids were oblivious to what I was noticing behind me. I paused two or three times and checked over my shoulder. Nothing except other hikers several yards trudging up the trail. Nearing the halfway point, and after allowing a group of fast hikers to pass, I heard the heavy stepping behind me once again. I stopped quickly and whipped my head around to catch a small glimpse of movement flashing from the trail and into some thick hemlocks.
We reached Cedar Falls (halfway point) and devoured a serving of bean soup and cornbread provided by the Logan Lions Club. After washing the belly-warming lunch down with a hefty slurp of hot chocolate, we were back on the trail. We reached the top of a ridge and crossed a county road before beginning our descent to Ash Cave—the end of the winter hike. The trail was a touch slippery with packed snow, but navigable with spike tipped hiking staffs. The kids were talking with their mom when again I heard it behind me. A huffing sound interlaced with a few grunts. I thought it was a hiker struggling to keep traction on the trail, but then I smelled it.
Have you ever caught a whiff of a summertime road kill because your window was down? You know, the gut wrenching, gag causing blast in the face stink that only death can create? Yeah, that smell. I turned again quickly and I saw it. My eyes widened and I froze. Plodding toward me was a large, brown hairy creature carrying a large stick. I spun around and yipped at the family to get going and get going fast. It was too late. He was upon us. There was only one thing to do…pose for a picture with Mr. Sasquatch (photo below)!
Oh come on. What did you think it was?