I managed to get myself lost yesterday.
Now, you have to realize that I have a different definition of “lost” than most people: If I cannot look at a map and know where I am on it to within 500 feet or so, I consider myself lost.
But still . . .
I was down at Zaleski State Forest, on the west side of Lake Hope. There are some bike paths that run down into Little Sandy Hollow. I thought I’d not only do that, but explore a bit to see if I couldn’t find some more hidden recess caves.
Although Hocking Hills is the most famous for its recess caves, they are scattered throughout much of southwest Ohio, in what is called the “Hanging Rock” region (because the roofs of the recess caves are rocks that just “hang” there). Down at Zaleski, there are also alternating hard and soft rocks, and that leads to the recess caves as the soft layers erode away faster than the hard. At Zaleski, though, the caves are not as spectacular—they are just not as tall as they are in Hocking.
The geology is different, too. The whole Hocking topography comes from Blackhand Sandstone, which is a Mississippian deposit. By the time you get to Zaleski, the Mississipian deposits are buried under the younger Pennsylvanian deposits. But you still get the layering.
Anyways, I started bushwhacking up a side hollow. I got a bit over-confident, which truly is one of the most common reasons for getting lost. I didn’t have a compass with me (wanted to travel light); the maps I took with me were right on the edge of the park, so they didn’t show any surrounding territory. And, even worse, I thought I knew the place.
Now, when heading off on a bushwhack, one thing I do expect is not to know quite where I am. Unless you are counting side hollows very carefully (or even correctly, because sometimes a little side hollow will not be on one’s topo map). So, sometimes I’ll head up a different hollow than I expect, and I’ll be off from where I think I am. That doesn’t take long to correct.
That happened this time. It just took a lot longer to correct.
At the tip of the hollow, where I expected to find a recess cave, I found a rare double recess cave.
(Sorry about the picture quality—I took out my good camera only to see it flash an “Error 99” at me. Grrr. These are cellphone pictures instead.)
You can see the lower cave (dark spot) below, and the upper cave (dark spot) above, and the rock shelf between. You don’t get something like that at Hocking Hills.
Another difference is the angle of the slopes at Zaleski versus Hocking. At Hocking, the side slopes are around 30°, maybe 35°. At Zaleski, they are maybe 60°. (OK, if you want to claim I am exaggerating horribly, I’ll discount that to a special price of 55°, or maybe even 50°. But that’s my final offer.)
It was much harder to climb out of.
Here’s a view of the upper cave as I climbed up.
Again, I want to remark on the utility of toes for climbing in these conditions. The sides of these hollows are dirt and leaf detritus over rock. When you are barefoot you can dig your toes deep into the side and get a very good feel for what sort of a grip you are going to get, and for how firmly you are attached to the side.
This picture does not do justice to showing just how steep it was there.
So, I climbed up to near the top, and then down into the upper cave.
Interestingly, the moss-covered rock on the left was well-cemented—typical rock. But next to it, top-middle of the photograph, that rock was extremely friable.
In fact, it was so crumbly that an animal managed to dig a burrow into it.
Here’s a topographic map (which I did at home after I unlost myself and figured out where I’d been) of the hollow I was in. The arrow points out the location of the double cave, which you can almost make out.
Once I got to the top of the caves, I expected to go up just a little bit further and find an old, discontinued road, grown over from lack of use.
And that is exactly what I found. So I turned right and started following it. I then realized that it was heading only downhill, back into the Little Sandy Hollow. That’s not what I wanted. It must have been just a side lobe of the ridge.
So I reversed myself and followed it even higher . . . and hit a road. Hmmm. There wasn’t supposed to be a road here, as far as I can remember. But I was on top of the ridge, and I had intended to follow the ridge north. So I followed the road, trying to correlate its dips and curves to features on the map.
I did know which direction I was headed (i.e., north, not south), even without a compass. With a bit of sun, and knowing the time of day, I knew my shadow was pointing NNW.
It took my about a mile to be about 80% confident that I knew where I was, and that I was walking along a road that was marked on the map. I just thought I remembered that that “road” should have been a dirt trail.
Well, I was wrong. It was supposed to be a road. I’d misremembered what kind of trail it was supposed to be. So I ended up walking about two miles along this gravel road.
That’s not quite as bad as it sounds. It had a pretty comfortable shoulder to walk on (with just a bit of poison ivy).
I was only really, really sure of where I was once the road I was on hit another road in the area. That cemented things.
I was never really lost lost. I knew I could always just bushwhack east and I would hit a trail I was familiar with (in fact, once I hit the other road, that is exactly what I did, and the familiar trail was 50 feet down the hillside, just where I expected it). But I was just annoyed that I didn’t know exactly where I was for so long.
But getting lost also highlighted that basic woods-lore goes a long way. There was no need to panic. I used my skills to know what direction I was headed. I still had a general idea of the area. In some ways, getting “lost” was a bit of an adventure.
Once I met up with the second road, I bushwhacked down into the hollow near it. This was more familiar territory, as I’d been down there a few times before. It was still fun to do.
I’ve mentioned before that most of the little dings I get while barefoot hiking come when bushwhacking. But even that seems to be decreasing. It takes a while to build up the experience, but after a while one learns to put one’s feet down differently when barefoot bushwhacking. It is certainly different than when some clodhopper tromps through the brush with hiking boots.
Anyways, I suppose a different title for this entry could have been:
Lost . . . and found.