It was a beautiful October day, cloudy, no wind or breeze at all. The perfect fair weather day for a hike and photographic trip. A simple walk in the woods.
I had the day off to myself and concluded I should visit Caesar Creek State Park near Waynesville, Ohio.
Almost 3,000 acres in size, this state park has something for everyone. Canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, archery, shooting, nature study, you name it. This day was to be a more hiking/backpacking centered day, with the camera taking a bit of a break.
Nearing the peak, there was beautiful Autumnal foliage abound! The duality of green in the understory transforming into yellow at the overstory of the tree canopy was quite apparent throughout the state park.
My goal was to hike the approximately 12.7 mile perimeter loop trail that wraps around the southernmost end of Caesar Creek Lake.
It was about 9am and I arrived at the visitor center to check in and obtain field guides or maps. The helpful desk lady informed me that there was construction going on on the only main stretch of road on the loop trail at State Route 73. Meaning I could start either way from the visitor center, but it would only be an out-and-back hike for the day.
Bummer, this shifted my entire focus for the trip. A thru-hike was not an option (and getting ticketed neither.) Yet I was glad to receive this information before hitting the trail without forewarning.
I could either choose the more scenic counter-clockwise side of the loop, with several waterfalls, the historic pioneer village, and other points of interest. Or on the other side is a more secluded woodland trek with rolling hills and lakeside views. I chose the latter in this case, and this section parallels with the Buckeye Trail. The yellow blazes are for the perimeter loop as the blue blazes for the BT.
And so at exactly 10am my out-of-doors trip began. The first trail marker being I1, I quickly found that the leaves covered up any tree roots, and so even with sturdy hiking boots I was tripping every couple of feet.
During my first steps on the trail, I kicked around the idea of filming the entire day and documenting the photos I took, yet this seemed too burdensome combined with the longer hiking miles. Gear-wise I only brought a single camera so it be unwise to drain the batteries that fast.
I settled upon a combined photo documentation in the form of collages along with a post-hike journalistic writeup as seen here. In the end something a little different than what I’m used to.
I didn’t take a wealth of photos, only about 50 unique images made their way to the computer after the fact. However I found that photographing autumn colors and foliage was such a special challenge than before.
The scenic overlooks and views of the landscape were grand in size and scope, and so my goal behind the camera was to “create order out of the chaos.”
The dense woodland canopy was still full of leaves on the trees, and a windless day meant that barely any were falling to the ground. A number of birds were singing and flitting about in the overstory, and various wading birds like Double Crested Cormorants and Ring Billed Gulls were in a decent numbers at the lake’s edge.
I took a quick break in the middle of the day after a trail outstretched to the edge of the lake waters. This is where I took a quick break to chow down on some hot oatmeal I warmed over the backpacking stove. This is an ultralight cooking setup that weights about a pound or so overall.
By the end, I was becoming lightheaded, sore and tired. Once reaching trail marker M1, I concluded with the remaining two hours of daylight that pressing on would have me hiking back in the dark. I turned around and made my way back to the start.
One thing I learned pretty quickly was overpacking can lead to fatigue faster than anything else. The entire trek would’ve been much more manageable had I not brought so many pounds with me. The majority of this weight on my back was extra camera gear, as well as water in a hydration bladder and spare cooking/food supplies. The water can definitely add weight quickly in large amounts however the food stuffs were negligible in their heaviness.
I also learned pretty quickly that plans can fall flat; in my own grand idealism I thought I could magically walk off almost 13 miles in a day hike. This was not the case, as I took many small breaks to sit, look around, eat and “water the plants.” A proper meal with the stove by the lake took up 45 minutes total! Let’s not forget the many stops to photograph foliage and other landscape shots, some of these moments taking up to half an hour long. There is only so much daylight available, and I was on my own with no outside help.
Sometimes big ideas go over my head until I attempt them, and this was a big eye-opener to what I’m really capable of.
In the future I hope to tackle the entire loop trail in one go when the highway portion reopens (probably leaving the camera at home too to conserve weight). Until then, smaller day hikes are the way to go.
Happy trails, and make sure to get out there!
(Stay tuned for Day 2, where I revisit Caesar Creek a few days later to hike the other half of the perimeter loop trail.)
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