Monday, June 25, 2012

First Stop Salt Fork State Park

It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down, I had the radio on, I was drivin’….It really was! Runnin’ Down a Dream was the song that filled my head Friday night as I headed down to Salt Fork State park for my first installment of Squatching U.S.A. I was doing double duty as I was going to meet John Hickenbottom, the new naturalist at SFSP, and I was going to do some “squatching” with Alan from the Fathom Frontiers, and meet Todd and Cindy as well. I arrived around 7:30 p.m. and checked in with Sue at the Camp office. We chatted briefly and I headed to the primitive camp area known as Bigfoot Ridge. I was fortunate enough to be the only person camping on that lot this beautiful Friday evening. I had to really hustle to get my tent set up and get changed into some comfy hiking clothes if I was going to meet John by 8:30 p.m. I arrived back at the Campground headquarters and met John. I introduced myself and he thanked me for the “kind” article I had written about him on a previous blog entry. The crowd of eager night hikers was growing larger with many young children and their parents. I believe he had between 20-23 people in attendance! The kids were amped up and John began his presentation at the pavilion, giving us some insight to what we were hoping to accomplish on this evening. We headed down the Shadbush Trail and John pointed out different bird species and also identified some bird calls. He educated us on the local flora and fauna and included historical and cultural references. The hike ended almost 2 hours later and I needed to get back to my tent and get a jacket as the temperature had dropped quite considerably! I finally connected with Todd, Cindy, Alan and his nephew Chris. We made our introductions as the men geared up. I have to tell you they have some very impressive equipment! Alan was sporting his brand new Viopro camera and Chris was carrying a parabolic dish that was the size of a small satellite! Of course there were FLIRS and night vision goggles; I carried my water and my audio recorder.I had major Toy envy. :( We headed out with Todd in the lead, to a very overgrown trail. The grass was so high that I actually got poked in the eye by it! We tramped and trodded and bushwhacked our way through the jungles of Ohio until Todd called a halt. We just weren’t getting anywhere at this rate. As we stood there, Alan shined his flashlight across the field and I noticed that the grass seemed shorter just a few feet to our right. Cindy agreed and she decided to check it out to see if we were not actually on the trail. As she took two steps, she disappeared! Now this might seem mysterious to you, but it was hilarious to me! Apparently, the reason why the grass appeared shorter was because the ground was lower! Cindy crawled out of the ditch, never once dropping her flashlight and we had a great laugh. She is such a ninja! We headed back to the vehicles and we sat and listened and talked for a few hours. There were many interesting sounds and Todd did spot something large on the FLIR but we decided it was a warm tree trunk. By now it was after 1:30 a.m. and it was pretty darned cold! We said our goodbyes and made plans to meet again and I headed back to the campground to start my fire. I had just gotten the fire started and was settled into my camp chair when this thug of a raccoon boldly walked from the treeline and right through my camp! I told him to scram and he gave me a disdainful look and went about his business. All was quiet except for the usual nighttime forest sounds. About an hour later as I was beginning to drift off to sleep, I heard something large walking through the woods to my right. With each step it took, it would make this “huffing” sound. I remained quite still until I couldn’t hear it anymore. I popped out of my chair and grabbed the recorder which was on, and I made a note to see if the sound was captured. (I have 4 hours of audio to listen to still) a few minutes later I heard some raccoons fighting so I am not sure if the huffing was from a deer, an angry raccoon or a Bigfoot! I ended up crawling into my tent at 4 a.m. but left the recorder running. I hadn’t eaten anything all night so there wasn’t any food smells but that didn’t stop a critter from climbing up on the picnic table and sniffing into my recorder. (I heard that listening to the end of the audio). I awoke at 6:30 a.m. freezing my butt off. I wrapped myself up again and fell asleep until 8:30. I wasn’t sure if Jen was going to show up to go kayaking and I was so bone tired and freezing that I really didn’t care. I decided to pack up and head home. I dropped off some Bigfoot paraphernalia at Alan’s cabin then hit the road. As they say, an uneventful night in the woods sure beats work! Here is the video I made featuring John Hickenbottom and his wonderful night hike presentation! Enjoy!