Meetup is a service that I know very well from my days as a tech consultant. It’s typically used to organize special interest groups surrounding a given technology stack, product or discipline. As I am working through a long distance hiking training program that I put together for myself. I was happy to recently discover that it is not just limited to tech. It also has some great hiking resources. One of which is a group named “Hike Ohio.” This post is about my first outing with a group of like-minded strangers to Clear Creek Metro Park to hike out to a location called “Witches Hollow.” Queue spooky sounds here.
The drive down was just a return to an area near Hocking Hills. I spent many years of my early adulthood road tripping down there to go hiking in my early 20’s with many friends. At one point, I took a date and well, we had a good time all by ourselves so to speak out in the woods. He was a glass blower. Ah, young lust-filled romance. That’s one moment I still have not forgotten across a couple decades.
When I got into the area finding the Park Office proved to confuse Google Maps. So I drove around a bit, eating into my 30 minute cushion that I have learned to add to trips for the first time because I suck at direction. The kind folks from Hike Ohio posted a sign so I eventually righted my course with 10 minutes to spare.
We all gathered under the trees in the shade. It was a 90 plus day here in Ohio today. Hot, but pleasant. Everyone applying bug spray and sunblock in turn as it’s a heavy tick season here and there were no clouds in the sky. We got a really great intro of the hike from one of the park volunteers and we all started walking down to the starting point passing Written Rock on the way.
From the paved road, we dove into the woods, off trail, and followed our guides to Clear Creek. At which point everyone but a handful of us pulled out a change of shoes. Ummm, yeah, forgot those. So I shucked my boots and socks, rolled up my pants and put a toe into the most refreshing water imaginable. It was about ankle to knee deep walking across slippery mossy sandstone slabs. I was grateful for my last surviving REI trekking pole to keep me from embarrassing myself too badly. From there we dried off and headed onward.
A mile or so later we came into the hollow. The hemlock and tulip trees were beautiful against the fern and moss covered terrain with rock and cliff outcroppings everywhere. Evidently, this area became known as “witches hollow” back in the 1970’s when it was suspected that either Pagan’s or witchcraft practitioners gathered here. More likely it was a great place to smoke pot and do hallucinogenic drugs in my opinion however. The space was beautiful, serene, and yes, magical.
The whole experience got me to thinking about a guy I have been talking with on the AHA Support Network. He had a heart attack at the age of 39. He’s going through all the things that many of us went through. Worrying about his fiancé. How he’s going to provide. Thinking ahead to all the things he may or may not have lost as a result of heart scarring. It’s a dark place to be that I know only too well. It also reminds me of several books I am reading right now on my path to being a better meditation practitioner.
- “Running with the mind of meditation: Lessons for training the body and mind,” by the now disgraced Sakyong Mipham for sexual misconduct
- “Zen in the age of anxiety: Wisdom for Navigating Our Modern Lives,” by Tim Burkett
- “Against the stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries,” by Noah Levine
My conversation with the man I spoke about earlier has brought me back to pondering what I need to do to cultivate the strength to cope. Not just with heart disease. But with the nature of suffering, impermanence, and change in life itself. The fact that control is an illusion but we have a choice to not buy into suffering. To be grateful instead of fearful.
It’s funny, but while we were all spraying our bodies with bug spray and sunblock back at the Park Office, I fished out my red notebook from my backpack and jotted this down “cultivate a feeling of appreciation.” I think it’s going to become its own post. As an atheist, warming up to any ideology that smells spiritual is really difficult for me. Yet all the Buddhist philosophy I’ve been driven toward over the past two years seems to tug only more strongly. Like a compass when you find the point on the horizon to triangulate from. I think some of my answers lie in the direction of embracing a practice of observation, acceptance, and appreciation.
When I started camping again, after a 35-year hiatus, at the end of July last year, I never would have dreamed it would have led me here. Let alone to taking a huge jump with my best friend starting at the Hoh Rainforest and ending, 50 miles later, on Hurricane Ridge. But that story has not happened yet. More than anything, right now, hot as blazes or not, I feel incredibly grateful for today.