Monday, August 08, 2005

Allegheny Camping and Hiking

Ever since I shifted to Cleveland, I was getting increasingly uncomfortable to see no mountains in and around Ohio. Even feared for a few days that I will have to give up my passion for hiking and camping, and will have to take interest in singing and cooking, etc (:D, :D).... and the thought was scary enough. Surprisingly not too many people hike in Ohio and surrounding states, as its generally a flat land. Come August and I was getting desperate to get out of Cleveland, go to some dense forest and have lots of fun.

So we had to go east to find a thick jungle. And we got Allegheny National park. Vivek, Devyani, Meghna were interested in camping, so we finalised 6th, 7th August as the D-day. I also invited Aniket and Abhijit from Ann Harbor, Michigan; and they were glad to join us. I have known Aniket since past 7 years, and had a few treks together in Maharashtra. We both came to US in 2002, but it was not possible to meet up, as I was in the Carolinas. So I was also keen to catch up with him. Abhishek is also a very avid hiker and has extensive experience of hiking in Maharashtra as well as US.

Allegheny National Forest has a rich variety of outdoor activities to entertain you. There are several trails, ranging from very easy to difficult ones. Also, there are over 600 camp-sites and other recreational activities. Amongst many trails, we chose the Minister Creek trail and the nearby campground, as it was described as a difficult trail in a thick jungle and undeveloped area, which sounded interesting.

Since I have met them 20 days back, I have always found Vivek, Devyani and Meghna full of enthusiasm, a hearty laugh and something to chatter. Devang and Amit also fall in same league. So all in all, an interesting weekend was in offing; with guaranteed non stop entertainment.

On a sunny, hot Saturday morning 8 of us (Abhishek, Aniket, Amit, Vivek, Devang, Meghna, Devyani, me) left Cleveland in 2 cars. Together, we had around 60 music CDs + 8 talkative people... so the 3 hour long drive was hardly boring.

As we came closer to the national park, the forest grew thick, roads became narrower and full of curves. It was a roller coaster ride for a while. As we reached the campsite, we realised that all the sites were full. Now the option was to set up our tents at another campground nearby (which was available, but was a bit too commercialised. We were looking for somewhat more primitive), or away from the campsite, in the woods at the Minister Creek. We chose the second option.

One good thing about Allegheny is that you can set up your tent anywhere in the jungle, except near the trails. It proved to be an excellent choice, as we had even more fun away from the crowd, just by ourselves.

By the time we set up the tents, it was 5 PM, and it was time for relaxing. We started with some chips and salsa, and some beer. The topic of discussion for the evening snack was Andaz Apna Apna and Hera Pheri.... :D.

The main challenge for the evening was to set up the grill. Since we did not set the camp at a normal campsite, we didnt have a proper grill to grill our food. So we fabricated a temporary stone grill, put some charcoal in it, topped with a couple of layers of Aluminium foil. It took 8 engineers and a lot of engineering innovation to set up a grill. But we did it at last (this situation was similar to a sardar joke: it took 50 sardars to change the bulb... 1 to hold the bulb and 49 to rotate the wall, and yet they failed. I am glad that 8 of us did the job :-).

Conclusion: we are not sardars. We can do it ).

Anyways, soon our burgers and chicken breasts and veggies were cooking on red hot charcoal. We also started a campfire side-by-side and put some potatoes and veggies in it, seasoned with Mexican seasoning. It was a very delicious dinner, and it tasted even better with some fine red and white wine. I must mention that the chicken I had on that evening was one of the tastiest I have had ever.

All this while, our topics of discussion varied from Cleveland, Ann Arbor, US, India, football, cricket, baseball to Human beings, animals, Aniket Joshi and Siddharth Dutta. Aniket (who claims to get loads of spare time because he is a full -time research student at University of Michigan at Ann Arbor) tried a lot to prove his point that U Mich is a superior research place, but his efforts fell short against 6 Case researchers. Later he tried to crack some jokes from his "improv" club; however, one must say that he needs to improve. Having said that, this trek won't have been even half enjoyable without Aniket. So keep it up buddy.

It was dessert time by then and we had some marshmallow roasters for dessert. After so much of food, a deep sleep was inevitable.

Next morning, after having the breakfast of apples and doughnuts, we started our hike. This almost 7 miles hike is full of huge boulders and lots of ups and downs as well as streams and trees. It was a very enjoyable 4 hour hike. We did a bit of rock climbing, a bit of tree climbing, some apple picking, lots of relaxing and some walking.

On our way back, we had a late lunch at the Pepper-mate Restaurant in Warren. They claim to be the best family restaurant in Warren. Well, considering their food, I would say that Warren families need to improve.

Anyways, it was an excellent weekend overall. It seems that Allegheny will be my second home in Cleveland in a next couple of years. I would definitely recommend you to visit that place at least once. Its cool, and all the trails are worth the effort. I am already planning another camping trip in Fall Break later in October.

Please click here for camping pics.


Anonymous said...

Great one Vivek! Looking forward to trekking the Rockies...THE ULTIMATE TREK! see you in Colorado..

Anonymous said...

It really was a very fun weekend !!!