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I did my first overnight trek into Ohio's Wayne National Forest this past Friday/Saturday on the Archers Fork Loop Trail.
This beautiful trail is located deep in the Appalachian Plateau of southeast Ohio and is featured in the book "50 Hikes In Ohio".
The weather proved to be most agreeable. Temps were in the low to mid 70's for the entire time (except at night of course). I started from the trailhead off Shay Ridge Road (Twp. Road 34).
As always, had to hike about 200 ft. down the "jeep" trail then I pick up the loop to my left. I decided to start off by hiking east on the same past the Great Cave and towards Irish Run. I decided to leave the Natural Bridge for last.
Part of the Archers Fork Trail is also part of The North Country Scenic Trail, that travels through 7 States. The trails is double blazed for signify the two trails.
Hike past the Great Cave and I came to the first ridge to climb. Steep hike up the same and then the trail follows the top of the ridge till it descends most steeply down to Twp. Road 410 and a side stream of Irish Run. The Trail crosses the road and climbs back up the ridge. There is where the first sightings of rockoutcroppings are seen. Very beautiful to behold. As the trail "hugs" the hillside, I continues hiking east till the trail once again dropped down to the Irish Run Valley. The trail then follows a dirt road about 300ft. or so then reenters the forest to the immediate left. Again the trail ascends steeply up the ridge and begins to climb to the 1100 ft. elevation mark. I realize Ohio has no mountains to speak of but it does have it's steep hills!
The trail continues east till it drops down (for the first time) to Jackson Run. There I decided to rest a bit and just enjoy the most refreshing breezes. After a bit I arrive on the south part of the Loop and the trail begins to ascend the ridge once again. On the Archers Fork Trail there is plenty of ridge-top hiking to be had and some really nice views from the same. The time is nearing the 5pm (EST) mark so I decide to start looking for a suitable place to camp for the night. Lo and behold I come to the exact place I camped at nearly five (5) years ago. I establish camp for the night and just take it easy, enjoying the breezes on the top of the ridge. For the entire night the wind blew and all I heard was the leaves blowing around and an occasional coyote in the distance. Very quiet out in the forest.
The following morning I get up early and decide to break camp and get back on the trail. I head in the direction of the Jackson Run Valley and after some hiking come to the same. I did notice the Forest Servive actually rerouted the trail at this point and put in a much needed switch-back in the Valley. After descending off the ridge I cross a side stream of Jackson Run and hike past the site of my former campsite. Here the trail enters a nice pine planting and continues to head southwest. After crossing a few more side streams of Jackson Run the trail steeply climbs back up the ridge. The hike up this ridge here is extremely strenuous at this point. Up the trail goes and when you think you reached the top of the ridge the trail continues to climb steeply past some very large rockoutcroppings. Finally once on top of the ridge the trail meets a Forest Service Road and follows it for a mile or so. I hike past some gas lines. The trail continues on till I reach a fork. Turn right at this point and follow down this pathway of sorts and the trail will travel down what appears to be some "wilderness" road maintenance of sorts. The trail will continue to follow this "roadway" (keep a sharp eye out for the blazes) and pass a oil well and pump. Straight ahead the trail reenters the woods and heads for Co. Road 36 and the Archers Fork stream valley. The trail descends down the ridge to this road and after crossing the same I had to ford across Achers Fork. The trail then passes through a floodplain and plenty of briars at this point. After crossing several side streams of Archers Fork I came to the junction with the connector trail that takes one to the Covered Bridge Trail. I continue on the Archers Fork Loop and after crossing another stream the trail begins another climb up a ridge. I hiked past some rather nice rockoutcrops and attain the top of the ridge. The trail than meets up with some ATV trail and follows the same about 50 ft. or so then makes a sharp left back into the woods. After hiking a bit I reach the Natural Bridge. At this point I have about 1/2 to go before reaching the trailhead, the point I started from. Hiking north I meet a yound man hiking with his girlfriend. They were planning to make camp at the Natural Bridge area. Passing the Great Cave I turn left and regain the "jeep" trail and after hiking north on the same I come to the Trailhead Parking Area, located next to St. Patrick's Cemetary.
This turned out to be a very nice hike, I'm happy to report. :)