Weekend Getaway Guide: Camping in Mohican Wilderness

 

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The Mohican area is dubbed the "camp and canoe capitol of Ohio", and for good reason. Conveniently only about an hour and a half from Downtown Columbus, it's jam-packed with more than enough wildlife adventures to fill a weekend, such as hiking, camping, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, zip lining, and much more. 

After months of window shopping for supplies and narrowing down our Amazon cart, Zach and I decided to pack-up our gear and head out for a weekend of camping at one of Mohican's numerous campgrounds, Mohican Wilderness. It's a favorite spot for families, Scout and Youth Groups, and festival go-ers (the Annual Mohican Bluegrass Festival, specifically), but we chose it for it's more secluded campsite options, and the proximity to the State Park. 

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The Guide

 

Sleeping:

We shopped around for a while for a tent, and landed with the REI Co-Op Kingdom 4 Tent for it's functionality, durability, and price. It's large enough for two people (and a dog!) to sleep very comfortably with room to spare and room to stand up. Trust me, you want room to stand up! We also packed the REI Co-Op Kingdom 4 Footprint, and REI Co-Op Kingdom Garage which seemed unnecessary to me at first, but in reality I'm so happy we had them. The garage especially was perfect for storage and extra privacy outside of the actual tent, and we ended up utilizing the hell out of it.

For this camping trip we decided to pack the REI Co-Op Kingdom Sleep System, which we knew would be a little luxurious for our small weekend trip, but well worth it for catching some solid Z's. Otherwise, the sleep system is way too heavy to carry around long-term, so I don't recommend it for any kind of lengthy backpacking excursion. 

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Cooking: 

The campsites at Mohican Wilderness do not come equipped with existing fire rings like most campgrounds, so Zach built the fire ring from rocks found in the stream next to our campsite, for which we used as a grill. In the interest of comfort and ease, we also brought a Coleman RoadTrip Grill stove-top, which is obviously a much simpler method to cook while camping or on the road, and was essential when our fire wasn't stable enough to cook on. 

Be sure to only bring the food you're going to eat, and limit any extras like spices or oils to things you absolutely need. I also recommend investing in a coffee press (something sturdy and easily cleanable like stainless steel) and an insulated mug that you can use for just about anything - it'll save on the amount of dishes you need to pack and clean. Finally, make sure you pack some kind of water container for your campsite - packs of plastic water bottles just aren't very effective (and they're a bit wasteful), so we chose a collapsible water container that we filled from one of the potable water spigots nearby. We only needed one full fill-up to last the entire weekend for all washing and drinking purposes. 

Worst-case scenario, Mohican Wilderness's main office is well stocked in case you forget anything, and the nearest store is only about a 15-minute drive away from the campground. 

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Cleaning:

Cleaning yourself, or anything else for that matter, is always a bit challenging while camping. Even if your camping trip will only last a few days, choose a multi-purpose biodegradable soap to easily clean any dish, piece of gear, or body part. Trust me, you won't need much and you can use it freely without worrying about harming the environment. I also really enjoyed having cleansing wipes on-hand (also an eco-friendly option) for quick clean-ups. Mohican Wilderness does have several shower rooms located along the main campground roads, though Zach and I chose not to venture there more-so for the sake of time. We were pretty secluded in our little corner of the campground, so taking quick spit baths with wipes or even washing off in the stream or from our water container wasn't inconvenient enough to feel the need to use the showers. Plus, it's camping, it's expected to be a little dirty. 

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Hiking: 

Though Mohican Wilderness itself offers tons of recreational activities on their campground like canoeing, horseback riding, and rifle shooting, Zach and I stuck to our tried-and-true hobby, hiking. Mohican State Park is only about a 20-minute drive from the campground and is perfect for a challenging and scenic hiking day. 

The entrance to the State Park is officially on Route 3, but it's best to follow OH-97 to find the "south entrance" of the park to get to Mohican Covered Bridge, which is where the trails begin. It's not well marked, but once you see Park Rd. that's where you where you want to turn. Once at the bridge, you will see entrances to several marked trails, all of which snake along the Clearfork Mohican River and Clearfork Gorge.

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Lyon Falls Trail will lead you through the woods and along the Clearfork Gorge to reach two waterfalls, aptly named Little Lyon Falls and Big Lyon Falls - I love this trail for it's more challenging terrain and lush scenery, and it's only 2 miles long. There's also a dam at the end of the trail which is a good rest stop if you want to go fishing or enjoy a picnic. Another favorite stop within the park is the Gorge Overlook. It sits on the South side of the river and East of the hiking trails (i.e. you'll want to drive there), and it's the perfect spot to take in the beautiful valley views. 

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Mohican State Park does allow dogs on trails, though they must be leashed and..ahem..cleaned-up after. I like to keep a small collapsible water bowl on Daisy's leash for frequent water breaks - if you're thirsty, your pup probably is, too.  

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I always feel incredibly grounded and calm after spending time outdoors in any capacity, let alone spending a weekend sleeping under the stars. I'm definitely looking forward to coming back to Mohican for another adventure soon!

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IF YOU'VE BEEN TO MOHICAN RECENTLY, LET ME KNOW WHAT YOUR FAVORITE SPOT WAS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! 

What to Consider When Traveling With Someone New

Careful consideration typically goes into decisions such as choosing roommates, business partners, significant others, and even carpool buddies, yet when it comes to traveling with someone new we often throw all of that prepared-ness out the window. I'm here to tell you that that level of planning and communicating definitely deserves to be implemented when deciding to travel with someone, for the sake of your relationship, the trip, and both of your sanities.
 

Budget

Structuring a budget for your trip is absolutely essential, whether you're traveling with someone or not. While the subject of money can be a bit awkward, especially when it comes to traveling with someone you've never traveled with before, working out the nitty-gritty details of your budget and theirs will make the actual trip so much more enjoyable in the long-run, and save you both a lot of headaches. 

Be upfront about your budget with your travel partner ahead of time, and compromise accordingly along the way. You may not want to spend the money to stay at a 5-star hotel, but they might want to be in a specific neighborhood - find a cheaper AirBnb that fits both criteria. Maybe one of you is exclusively taking over driving duties on the way, so the other pays for more gasoline fill-ups or snacks at rest stops. While it may feel in some scenarios that you're paying more for things that aren't exactly a necessity or fit into your budget, realize that your travel partner is also doing the same for you - where it's reasonable to do so, let it go. Enjoy your vacation, after all! 
 

Meals

Here's the thing, standing in the security line at the airport is not the time to announce you're now a vegan. Tell your travel partner ahead of time what your dietary restrictions are if there are any, and what you're preferences around meals are. Some like to completely immerse themselves in the culture of wherever they're staying while others gravitate to what's familiar and comfortable - while there's no right or wrong here, simply understand your new travel buddy might have different preferences on style, price, or time of day they like to eat.

For example, I know I get hungry generally every 2-3 hours - while it's unreasonable of me to ask my friend to stop, sit down, and buy food or a drink with me in the middle of our jam-packed travel day, I will carry granola bars or a piece of fruit on-hand to curb my appetite but not slow down our itinerary. As much as you can, plan your food stops ahead of time (even if that means simply the morning of), so you both are able to enjoy the restaurants of your choosing.

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Alone Time

As an introvert, the idea of spending every waking moment with someone tied to my hip, especially on a vacation, sounds like a nightmare. Even with my boyfriend, I need time to decompress and just have a quiet moment alone to regroup. While you may not relate to that exactly, recognize that your new travel partner might. Or perhaps you do feel that way and you just need a simple second to breathe - don't be afraid to say it. Traveling with someone at all is a huge undertaking, especially with someone new, so don't limit yourself by not setting boundaries when it's necessary.

While they're showering and getting ready in the morning, walk to the coffee shop and grab breakfast to bring back for both of you. Maybe you really want to check out the art gallery down the street but she wants to walk through the park - agree to separate and meet up in an hour. You can catch each other up on what went on while you were apart! To enjoy your travels it doesn't mean you are obligated to do every little thing together - and let's be honest, it'll take a lot of stress off of you both to find time alone.
 

Bedtime

Like alone time, bedtime rituals are just as sacred and important to discuss with your travel partner. Establish ahead of time what you're preferred sleeping arrangements are (ie. do you need a separate bed in a separate room or are you cool with sharing a king?), when you like to start winding down as opposed to when lights are finally off, and when you like to wake up.

Does one of you like complete, black-out darkness while they sleep? Maybe you sleep with the windows open, but they prefer A/C. Figure out where you can both compromise with each other for the sake of the trip. If spending time watching TV helps you relax before finally nodding off, but your friend prefers to read in bed, offer to stream Netflix on your phone with earbuds in as to not disturb her. 
 

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Accommodations

Planning the accommodations is a huge part of the trip itself, so make sure you can agree on the location, price, and style of your digs before embarking on a trip with your new friend. Some are more adventurous and perfectly happy spending multiple nights in hostels or small motels along the highway, while others refuse to sleep anywhere than in a posh hotel with plenty of amenities and privacy. Again, while there's no right or wrong here (personally, I think it depends on the location) when you're in the planning stages of the trip be sure to voice your must-haves for room and board so that you're not stuck wishing you'd never agreed to an AirBnb in the ghetto (true story, I accidentally roped my boyfriend on a trip like that on our first vacation together, and God love him, he stayed with me). 
 

You learn a lot about someone while traveling with them, and not all of it will thrill you. Be open to communication before, during, and after your travels together, and remember to compromise. With a little preparation, you and your friend are sure to make amazing memories together, and your friendship will grow stronger!

Worst-case, you can always travel alone, too! ;) 

Why You Should Travel Solo At Least Once

This post contains affiliate links and I am eligible to earn a profit from purchases through the links labeled "Buy on Amazon". 

April of 2016 was a strange time for me. I was recently single after quickly dumping a crossfit-obsessed, borderline alcoholic guy I met on Tinder (yea, who didn't see that coming?), I spent most of my weekends partying and sleeping on friends' couches, and I found myself somewhat on again with a man I'd been chronically on and off with for quite some time (but this time was different!). I was pretty lost with myself. I was at a point where life was leading me, and I was blindly following. I worked a dead-end job, my friends were horrible, my love life was horrible, and my family was seemingly falling apart left and right. Despite my determined positive appearance, I was exhausted. I needed a "restart" button.

That's when I booked a flight to California.

My parents flipped. A lot of my friends and coworkers did, too. A 22-year-old girl from the Midwest traveling to the West Coast alone?! Unthinkable. She'll get lost, she'll be mugged, she'll be raped, kidnapped, sold into sex slavery, caught up in a drug cartel, eaten by a bear or a mountain lion...I get it. (No lie, I was a little scared about the thought of bears and mountain lions.) But I needed this. I didn't even realize how much I needed it until it was happening.

Fast-forward another month, and I'm boarding an American Airlines plane early on a Wednesday morning heading to Oakland airport. Once landed, I frantically searched for my bright red, hard-shell suitcase I'd recently found at Goodwill for $15 (can we all agree that Goodwill is amazing?) in the endless line of other suitcases since I was convinced the airline had lost it in the layover (they didn't - turns out they know what they're doing even if I don't). Once picking up my rental car, which was another panicked event that really doesn't warrant going into, I was off.

The moment I hit the highway due south, I never felt freer in my life.

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My itinerary was pretty hurried given the time I had available: drive down Highway 1 towards LA, stop to sleep somewhere along the way, get to LA and spend a night there, then head back north to Yosemite and spend the remaining couple days there hiking and exploring. I had a motel reserved for the first night along the highway in a tiny coastal town called Pismo Beach, and Airbnb's reserved for the other areas I'd be staying (here, and here). Otherwise, my days were thoroughly unplanned. I explored where I wanted, ate what I wanted and when, talked to whoever I wanted (or rather, didn't), and answered to no one.

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I gained an entirely new perspective during and after this trip on who I was and who I was becoming. More-so, I began to understand who I could become. I very suddenly no longer wanted to be the girl who kept letting life drag her by her hair through the mud. Every mile I drove, every step I took, and every decision I made was my own, and the epiphany it caused me to have made my blood vibrate through me with a new kind of energy that was very unfamiliar.

I was always rather independent by nature, even as a child, but this new sense of freedom I had was like a roaring fire in my belly. I was so drunk off of it I'd considered quitting my job, selling everything, buying a fifth wheel, and adventuring wherever I could drive, just me and my dog, Daisy.

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Of course, none of that happened. I landed back in Columbus the following Wednesday and listlessly settled back into life, as lukewarm as it felt comparatively. But the lessons I learned about traveling that week in the Golden State stuck with me. Such as:

  1. Prepare to spend more money than you've prepared. I'm not kidding. I don't care where you're going, that shit adds up.

  2. If you plan on hiking anywhere, buy a pair of decent hiking boots (link to my suggestion below), and definitely wear them in before trekking in them for a 15-mile hike in Yosemite Valley...

  3. Bring Band-Aides because if you're like me, you'll forget #2. Actually, a first-aide kit, a knife, and a compass are generally a good idea, too. You just never know.

  4. Do your research. I didn't just plan this willy-nilly, despite how it might sound. Draft 1 of my itinerary had me sleeping in a hostel in San Francisco in a neighborhood I'm not sure was even inside city limits. Then I figured out what a hostel was...no thanks.

  5. On the note of research, read all the reviews you can. On everything, and everyone. Especially if you're booking Airbnb, but even for restaurants and things to do and whatever else you bump into along the way. Because trust me, it's pretty embarrassing stumbling into a 5-star French restaurant in the middle of a mountain town dressed in denim looking for a "quick bite". (True story. Thank god the owner found me charming.)

  6. If you're going to a National Park, read the material they give you when you get there. These places are legit wildlife, and bears and mountain lions do appear from time to time, even in the daylight. Read up.

  7. TAKE PICTURES. I seemingly took a million pictures on this trip (yea, I was that gawky tourist with a camera swung around my neck 99% of the time), but even going through them today I still wish there were more, or that they captured more vividly how it really was.

  8. Call your mom. Or your dad, or grandparent, or partner, or friend, or neighbor. They're probably thinking about you, and probably wondering if you've been eaten by a bear or mountain lion yet. It's fine being independent, but not a recluse.

  9. Unplug. Especially during my hikes, I was very unattached to my phone, and it made the experiences that much more enjoyable. Snapchat can wait.

  10. Get comfortable with the idea of spontaneity. For me, structure is everything, so I had to get over this rather quickly. But some of the best adventures on this trip came from my plans unraveling (or a new plan arising that was more appealing). For example, I would've never seen San Fransisco at all had it not been for the earlier than expected check-out time at my Airbnb in Yosemite.

I know this is titled "why you should take a solo trip at least once", but I'm really not here to tell you what to do. Maybe you'll find some of my tips helpful or this story somewhat amusing, but my main point here is this: find something that brings you back to your center and reminds you that you are worthy and that you are able to do whatever you set your mind to. Because moving through life with that mindset is how followers become leaders, settlers become dreamers, and how failures become achievements. You don't have to be as independent as I am, but you also shouldn't feel pressured to be so involved in the cluster of society to the point that you forget who you are. Maybe hiking in Yosemite isn't really your thing, and that's fine. I didn't really think LA was my thing once I got there, so now I know.

For me, this solo trip allowed me the things I needed to grow, and I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. Whether you're flying across the country or driving across town, take time to do things for yourself and by yourself, learn to enjoy it, and allow yourself to grow in those spaces. You might surprise yourself.