Venture: Pike Lake State Park
The darkest place I’ve ever been lies about two hours south of Columbus in a hilly, remote part of Ohio known as the Rocky Fork region.
At Pike Lake State Park, one of several state-run natural treasures there, a nighttime walk to the bathroom is an experience in total blindness. I literally tried and failed to see my hand in front of my face.
The equation — remote location, plus lots of trees, plus tall hills — produces an ideal place for sleeping soundly.
In addition to a lush canopy that overflows into an adjacent state forest, Pike Lake also has a small lake, several hiking trails, a renowned disc-golf course, plenty of campsites and lovely cabins with screened porches and full kitchens.
It’s a place with something for everyone — and a few surprises that make a trip worthwhile.
The park’s focal point is the namesake lake, essentially a large farm pond with grassy borders, a sandy swimming beach and plenty of places to throw in a bobber.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, families and fishing buddies pulled out decent catches of bass, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie. If you’re in need of supplies, a camp store sells live bait, as well as some basic rigs and lures.
Pike Lake doesn’t contain pike (it’s named for its home county) — but it is home to freshwater jellyfish. First discovered there in 2005, these small, translucent hydrozoans can be seen with the naked eye but are harmless to humans.
Kayaks, canoes and paddleboats are available to rent, though availability is limited. Hourly rates are $7 for a one-person kayak, $8 for a canoe and $8 for a two-person paddleboat.
Once you dry off, hit the 1.2-mile Mitchell Ridge Trail, a climb up one of the peaks that define the area’s intriguing topography. From the trailhead at the lake’s southeastern tip, hike to the left side of the loop for a better ascent.
It’s fairly strenuous, so be sure to leave extra time to enjoy the summit.
Pike Lake State Park
1847 Pike Lake Rd., Bainbridge