I did my first two nighter at the Zaleski State Forest. My previous backpacking experience was 4-5 miles in/out overnighters at the local Metroparks.
The start of the trail was fairly easy walking with mild ups and downs.The first campsite you get to is C which is very close to the trailhead (1.8 miles). This is a large campsite with plenty of places to hang. There was even wood stacked and waiting which was really nice. The trail between C and D sites was a little more challenging with larger hills to climb and descend. With most the leaves already on the ground, I had to take my time going down some of the larger hills.
I stayed at campsite D the first night. Total distance was 6.1 miles. It took about 3 1/2 hours from the trailhead to get there with a few long stops and some shorter breaks. There were plenty of trees to hang the hammock. There were three separate camps with fire pits. I stayed at the first camp which would be perfect for a couple hangers. The middle camp did not have any decent trees. The last campsite was huge and could accommodate a large group of hammockers with ease. The overnight low was about 26 so it was a good test of my gear.
On the second day the trail seemed to start out going either straight up or straight down. Once again, for more experienced hikers this might be moderate to easy, but this is coming from someone a little out of shape and still fairly new to backpacking. The views were pretty much the same. Not a lot of great things to see but the weather was nice and cool so I can't really complain. I made it to campsite L in about 3 hours of steady hiking with few stops. The distance from D to L is 6.5 miles.
I didn't get a good look at all the sites at L. I stayed at the first site on the left which is a larger site that could hold quite a few hangers. Once I set up camp I did the north trail which was a pretty nice trail with some better views and rock formations. There were a few small caves and rock shelters as well as some mounds of coal from the mining days. There is a small creek crossing that involves some tricky log walking or getting your feet wet. There is a pine plantation with some easy hiking. Overall the ups and downs were much easier. This can be a bit skewed as I didn't have a pack on. Total distance for the north loop is 5.6 miles. The low dropped to 21 so once again, a good test for my gear.
The hike out from L to A started out with a few hills then go into a valley for most of the hike. Some of the best sights on the trail come along this stretch. There are rock caves and a couple very large rock shelters. I was amazed as at how much more there was to see on this stretch than on any other part of the trail. It definitely made for a great end of the weekend. One thing to watch out for is the creek in the valley. I think I crossed it at least 8-10 times so during wet weather this could make for some very wet conditions. Total distance from camp L to the trailhead is 5.3 miles
The trail is 23.5 miles. One thing that stood out through the entire trail was the amount of thorny vines. Every where I turned my legs/pack/poles were getting tangled up by the thorns. The trail is very well marked right up until the end. You end on a road and then there are no other blazes that I could see. You need to turn left on the road then take a right on 278 to the parking lot. This was a little confusing and the only part of the trail that was not well marked. Water is supplied to all camps (C, D, and L) and wood has to be gathered with the exception of C which might have been a one time deal with the wood being stacked for you.
On my gear. I was pretty happy that I had my weight with food/water/fuel down to 24.5lbs. This is including my 4.5lb pack. The HH Exp worked great. I was pushing the limit on the AHE Lost River so I brought a full length 3/8" ccf pad and SPE. This took some patience to get right. The undercover did not want to work with the ccf pad. I ended up hooking the uq suspension over the ridgeline with a spare mini biner and it kept it snug.
I hung the tarp low and also covered the bug net with my jrb driducks weathershield. I used office binder clips to keep the poncho on the hammock and it completely enclosed the hammock. I was using the AHE Ohwyhee which is rated at 30* but with the driducks cover, I was toasty all night. Much to my surprise, I had no condensation issues at all. I was wearing Target brand cold gear for my top and bottom. A balaclava over my head/nose (can't sleep with anything over my mouth), my hiking pants and a thick pair of wool socks and no gloves. At times I had to vent the top quilt due to sweating. I used a 100wt 1/4 zip fleece pullover for cold spots and my down jacket for my pillow. With overnight lows in the mid to low 20's, I was impressed with the performance of my gear.
In closing I would say that I would highly suggest Zaleski State Forest. I would also like to thanks all those on this forum that helped me with my gear selection. Without your knowledge and willingness to take time to post on here, I would have never hiked and slept in such comfort.
Oh, one last thing, I was the only hanger and the envy of all those waking up sore and tired while I bounced out of my hammock with a full nights rest. Thanks all.