It was late fall. The campground was empty at Cook’s Forest State Park in west-central Pennsylvania. I was traveling alone. I pitched my tent.

It was 2 a.m. when the roars began.

It was not a screech or a scream. It was multiple roars that continued. It was genuinely frightening. It was clearly a cat, a big cat, sounding like a lion or tiger. It was very close by. And it sounded hungry.

I pictured a mountain lion, an animal at the very top of the food chain, even though Pennsylvania says it has no mountain lions. The smaller bobcat was the most likely candidate, the state says. But, to me, the roars sounded bigger.

I grabbed a plastic flashlight, my only weapon, and stuck my head out of the tent. I shone the light in a 360-degree circle and saw nothing. Not sure what I would have done had a large cat been there.

I ducked back into the tent but the roars continued. Sleep was impossible. I tried to make noises to scare it away. I yelled at it. I even sang to the menacing sound. I was, as always, tone deaf and very flat.

Finally, I got up the courage to grab my sleeping bag and make a mad dash to the car. I felt safe behind steel and glass.

Welcome to the always-interesting world of travel writing.

It’s been fun.

I have written nearly 765 outdoorsy travel columns over 20 years for the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com, and this is the last one.

The travel column has taken me from California and British Columbia to Maine and Florida and the Caribbean to Europe. I’ve been to 37 states in search of interesting and special places to photograph and write about. I have hiked, paddled, pedaled, cruised, toured, sailed, wined, skied, snowshoed, snorkeled, swam, beached, walked and more.

People love travel articles. They want to see what you say about places where they have vacationed, and they are eager to learn more about interesting spots they might want to visit.

Strangers stopped me regularly in the grocery store to talk travel. I regularly got messages from people who saved my columns to plan future trips.

As a travel writer, I try to present a sense of place in my words and photographs. That has been my challenge.

Doing a travel column required lots of travel, research and logistical planning. Over the years, family vacations included visits to parks, nature preserves and historical sites for columns and what my family calls photo ops.

The more stops on a trip, the better for me. A well-planned weeklong trip could produce a dozen or more columns.

Family members and friends have become selective. They joined me on trips to places they liked. On less-attractive locales, I was on my own. I basically went to the places I wanted to visit.

I have heard a wolf howl on a frosty night at Old Faithful. I have pursued moose in Jackson Hole. I have gone swimming with stingrays on Grand Cayman Island.

I flew to Nebraska for a weekend to witness migrating sandhill cranes. I traveled to isolated Newfoundland to visit Gros Morne National Park with its cliffs, caribou and nearby Viking ruins.

I pedaled the Tsali bike trails, hiked rain forests on St. Lucia, visited old coal camps in West Virginia’s New River Gorge and pedaled the Great Allegheny Passage rail-trail in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

I have scaled Mount LeConte in Tennessee, hiked to the arches in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, pedaled the Virginia Creeper rail-trail and explored Olympic venues near Lake Placid.

I have searched for ghosts in an old Ohio prison, admired Ithaca’s waterfalls, ridden a cog railroad into the snow on Mount Washington, admired starry nights in Utah and central Pennsylvania, cross-country skied at Lake Tahoe, attended bear classes in the Smoky Mountains and Low Country cooking classes in Charleston.

I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, saw Indian earthworks in Ohio, hiked by mansions in Newport, pedaled Gooseberry Mesa in southern Utah, visited Indian petroglyphs along the Snake River, saw grizzly tracks in Montana and watched an erupting volcano on a Caribbean island.

I hiked with daughter Katie up the Virgin River, which has 2,000-foot-high cliffs on both banks, in Zion National Park in southern Utah. I hiked the Canadian Rockies and explored glaciers with son Andy. I have watched elephant seals on a California beach with daughter Maureen. I have sampled Michigan wines with wife Pat.

I have a special affection for whitewater rivers, old-growth forests, waterfalls, lighthouses, mountain balds, Civil War battlefields, sand dunes and any place with a historical marker or a scenic overlook.

Some favorite places: Lake O’Hara, Zion Narrows, the Upper Gauley, New River Gorge, Westminster Abbey, Dolly Sods, Yosemite, Hocking Hills, the Tetons, Big Sur, Harpers Ferry, Bryce Canyon with its hoodoos, the Irish countryside, Grand Island, Conkle’s Hollow, the City of Light, the Rogue River, Banff-Jasper, Trail Ridge Road, White Grass, the South Rim, Allegheny National Forest, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Spruce Knob, the Biltmore Estate and Ohio’s Arc of Appalachia preserves.

I love visiting Asheville, Traverse City, Pittsburgh, Chicago, West Virginia, Vancouver, Charleston, Seattle, London, Lake Placid, Paris, San Francisco and Dublin.

There are places I still want to get to: Alaska, Hawaii, the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), Glacier, Mesa Verde and the Apostle Islands. I want to swim with the manatees in Florida.

There are three places every Ohioan should visit: Hocking Hills State Park near Logan with its rocky features, the Indian mounds at multiple locations in southern Ohio and the Arc of Appalachia preserves west of Chillicothe.

I love Ohio’s little-known state nature preserves.

Highlights include a chance to explore Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming with its geysers, wildlife and scenery. It remains my No. 1 outdoor place.

I had a brief encounter with wolf-moose researcher Rolf Peterson on Isle Royale National Park, an island in Lake Superior. He and his team collect moose bones across the island, and the bones were all sitting in the sunlight. It was an impressive display and a special, unexpected moment.

I love Arizona’s Walnut Canyon near Flagstaff where Indians lived. You can hike in and climb into the rooms carved into the cliffs. I love to snorkel and St. Croix, St. John, St. Lucia and Curacao are favorites. I have also enjoyed sea kayaking from Ohio to Maine to California to Michigan to Florida.

There have been mishaps along the way.

I traveled to the San Juan Islands off Washington’s coast to see orcas. None showed up for days.

On that same trip, we planned to hike at Paradise on Mount Rainier in mid-June. But it had been a snowy winter and Paradise was still buried by 24 feet of snow.

I repeatedly climbed Cadillac Mountain at Maine’s Acadia National Park, but it was fogged in for days. High waves canceled a snorkel/scuba trip to coral reefs off Key Largo, Fla., after we were already there.

Someone broke into my tent while I was sleeping in it at a campground in the mountains of western North Carolina. That dissuaded me from camping for a long time.

I tried to cross a bubbling stream on two ropes — one for your feet and one for your hands. It worked getting into the wild area. It didn’t on my return, and I found myself swimming and bouncing off rocks in a cold Pennsylvania stream.

I have found myself lost, a rarity in my travels, twice in the same area in the mountains of western Virginia 10 years apart. That was hard to do.

Getting a really good picture of migrating sandhill cranes proved impossible. I traveled to central Nebraska where up to 550,000 of the cranes rest along the Platte River in a spring spectacle.

I booked spots in blinds near the water at dark and first light the next morning. The blinds were too far from the birds for my camera and lens. The light was dim.

The birds, however, were very impressive. At one point, thousands of cranes flew up the river in a sky-darkening flock, and that caused the roosting birds in the river to erupt in flight. In a few seconds, the roosting birds were gone.

It would have made a breathtaking picture. Unfortunately, the image eluded me. And that’s bugged me for years.

Who knows? I may travel back to Nebraska in the future for a second chance.