Let’s be up front with one small fact about me: I do not like hiking.
Beloved adores it. And since I like to take pictures and spend time with my husband, I occasionally go hiking.
Against my better judgment.
At any rate, July 23, 24 and 25 found us in Hocking Hills State Park in southern Ohio. While I was there, I found I much prefer it to northeast Ohio; because the park practically borders Kentucky, southern Ohio is much more, well, Southern than the rest of the state. (Click on any picture to enlarge)
Hocking Hills State Park adjoins a state forest by the same name and is a popular destination for families camping. The park itself is home to several campgrounds for RVs or those who prefer to “rough it” with a tent. They also have 40 “cabins” which are really just small homes with all of the amenities. Directly outside of the park are several privately owned properties with similar cabins; some are commercial properties – “Inns” if you will – small, hotel-like properties with additional individual dwellings. Most of the rental properties are owned by individuals; people who bought sizable tracts of land, built small homes on them (some of which are quite isolated) and rent them out.
Since my idea of “roughing it” includes indoor plumbing and a coffee maker, we chose one of the latter for our extended weekend away. The fact that there was a fully functioning kitchen and a charcoal grill out back was just a boon (oh, if only it had been clean…).
It rained a great deal of the time we were there, but Friday was quite nice so we decided to put on our hiking boots and go hike two of the nine trails available in the park. Neither was very long, although the first, to Old Man’s Cave, was marked “moderate”, as most of the trails are. The second hike, shorter and much easier (and handicap accessible) was to Ash Cave.
Composed mostly of shale and limestone, calling either of them a “cave” is a bit of a stretch – both are more honey-combed depressions in the sides of moderately-sized cliffs. Glaciers never reached that far south, but they did turn Ohio into a very cool, very moist environment and in the valley and gorges of the park, those conditions remain today, making it quite lush and green. There’s a lot of moss growing there, which I found quite novel – moss simply does not grow in northeast Texas; it’s far too arid and hot. The hike to both caves had a very “primordial” feel to them, despite the very well-maintained paths and numerous visitors.
Old Man’s Cave is so named because a hermit apparently made it his home in the mid-late 1800′s. There are a lot of steps going up and down, and places that require care when walking – as I mentioned before, it’s cool, damp and moss-covered – and can get rather crowded at times, but it’s a marvelous hike all the same. Not too easy, not too hard. Well, at least not for me, anyway.
The feeling that you’re wending your way through a primordial forest is even more apparent on the easy hike to Ash Cave. Again, it’s only a cave if you consider an overhang of limestone in the side of a cliff a cave, but it’s still pretty impressive. The entrance and interior floor of the cave is covered in the kind of sand you’d expect to find on a beach, making me wonder if it occurs naturally or was imported (and why, if it’s the latter), making it a nice place to sit and relax for a bit. In fact, more than one family was having a picnic lunch while we were there. The main attraction to the cave is the waterfall, but despite the rain over the previous day or two, was more like a water dribble. Still, the light and vegetation made it worth a picture or two.
There are lots of activities in the park – camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, archery – some of which are available year round. Part of the park is a nature reserve, and there is a family-style restaurant available, as well as the requisite visitor’s center with knowledgeable employees and a souvenir shop. All in all, it was a very pleasant day and we wished it hadn’t rained on Saturday so we could have gotten out and gone on a couple of the other hikes.
For more fun Travel Tips, head on over to Pseudonymous High School Teacher. Tell her the crazy lady from the Sushi Bar sent ya; she’ll treat you just fine.