Monday, October 22, 2012

Hocking Hills

Last year after all of the festivities of Amber and Evan's wedding were over we received an unexpected wonderful gift.  The newly weds sent us a gift certificate for use in renting a cabin for a stay in Hocking Hills State Park, one of our favorite places to hike. When the kids were all home we took regular trips in the fall and the spring- to cabins in woods (Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky) or to quaint bed and breakfasts and inns (Amish country and down to Shaker Village in Kentucky).  It was the only time we had just the two of us.  Now all the kids have moved away and we have plenty- I mean plenty- of time just the two of us.  Now our trips are planned to see one "kid" or another as we've trekked about to Florida, California, Nevada, Illinois and now Michigan.  Occasionally we might tuck an "adventure" such as our recent stop over at New Orleans, but our travel was to see family and friends.  What a treat this gift was!  I'd forgotten what fun to "escape" to the quiet.  And I sometimes forget how much fun it is to hike- and how satisfying the muscle soreness is at the end of the day.  So to Amber and Evan I am so, so, so very thankful.  Besides- the amazing time I had at their wedding was gift enough. But this trip was just so very lovely I want to do it again- maybe not this same trip- but the "togetherness" we have in the middle of our "to do" lists isn't the same as when we're away and the "to do"s just melt away.  

Hocking Hills is in southwestern Ohio about a 2.5 hour drive from our house.  We made plans to use the gift certificate several times in the Spring but every time we'd think we had a date we'd look at the weather and it would be rainy and cold- not the experience we were looking for.  And we really didn't want to go in the summer- the heat does discourage hiking but even more than that it is a popular destination and we'd risk waiting in a line for hiking!  We finally decided to go in early October.  We were there for 3 nights in our log cabin, roughing it in the woods.

I suppose "roughing it" is a bit of an exaggeration.  Our cabin was well isolated at the top of a hill (importance noted later) with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room and dining table, a flat screen T.V. (well it was only a 32 inch one, certainly rough it for us) with Dish T.V., a fully equipped kitchen (but no dishwasher), a huge stone fireplace, and a porch with a porch swing and a hot tub.  All we could see out of the windows or from the porch was trees, trees that were just turning reds, yellows, and orange.  Fall is the most beautiful time in Ohio.  The trees are majestic as they begin to turn bold colors.  The air is crisp and cool.  It's worth waiting all year for!

And even better, the cabin was "pet friendly", so we also got to take Brutus with us. This was Brutus' first vacation.  I don't think he knew exactly what was happening but he quickly figured out that this was a good, good time!  

I even hauled a good supply of over sized firewood logs (too big to fit into my wood stove at home) so we had a fire every night which was perfect given the cool night air. I love Don's fires! They are amazing- and my only responsibility is to enjoy!  How's that for responsibility!

The TV allowed us to watch our Cincinnati Reds in the playoffs against San Francisco.  They had lots of chances to win, but just couldn't seem to score runs when they had the chance, but that didn't spoil our experience.  We'll still watch next year.  Now our allegiance is firmly with the Reds!  But that said I did leave a bit of my heart in San Francisco- so if the Reds can't go to the Series then I'm all for cheering San Francisco on!

We even took Max's new electronic key board so she wouldn't miss out on practicing her piano.  I'm just glad she didn't want to take the real piano. We took the keyboard up to the loft (well I took it up- Don took it down) and set it up next to the window.  This room was the only "bright" spot in the cabin with not only the floor to ceiling window but also a big sky light.  What a treat to play in this room!

And finally, because our log cabin was at the top of a hill, we actually had cell phone access.  Sometimes I had to hold the phone up above my head, but we have a signal. We didn't want to totally leave our technology behind!

But Hocking Hills is about hiking.  We planned a fairly long loop hike of 6.5 miles (I just asked Don again if he was sure it was only 6.5 miles- I would swear it was more like 12!) for our first day and it was wonderful.  The park sits on a 150 feet thick layer of sandstone that was deposited in three layers.  The center layer is soft, crumbly and very erodible that makes up the interesting geological parts of the park.  With less erodible layers on top and on bottom, the center layer erodes from water and weather to form large overhangs of rock.  Old Man's Cave is one of these where the overhang extends over the gorge for about 100 feet and it is rumored that an Old Man who was a hermit lived there for a number of year.

Occasionally the overhang gets too heavy and gravity takes over.  Our trail had to detour this large slab that lost to gravity.

The trails meandered along stream beds and above on the gorge rims giving us beautiful views and occasional climbs or descents when the trail switched between the stream bed and the gorge.

The trees in the park are mostly mixed hardwoods with lots of hemlocks. It was here in Hocking Hills that I first fell in love with a tree!  I fell head over heels in love with the Hemlock tree.  It is so delicate- almost like lace.  I'd never see it before- they don't grow in the south- they like cooler weather- And for me it was love at first sight.  Now by this time- after living with Don for over 18 years I have an affection for many trees- and can now name more than a dozen without hints- but you never forget your first love- And walking in Hocking Hills is an overdose of love! Just look at how delicate the leaves are!

In fact the largest hemlock in Ohio is in the park.  It is about 160 tall.  These trees look like they grow right out of the rock with the roots clinging to the stone. But for me it's not the size- or the roots- it's the delicacy of the leaves...

The geology of this area has been sculptured mostly by water, but this year has been exceptionally dry. Our longest hike started at the upper falls of the Old Man's Cave gorge, followed the gorge rim and then eventually crossed the stream on an earthen dam that formed a lake and then changed to a new stream that took us to Cedar Falls.  The lake is in the pictures below.

Max found this little Aster with a small bug in it.  It was too good a picture to pass up.

 From Cedar Falls  we followed the stream beds back to the lower falls of Old Man's Cave.  Unfortunately the falls were trickles at best and just wet rock at the worst.  Here is the trickle at Cedar Falls.  The plaque at Cedar Falls indicates it was so named because the early settlers of the area didn't know the difference between cedar trees and hemlocks.  There is not a cedar tree anywhere near this area.

And here are the falls at Old Man's Cave

 As I said, we did go up and down a lot on our hikes.  Some of the transitions were gentle, but most were either carved out of the rock or built out of wood.

Our second day got a later start since we were awaiting word on the arrival of our newest grand daughter, Amelia Cole Kappel.  Yes- you heard it right- we have a beautiful new granddaughter.  Marianne was scheduled for a c-section so we had a pretty good idea when Clint might call- but having a pretty good idea isn't knowing.  So we waited- and held our breath- and the call came.  We have a beautiful granddaughter.  Now you're going to see her picture soon because we'll be off to California next week- so for now you're just going to have to take our work for it.  She's a beauty!

We decided to hike a new area on the north edge of the park called Cantwell Cliffs.  This was much the same geology with even more climbing up to the gorge rim and back down again.

As you might guess, we were pretty tired after our days of hiking.  I have to admit the hot tub felt good at night.

What a wonderful time!  Thanks again Amber and Evan!

Monday, October 8, 2012


I know, I know, I know.  I really should have noticed several weeks ago that summer is really over- and our visitors are certainly gone- and that it was time to share with you our summer adventures.  Or maybe it was really time to start this about 4 months ago in numerous editions, but hind sight doesn't provide much of an excuse.  Does it sound really, really lame to say I've been busy- or maybe distracted- or just plain lazy.  I think on any given day any and all might apply.  But I think probably the most accurate explanation might be that the sheer abundance of all of our visitors- and the massive number of pictures taken- made the task seem rather daunting.  I put it off!  I found diversions, many of which are presented in the pictures below. I would put it on each day's "To Do" only to find the day complete and the summer blog still hidden in the pictures- and memories- tucked nicely away.  Now I'd like to promise that I'll be better.  That in the future our life will be recorded in a more timely fashion.  I don't think you'd believe me.  I don't think I'd even believe me.  So I'm sure future blogs will be somewhat like my past blogs- we just have to wait for the spirit to move me.  Well, I am moved- so read on!  

Now this blog is going to be much more a story in pictures rather than words. Actually this blog only presents the joys that family can bring over a given period of time represented in fractions of seconds of time.  One has to fill in spaces in between knowing that each fraction of a second that the picture provides represents what is sometimes a week of events.  Not being here to experience the events may leave one wondering about the details, but given that even we probably cannot fill in the details allows you to provide your own.  Just make them a much fun as you can imagine. I think always the magic of a child is captured in the upturned face- the wide eye stare- the mischievous glance. And this blog is so often about the wee ones of our summer visitors.  Now we did have some "adult" company- and often our wee ones came accompanied by an adult- but the pictures suggest that this was the summer when just being little captured the centers of attention- ours at least.

The summer we lived wasn't the summer we planned- the summer we lived just happened- circumstances changed- our summer changed.  Had you asked me what I anticipated our summer might be like last May I would have said "quiet".  I would have been wrong.  For whatever our summer might have been, "quiet" is not one of the adjectives you might choose.  There were some brief quiet moments.  Children do take naps.  Grandparents even get the occasional nap.

Beginning in May, Brandy and Mikayla arrived and intended to stay for about a week while they waited to close on their new house in Michigan and for their "stuff" from Florida to make the trip to Michigan in the moving van.  This short week visit stretched to four weeks with the unforeseen delays that so often complicate buying and moving into a new house.  It was a gift to us-but a frustration to Brandy and Will as they persevered the complications that just kept adding upon each other.  

Clint left in late spring for his last trip to Afghanistan (he is now safe in California with his beautiful family) and Marianne planned a summer "road" trip that would include a stay of two weeks in Cincinnati.  The "road" trip fell through and Marianne and the kids arrived in late May and left mid September (with two "road" trips to Florida interrupting the Cincinnati time).

And then Amber and Evan (and their new puppy "Bo") drove down from Chicago for a visit- and later Matthew and his girlfriend Sarah (with their dog- and frequent visitor to Ohio- "Gigi") drove over from Philadelphia.  So the summer was filled to the brim.  We made trips to the zoo, and to the pool (and given the heat we went a lot more often to the pool than the zoo) and the Children's Museum and the park.  We ate in.  We ate out.  Mikayla took swimming lessons.  Reeder took swimming lessons, musical theater and cooking classes (and a day horse camp as well) and swam on the Wyoming Rec Center Swim team.  Hayes took sports camp and also took swimming lessons.  And Weiler just managed to look adorable in the middle of the commotion about him.  And of  course, Sarah joined in the fun with Anthony and occasionally Deseree.  But Deseree is nearly 16, not a wee one at all.

So this story is in the pictures.  I hope you enjoy.  You must know that I will often go back to this blog and look again- and relive again- our summer with the wee ones. I'd like to think I might find a way to create some organization in these pictures- but I just don't think I'll be able to get them as organized as I might like- even my memories mix everything all up.  But perhaps we can all just meander along together.

Now I don't know exactly which picture to flash on the page first.  There just isn't one picture that captures the summer.  It is rather each individual moment that finally adds up to our experience of summer.  So I think I'll just begin- and leave you to sort out the summer in whatever fashion you might.  As I said earlier, whatever you might come up with is probably as good as what we could describe as long as it gives you a smile.

Maybe I'll start with cousins!

And of course trips to the Root Beer Stand:

And trips to the Dairy Queen:

And lunch at the counter of Half Day Cafe:

And Reds games:

And the park:

And the POOL!

Sarah's Graduation!

Adventures away from home:

Reeder's Horse Camp!  She did terrific!

And of course many wonderful times at home!

It is quiet now.  Autumn has set in, the days are finally cool, everyone is well settled in their new homes and we have quiet evenings at home.  So maybe now is the best time to write about the summer, to look at the pictures again and remember what a wonderful summer it was.