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!


Lucas said...

What a fun getaway. Those trees are amazing and the tootsie photo is too cute.

Sandy Needham said...

Simply thrilling. Perfect! What a gift.

lil sis said...

It took me a while to find the time to read and enjoy this post, but I love that park and am so glad you got to enjoy it! I think Oat and I should do the same!
Beautiful! I especially liked the idea of hot tub and fire. 2 of my favorites!