We had never heard of the Hocking Hills area in Ohio, but we took a look at it after receiving a tip. It turned out to be a quite interesting natural area. This was our first day of hiking from our campground at the Hocking Hills State Park.
We arrived at Hocking Hills State Park yesterday, and we were ready to get some hiking in today. We headed out around 10:30.
A few campsites from where we are parked, there is a steep trail downhill to the Old Man's Cave area.
At the bottom of the hill are signs to the Upper Falls (to the right) and to the Hocking Hills State Park visitor's center and to Old Man's Cave across a bridge. Since there was no water running, we skipped the Upper Falls and headed to Old Man's Cave.
The sign says the cave was named for the "old man" Richard Rowe, a recluse that used the cave as his home in the 1800s. The sign also explains that "Hocking" is derived from the Wyandot Indian word "hockhocking" for a bottle shaped gorge near Lancaster, OH.
We descended down to the "cave" where there was a tour going on.
It's not a cave in the ordinary sense. It's what is called a "recess" cave. In this area, there are layers of sandstone and the middle layer is softer than the upper and lower layers. The middle layer erodes more easily creating these large overhanging rock shelters.
Now, between the dark shadows in the gorge and the bright light above the gorge rim, I struggled all day to get good pictures. So it is what it is.
That's a view from the other side of the cave with the rocky, dry creek bed to the right in the shadows.
We could only imagine the additional beauty of a flowing stream cascading down through the gorge.
This is a dark view of the cave and rocky gorge from the stone bridge crossing the stream.
It really is a beautiful place.
Now, we certainly didn't beat the crowds. There were a lot of people and voices were echoing off the rock walls. Most people continued downstream over a series of steps that went up and back down and over the stream again to the Lower Falls area. Again, there was no water flowing, so the falls were dry.
We crossed another stone bridge ....
and I climbed up on a rock near the falls shelf where I took a shot back across the pool to where Linda was waiting.
At Old Man's Cave, there were a lot of people. And then as we got to the Lower Falls, they had spread out and there were fewer people. Then, as we continued our hike toward Cedar Falls, we still saw a bunch of hikers, but everyone was well spread out and it was a very peaceful two miles along the stream.
That two miles is what I would call a moderate hike with ups and downs through the woods and along rocky cliffs.
This area was called Whispering Falls. It was just ground water seeping through the sandstone and dripping down into the mud.
But with the colorful minerals, it was a mini version of what we saw at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
We continued the hike scrambling over rocks ....
and admiring the natural beauty of our surroundings.
Eventually, we came to another bridge in the shadows of the high, gray cliffs.
This bridge was rebuilt after a "100 year flood" wiped out the previous one in 1998. It was rebuilt with some of the twisted girders of the prior bridge as a reminder that this one, in time, will likely be washed out as well.
Soon, we started seeing more people and we realized we were near Cedar Falls. Though the hiking is great, you can drive to almost all of the features in the Hocking Hills area and take short walks. A couple of places are even accessible down a paved path by wheelchair.
We walked up to the falls - again dry - and took some photos.
According to another sign, the early folks called this Cedar Falls because of all the evergreens, but they aren't any cedars around - they're mostly hemlocks.
We were joined there by several families enjoying this lovely day and taking pictures of their kids as they climbed around on the rocks.
Linda & I sat down on a rock wall and had our lunch while we people-watched and laughed at the typical child-parent interactions.
Kid: "Dad, can I climb up there where those other kids are?" Dad: "Go ahead, but if you fall and break anything, I'm gonna kill ya." OR ...
Mom: "Don't go there! It's dangerous. You're gonna fall in the water ... get away from there!" Kid: "Aw Mom, I'm not gonna .... Ooops."
After feeding and amusing ourselves, we headed back. Rather than backtrack, which you know I hate to do, we climbed up several steps and took the Old Man's Cave Gorge Trail along the rim of the gorge.
The trail back started out by the road and the Cedar Falls parking area, but then we crossed a short suspension bridge ....
and we were soon back in the woods.
The trip back along the rim wasn't nearly as scenic, but it was much easier. There were a few hills, but no potential ankle breaking spots with roots and rocks and no stairs, wood, rock, or otherwise.
After a couple miles, we came to Rose Lake which sits in a valley just below the campground.
We were about a mile from Old Man's Cave, but we left the trail and headed up into the campground cutting off about a half mile. It was a wonderful five and a half mile hike and the weather couldn't have been more perfect.
When it got dark, the full moon was coming up over the trees. I decided to walk down to the lake to see if I could get some decent moon reflection shots. I grabbed my tripod and headlight and made the short trek.
The moon had gotten a little high on me, and I really had no idea what I was doing. But I took a bunch of pics and ended up with a couple I liked. This one isn't the best of the reflection, but I like the moon through the tree limbs.
While I was down by the lake, a deer walked along the edge of the woods just a few feet away. With the silence, I could hear the crunching of the dry leaves with each step, and I could see its outline just good enough in the moonlight.
I packed up and walked toward the campground. With my steps on the gravel, the deer heard me and bounded deeper into the woods. There's nothing quite like sitting outside in dead silence under a full moon listening to the sounds of the forest.
And with that my friends, we'll call it an end to a great day.