December 3, 2015
New Year’s Eve found me having to drive to southern Ohio and back to pick up a car with my daughter. Nine hours of driving. Luckily, the dealership where she found her next Subaru was in the town that is the gateway to the Hocking Hills area of Ohio. So, once my daughter was safely on her way back to Michigan, I had about 4-5 hours to explore the area.
This area has been on my mini-bucket list for a few years now due to the amazing photographs I have seen online. I had hoped to visit for a few days and in better weather, but sometimes you gotta take the little gifts that life gives you. The weather was hovering around 32 degrees with a stray flake of snow dropping here and there from the bright, cloudy sky. Not the best conditions for photography, but just fine for hiking. And the photos turned out pretty decent as well.
Stop one was Hocking Hills State Park and the Old Man Cave area. This is the most popular of all of the Hocking Hills areas due to its concentration of a few spectacular features and its well developed trail system. The area was not packed on this chilly day, though it was interesting (and good) to see all the teens and twenty-somethings enjoying the park.
The gorge was a favorite hiking haunt of the great Grandma Gatewood, the first woman to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail – something she did late in life, multiple times, and without any of the gear the rest of us would think as required. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk is a great book about such an amazing woman. The trail through the gorge and further downstream is named after Grandma Gatewood and is part of both the Ohio Trail and the North Country Trail (one day later and I could have counted my mileage toward the NCT Hike 100 Challenge).
I entered the gorge near the visitor’s center, descending down into the beauty of rock and water. A large group of young people came down at the same time, and as they turned right to head downstream towards Old Man’s Cave, I turned left to keep my hike on the quieter side. I soon found myself at the Devil’s Bathtub, admiring the curved lines and vibrant color of the scene.
I continued upstream to the Upper Falls.
From the Upper Falls, I climbed out of the gorge to view the upper end of the upper falls, then followed the rim back to my starting point, where I again descended into the gorge and began hiking downstream. I soon arrived at the namesake Old Man’s Cave, named that because of a man who used to live in the massive recessed cave. The pictures below do not really show the scale, so the third photo is presented with people in the cave area to the upper right. The falls in the picture look tiny, but they are actually about 12 feet tall (maybe not huge, but not tiny).
I then continued down the gorge to the Lower Falls.
At this point, I had a strong desire to hike the rim trail, but the day was getting short and I had two more stops I wanted to make. And so, it was back up to the rim and the parking lot, from where I made the short drive to Cedar Falls, mistakenly named by early settlers who misidentified the native hemlocks that surround the area. It was a short but steep descent down stairs to the base of the falls.
With time now getting really short, I climbed back out of the gorge, and made another short drive to Ash Cave, a mammoth 700 foot wide spectacle. Again, I have added a photo this series that includes other hikers to show just how massive the cave and falls are.
I am happy to have had the opportunity to make this short visit, and hope to return in 2016 for a lot more hiking and photography.
Following are many additional pictures of the trail, and a few alternate views of the above locales.