OUR JOURNEY TO HOCKING HILLS

(A PANORAMIC VIEW OF ASH CAVE TAKEN DURING OUR TRIP TO HOCKING HILLS)

“The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity” (Saint John Paul II)

If you were to ask someone in Michigan – especially a kid or teenager – what their favorite place in Ohio is it is highly likely that the answer will be Cedar Point (the amusement park located on a peninsula of Lake Erie in Sandusky). How many times have I been to Cedar Point! But in this post I would like to bring to your attention another amazing place to visit in Ohio, namely, Hocking Hills, which is located about an hour’s drive southeast of Columbus. Frankly, it’s hard to believe (until very recently) that I had never heard of this incredible place!

“The Hocking Hills is a deeply dissected area of the Allegheny Plateau in Ohio, primarily in Hocking County, that features cliffs, gorges, rock shelters, and waterfalls. The relatively extreme topography in this area is due to the Blackhand Sandstone (so named because of Native American graphics on the formation near Newark, Ohio), a particular formation that is thick, hard and weather-resistant, and so forms high cliffs and narrow, deep gorges” (Wikipedia).

So, feeling a sort of urgency to visit Hocking Hills, I recruited my nephew, Brendan, to drive with me for an overnight camping trip to Hocking Hills State Park. We left early on the morning of October 14, packing extra blankets for the cold night ahead, along with our normal camping gear. After crossing into Ohio from Michigan on I-75 south, we passed by Toledo and made our way to Findlay, Ohio where we  exited the freeway and hopped on US-23 towards Carey, Ohio, where we briefly stopped to visit  the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, where a famous statue of Mary is located to the right of the main altar. US-23 took us into Columbus, Ohio’s Capital, and from there US-33 took us into Hocking Hills.

At Hocking Hills State Park we put up our tent and then walked over to nearby Rose Lake. Here is a photograph I took of this beautiful, seemingly pristine lake (which is actually man-made), preceded by a picture of Brendan standing in front of our tent.

Now here is the main point I want to bring to your attention about Hocking Hills – that there is no lack of adventure in this wonderland of gorges, rock shelters and waterfalls! But be careful, for there are hazards in traversing and hiking these marvelous venues. The seven main attractions at Hocking Hills, which include a combination of cliffs, gorges, waterfalls and caves (and trails for hiking) are:

  1. ROCKHOUSE

  2. CONKLES-HOLLOW

  3. OLD MAN’S CAVE

  4. HEMLOCK BRIDGE AND WHISPERING CAVE

  5. CEDAR FALLS

  6. ASH CAVE, AND

  7. CANTWELL CLIFFS

On the first day of our trip we drove to nearby Cedar Falls, and from there we hiked a decent distance on the Upper Gorge Trail over to Old Man’s Cave. Here is a professional photograph of Cedar Falls taken by Thomas Ramsey in July of 2008 (full attribution below). There wasn’t nearly as much water during our visit there in October.

And here’s a picture I took of Old Man’s Cave (be sure to stay on the designated pathway or you could be seriously injured).

The next morning we ate a hearty breakfast, packed up our tent, and then proceeded to visit Ash Cave, Conkles Hollow, and the Rock House. We wanted to visit Cantwell Cliffs but we ran out of time. Immediately below is a professional photo of Ash Cave followed by a picture of Brendan at the entrance to Conkles Hollow, which is purported to have the “highest cliffs in the area,” with beautiful scenic views along the lower and upper trails.

Our final destination in Hocking Hills was the Rock House – which was pretty amazing!  It is “a tunnel-like corridor situated midway up a 150-foot cliff of Blackhand sandstone.” Here is a picture I took of the inside of the Rock House, although there are some stunning views on the outside as well as you follow the designated trail (the first picture below is Brendan at the entrance way to the trail).

If you are looking for a camping trip with plenty of adventure, Hocking Hills State Park is highly recommended. If you love the outdoors, and contact with the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, you are in for a wonderful time. But once again, be safe!

Tom Mulcahy

Photo Attributions: The photo of Cedar Falls taken by Thomas Ramsey in July of 2008 is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The photo of Ash Cave is in the Public Domain per Wikipedia.

P.S. You can obtain an excellent map of the Hocking Hills area, along with trail maps on the back, at the camp office.

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