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Old Man’s Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

August 21, 2012

Old Man’s Cave

Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

According to a sign in the park, Richard Rowe’s family moved to the Ohio River Valley around 1796 from the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee to establish a trading post.  Along with his two hound dogs, he traveled throughout Ohio along the Scioto River searching for game.  On a side trip up Salt Creek, he found the Hocking Hills region.  According to the story, Richard and his hounds lived out the rest of their lives in this cave.  He was found dead, accidentally shot by his own shotgun, and is buried in one of these caves.

With the Bridges family

For a number of years now, Nell’s sister, Vera Bridges, has been wanting to take us to Old Man’s Cave at Hocking Hills State Park.  There just never seemed to be enough time.  Now there’s time, and this past Saturday was the perfect opportunity.  Her whole family (except her oldest son, who is married and was out of town), was available to make the trip with us.  The weather was beautiful as we made the two hour drive from Mount Vernon, and it stayed that way all day.

I wasn’t prepared for what we found…

The Ohio State Park History website at http://www.thehockinghills.org/parkinfo.htm contains explanations of how this area was created.  The short version is that it consists of a layer of very hard resistant caprock and a resistant lower layer with a section of soft sandstone in between.  Over the centuries, wind and water eroded the sandstone and created these wonderful recess caves and rippled rock faces.

Even though there are man-made paths, steps and stone bridges throughout the park, one still has the impression of standing in a primeval forest.  Although this is a popular place, and it was a beautiful Saturday, it still wasn’t difficult to tune out the crowd and imagine what it must have been like to experience the solitude and sense of awe that early visitors must have found.

The paths and bridges have been tastefully done to fit aesthetically into the environment.

Part of the crew taking a break on a bridge

Considering the number of people in the park that day, I was impressed by the fact that most of them adhered to the principal of “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”.  There was a very minimal amount of litter.  In fact, we went to three diffferent locations and hiked in to two caves and a waterfall, and I saw one plastic water bottle left sitting on a stone ledge.  That’s it.  One.

Some thirty years ago, I developed a problem with heights.  The Bridges girls, Sarah (left) and Rebecca (right) made me uneasy by just walking up to the edge of a cliff and shooting photos.  In this entire park, Nell (who normally has no such phobia) and I only experienced one truly uncomfortable situation regarding heights, and we climbed our way through it.  They don’t have T-shirts that say “I hiked Hocking Hills”, but they should.

Nell taking a break at Cedar Falls

We visited three places in Hocking Hills State Park:  Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls…

Old Man’s Cave

Ash Cave

According to the website HockingHills.com, Ash Cave is the largest recess cave in the state.  The horseshoe-shaped cave is massive; measuring 700 feet from end to end, 100 feet deep from the rear cave wall to its front edge with the rim rising 90 feet high.

Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls was misnamed by early white settlers who mistook the stately hemlock trees for cedars.  In the mid 1800’s, a grist mill was built above the falls to utilize this water power for grinding grain.  Water levels are currently low, and there was only a trickle dropping down into the pond below.  There’s more about Cedar Falls here: http://www.hockinghills.com/cedar_falls.html

This place is simply amazing.  Everywhere I turned, there was another composition, another view filled with wonderful light and texture.

This was a pretty good series of hikes.  I have no idea how many miles we covered, but I have to say that most of it was completely manageable for an out-of-shape 68 year old man.  The hardest places were where there were a lot of steps, giving my knees and back a workout.  Still, it was a good day, and we had a wonderful time in this beautiful place.

But I still think I deserved a T-shirt.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Tami Brock permalink
    August 28, 2012 5:55 pm

    Wow,your blog is awesome. Nell, you and Ralph are living out everyone’s dream of retirement. I was sorry to hear about Hemi but sounds like he has a new great home. Hope to see you when you make your way through KY. Lots of Love, Tami

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