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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hocking Hills State Park in Hocking County is just a couple hours northeast of Southwest Ohio. Six geologic areas comprise the park, three clustered in the north and three close together in the south.

In mid April we rented a cabin for the weekend and, with Mark’s sister and niece, arrived Friday mid-afternoon, via I-71 and State Routes 56 and 664.

Eager to stretch our legs, we parked in the lot off 664 across the street from a visitor’s center to Old Mans Cave. We saw lots of out-of-state plates, from Michigan and even Utah and California.

After a couple minutes of looking, we found the trail heads to the Upper Falls, the Lower Falls and Old Mans Cave behind the visitor’s center. The short hike to the cave, actually a stone recess, was nice on the comfortable April day, and the look at and walk through the cave was so surprising to me because I had never seen anything like that in Ohio. My sister-in-law commented that it seemed more like Tennessee.

The map of our first hiking opportunity on Saturday, Cantwell Cliffs, showed an area of the trail called Fat Woman’s Squeeze. We all laughed, wondering what that could be. The beginning of the trail, narrow stone steps between two rock faces, gave us our answer.

At the bottom of the narrow steps, the trail split: One fork led directly down and the other into a stone recess. I led the way into the recess, climbing over rocks and boulders or squeezing around them. I looked back, and no one had followed me.

I continued in my chosen direction and crossed the trickling stream and waited for the others where the forks converged; I do believe the others had a more difficult, steeper descent.

The mile-plus hike was pleasant with many stream crossings and large fallen trees we had to go over or under.

The next attraction, Rock House, is the park’s only true cave. Unique, as it is open on both ends and at several placed along its length, the cave is about 50 yards long. The short hike to it makes this one of the most popular features of the park.

Within a couple miles of our cabin is Conkle’s Hollow. We walked the paved path back to a lower falls past a couple small, stone recesses along the trail.

A light rain began as we made our way to the car.

In our cabin, while we waited for the rain to let up, we enjoyed a lunch of leftover lasagna and broccoli Mark had made the night before. We watched a movie we’d brought with us. Our cabin had a small TV with a DVD player. The rain never let up, so we decided to call it a day and nap, play cards and enjoy the hot tub.

On Sunday we returned to Conkle’s Hollow and, in the rain, hiked the 2.5-mile rim to the upper falls before turning south to visit Cedar Falls and Ash Cave, both offering diverse features and scenery. Cedar Falls is one of the top three prettiest waterfalls I’ve seen and the short hike to it one of the prettiest I’ve taken.

If you go, a Google search will return places to stay. Our cabin with two beds, two baths, kitchen, and hot tub cost $189 per night (Old Mans Cave Chalets, 800-762-9396). We brought a veggie steamer, a lasagna pan, and some spices from home and stopped at Wal-Mart 8 miles east of the park for groceries. There’s a Kroger on the way in Circleville on State Route 56 in Pickaway County; we wished we’d have stopped there instead. The park’s just 20 minutes east.