You don’t always have to travel far to go on an adventure. When Winter Storm Jonas rolled through the Eastern Seaboard over a week ago, the Hocking Hills in Ohio transformed into a magical, snow-covered playground. Jake and I quickly packed up our gear, waited for the Level 2 snow emergency to clear, and traveled an hour south to see the sights.
The Hocking Hills can be crowded with hikers depending on which attraction you’re visiting. However, there were far fewer people on the trails when we went, making for the perfect weekend escape. There was an air of excitement surrounding the hike, as everyone on the trails couldn’t wait to see the new ice and snow formations around every corner.
I was excited to hear so many different languages during our trek, and have since learned that the Hocking Hills attracts a huge international crowd. It never ceases to amaze me that while I’ve traveled around the world, I have never fully explored my home base. While I have been to various sections of the Hocking Hills over the past few years, fifteen years had passed since the last time I went spelunking through Old Man’s Cave.
The ice was the main event on the hike. You can’t tell from every picture, but the icicles and frozen falls were massive. Icicles hanging off of caves were sometimes twice our height!
Conkle’s Hollow. Look at the “texture” the ice is creating!
Oh, and I only wiped out once! Pro-tip: If it looks like ice, it is ice.
Some of the most fascinating aspects of the Hocking Hills are the abundance of trees and plants that are a long way from their native home. Because the gorge Old Man's Cave is in is so cool and damp year-round, it allows for some interesting flora to thrive such as the Canada Yew and Hemlock. How did these plants come to find this oasis-style habitat? The last time these trees grew in the southern Ohio region was during the Ice Age! They are still able to survive in the Hocking Hills due to the moist climate, while the same plants have vanished from other areas in Ohio and surrounding states.
The Hocking Hills has its very own “Devil’s Bathtub” - a major attraction and dangerous spot in the park. Due to the flow of the stream, the sandstone in the bathtub is more heavily compressed than the rest of the stone in the area, and the tub is shaped in such a way that if you fall / dive / cannonball into it – beware! It is nearly impossible to get out of the swirling, smooth-sided tub.
Legends say that this tub is a portal to Hades.
While on the trail, we stopped at an attraction called “Sphinx Head.” It was given its name by the striking similarity of the rock formation to the Sphinx. The signs along the trail encouraged imagination while walking through the park to see if hikers could find other unique views.
Old Man’s Cave
As we trekked through the tundra, we reached our final destination in the hills – Old Man’s Cave. The cave is named in honor of Richard Rowe, a man that lived out the end of his life in the cave after moving with his family from Tennessee around 1786 to establish a trading post. But he didn’t live alone – his two dogs lived with him. As you can see from the photo, the cave is tucked away under the shelter of a large rock, providing protection from the ice and snow.
One Week Later
My goal was to hike the 5 mile deep woods trail, but I decided to hold off…just until everything melts. In the meantime, I will be looking forward to exploring my home base even further.
We want to hear from you! Let us know where you’re going on winter adventures in the comments! Send us the pictures on Facebook!
And start looking forward to next week – Jake’s first blog post will make its debut!