Old Man's Cave -- Friday, 6/3/16
A couple of months ago, my Road Scholar friend, Mary, knowing I like to hike, sent me a note via Facebook about a book I might like to read. I bought a copy. Called Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery, it tells the tale of a woman who endured a life of hardship, yet triumphs in the end over it all. Emma Gatewood loved to hike in her home state of Ohio, and especially in the Hocking Hills area. At the age of 67, she set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. And in September 1955, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin. There she sang the first verse of “America, the Beautiful” and proclaimed, “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.” While the book contains a good deal of statistics, it is, nonetheless, a moving account of one woman's success.
It's because of her and the book that I marked Hocking Hills as a place I'd like to see. It sounded like a wonderful place, right up our alley with towering cliffs, waterfalls, deep hemlock-shaded gorges, and miles of hiking trails. Since we were heading east and Ohio was on the way, we diverted a few miles south from I-70 to spend a couple of nights at Hocking Hills State Park.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived on Friday was an unrecognizable noise, as if we'd parked under high tension lines or the camper in the next site had an industrial generator fired up; a sustained humming undercurrent, like an ocean of sound. It was everywhere. When we finally asked, we were told that it's the 17-year periodical cicadas ... and this is the 17th year! They'd emerged, and all at the same time. Sometimes we'd hike beneath a tree with the persistent loud buzzing I used to hear in late summer in Niagara Falls, that usually heralded the end of summer. But mostly, it was just noisy.
Here's one -- about an inch-and-a-half long.
They don't bite and aren't harmful to humans.
The campground was nearly full. After we set up camp, we donned our hiking shoes and took off to see "Old Man's Cave." The trail map was not easy to decipher, but we had lots of company on the trail. Families, old and young alike, seemed eager to get to the cave. We had no real idea what to expect, and were delighted with what we saw. Water carved these gorges and it's ongoing. While we were at Hocking Hills, the streams didn't seem to amount to much, but you know big water has to rage through sometimes. Look at the water-sculpted pattern above, almost like a bathtub drain ring.
A timeless, ethereal quality prevailed here.
Jimmy crawled into the "spider" hole, but not me.
As we wandered through the gorge, we came across these stair-steps. I'm not sure how to describe them, they're a modern, Frank Lloyd Wright-look and quite attractive. Notice the bridge above Jimmy's head.
Such a dramatic overhang. Old Man's Cave actually derives its name from a hermit named Richard Rowe who lived in this large recess cave. His family moved to the Ohio River Valley around 1796 from the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee to establish a trading post. He and his two dogs traveled through Ohio along the Scioto River in search of game. On one side trip up Salt Creek, he found the Hocking Region. Rowe and his hounds lived out the rest their lives here in the cave. So sayeth a plaque.
The trail was anything but level or straight. We hiked up and down steps and grades more times than I could count, as we made our way to Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls and Lower Gorge. It was worth every step!
At Lower Falls, kids were jumping off the rock into a water hole. A young girl is jumping feet first, background-center, in this photo. I didn't test the water temp, 'cause I had no plans to go for a dip or a jump. The falls itself was beautiful.
Tomorrow, an afternoon thundershower is forecast -- it's warm and humid enough, so we plan on an early hike to Cedar Falls (nope, not Iowa!) and Ash Cave.