Friday, October 12, 2007

Hocking Hills: Ash Cave

The Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio is a very special place. This is a part of the state that the glaciers never touched. The remnants of northern vegetation can still be seen, though, in the eastern hemlocks, the Canada yew, and the black and yellow birches, descendants of trees which thrived here 10,000 years ago.

The sandstone bedrock varies in hardness, so that percolating ground water and running streams carved caves and ravines throughout this area. Several of the rock formations have names and as a group are one of the most interesting natural places in Ohio to visit.

Ash Cave is one such location. This huge recess cave is the largest in Ohio, at 700 hundred feet long and 90 feet high. It was named for the large collection of ashes that covered the cave floor until 1886. According to one theory, the ashes accumulated from the campfires of generations of Native Americans. Another hypothesis is that early settlers manufacturing gunpowder from local saltpeter left the ashes behind. Whatever the source, there are no longer any ashes at Ash Cave.
The floor of the cave is now covered in deep, soft sand, from years of erosion.

It helps to have people in the picture to appreciate the vastness of Ash Cave. Just look at the size of that slump block!

Ash Cave's acoustics are legendary. There is even supposed to be a "whispering gallery," although I couldn't find the sweet spot. This ability to carry sound made it perfect as a meeting place for early settlers, since sounds are amplified so well.

Lisa singing the "Ave Maria" in Ash Cave.
Sounded good, sis!

The gorge trail to Ash Cave is level and paved, no hiking experience required.

Even with the incredibly hot and dry weather that has plagued southern Ohio this summer and early fall, the valley was cool and lush with verdant growth. Nearly every boulder, stump, or downed tree had its coating of mosses, ferns, and other delicate plants.

The smallest of these were not captured by my pitiful excuse for a "macro" setting, but I did get this lovely nurse log full of all sorts of greenies and growies. (I am not a Botany Baboon - any flora-lovers out there who can name any of these things is welcome to comment.)

Little caves and crevices pop out at you at the most unexpected times.

Here, too, you will find graffiti from the 1800's.

This one says "A. S. Witherspoon, Brazos, Texas,"
but he made his "Z" backwards.

"J. W. Kinney"

The water level was incredibly low. Here, Lisa walks down what would normally be the bank of the stream.

The "pool" in front of Ash Cave was a mere puddle.

No ash at Ash Cave, would there be cedars at Cedar Falls?


KGMom said...

Lovely photos.
The one of Lisa shows the incredible size of Ash Cave--great perspective for those of us who have never been there.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog. I loved the pictures. And you got a concert as well. Way to go.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, isn't it? Graffiti from the 1800s is history. From even earlier times, it is art. I love looking at names carved in a cave many years ago, but look in disgust at current graffiti. Strange, isn't it?

littleorangeguy said...

Anon #2, someone had the same reaction to the 1800s graffiti in the 1800s, and to earlier graffiti in earlier times, as you do to our grafitti today. It's all social expression, it's all art of one form or another (whether it is to one's taste of not), and it is definitely all history!

Susan Gets Native said...

Ask for your money back, woman. No ashes, no cedars? What kind of state IS this?

"Ave Maria" that hymn. Geoff's cousin sang it at our wedding.

holly said...

Maidenhair ferns. :)