Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hocking Hills: Old Man's Cave

When most people hear the name "Hocking Hills," their first thought is Old Man's Cave. While it was the first piece of property the state acquired in this area, it is by no means the whole park.

Old Man's Cave was named for an old hermit, Richard Rowe, who lived in the recess cave in the 1800's. Of course, there no longer is an "old man" here, just as there were no ashes at Ash Cave or cedars at Cedar Falls. I'm sensing a theme.

the obligatory historical marker

There is a gorge trail, which follows the stream bed along the valley floor, and a rim trail, which one can follow past Cedar Falls and all the way to Ash Cave. We did the gorge trail, the most popular trail. This goes right through the cave to the lower falls, then loops back to the upper falls.

Kathi, ready to hike (and bird)
photo by Lisa D.

The morning sun lit up the recess cave, making it look bright and warm, but I don't think I would want to spend an Ohio winter here.

Richard had a fantastic view from his "front porch."

The last time I was at Old Man's Cave was a Labor Day weekend, several years ago, and the trail was so congested with people it was more like Christmas shopping at the mall instead of a peaceful nature walk. This visit, on a Tuesday, was much quieter. Except - what is that rumbling noise ahead?

Look, there on the bridge. Is it? Could it be?

Yes, it is. A school group, blocking the bridge crossing.

Luckily, they were on their way out as we were coming into the gorge, so once the park ranger and his herd of 100 or more students and chaperones passed by, we were left in relative calm.

Another view of the Old Man's Cave,
looking back after crossing the bridge.
Stunning, but not cozy.

One of the best known rock formations of Old Man's Cave is this sphinx head, near the Lower Falls. Personally, I think it looks more like an Orangutang, don't you?

After leaving the Orangu-sphinx behind, we passed through a narrow tunnel. Claustrophobics, beware! To the naked eye, this was merely a black hole, which didn't photograph well at all. But, look how the flash lit up the inside-

Beautiful, no?

This is the path along the stream bed, if you can call that a stream.

There are two bridges in the next photo. The upper level A-frame bridge is part of the rim trail, but look below it. There was a very interesting crossing over the stream. Instead of being a traditional bridge, it was a series of individual piers, each topped with a flat platform. There was a small gap between each horizontal step, so that each pier and platform unit was independent, but the entire grouping functioned as one unit. (This is so hard to explain.)

Our theory is that in case of future severe flooding, as in 1998, if one or two posts were to be taken out, it wouldn't pull the whole bridge down, making repairs easier and cheaper. Any architects or engineers out there able to explain this one to me?

I find I have way too many photos of Old Man's Cave for one post, so I leave you to contemplate this fern.

Coming attractions: Will there be falls at the Upper Falls? And, is there really a devil in the Devil's Bathtub?


Anonymous said...

Is the stream so low because of drought? Or is this its normal flow?

holly said...

Just catching up while I wait for Libby to return (she broke her collar and took off like a bat out of hell. I can't find her and I'd like to KILL her right about now!) and I am so envious of your trip. We have nice spots here but nothing like this at all. I'm glad you included Lisa in your pics, otherwise I'd never have thought it was that immense.

*I* spent my day at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. No falls or caves but lots of bosoms and codpieces on display! Also men in tights AND men in kilts!

Kathy said...

Holly, I hope Libby is back by now! I hate it when my dogs get out of the yard...never know what kind of mischief they might do.

Lisa said...

Anon: This time of year the stream is usually low, but this year there's been a drought throughout much of Ohio, so this is lower than usual. I've been down there at all different times of the year and never seen the water level this low - I got to walk out to places I've never had access to before, because they were always blocked by a pool or stream!