Let it snow, let it snow, let
Outdoor enthusiasts will head
into the Hocking Hills this January 17, 2009 hoping for a repeat
performance by Mother Nature, who last year delivered some spectacular
scenery for the annual Winter
Hike. Last January, some 5,600 hikers were treated to the awesome beauty
of the sun sparkling on icy waterfalls, and sandstone rock formations
covered with newly fallen snow. This year's hikers will hope for the same
wintry weather, but will not be disappointed, no matter what the forecast.
The rugged beauty of this region is a delight all by itself, and in any
The Winter Hike follows a
trail that winds through Hocking Hills State Park for
about 6 miles. The trail starts at the park campground, and continues to
Upper Falls of Old Man's Cave. Hikers are led in small groups on an
walk to this point, and then left to finish the hike at their own pace.
Richard Rowe, area hermit
guide doesn't tell you, Old Man's Cave gets it name from one of its first
inhabitants. Hermit Richard Rowe lived in the cave and is buried at the
Before Rowe, brothers Pat and Nathaniel Rayon used the cave as temporary
shelter around 1795 while they built a cabin nearby.
The trail continues to the
beautiful Cedar Falls, and passes crystal-clear, spring-fed Rose Lake
on the way. Cedar Falls plunges a dramatic 50 feet into a crystal pool.
Here hikers can descend a staircase and view the tallest tree in Ohio, a
towering hemlock that extends upward 149 feet from the valley below.
Cedar Falls is also the the
mid-way point of the hike. Here hungry hikers will enjoy a hearty
lunch--steaming bean soup made the old-fashioned way in huge iron kettles,
corn bread, and plenty of hot beverages.
Tall trees, big caves, great
Hocking Hills State Park is
home not only to Ohio's tallest tree, but also to Ohio's
largest cave. As you continue on after lunch, the trail takes you right to
Cave, where the east fork of Queer Creek cascades in spectacular fashion
the rim to a pool below. Like Old Man's Cave, Ash Cave was important as
shelter to the area's earliest inhabitants. This roomy recess served a
along the main trail that connected the West Virginia villages of the
Indians with their villages along the Scioto River at Chillicothe.
When you reach Ash Cave, you
will have been walking for about five hours. At
this point, park officials provide vehicles to drive you back to Old Man's
Cave, although hardy hikers can certainly continue on the trail if they
wish. If you are ready for refreshments, though, we should tell you that
the last group of hikers were treated to doughnuts and hot drinks back at
Old Man's Cave.
Meanwhile back at the cave
Back at Old Man's Cave, hikers
were also invited to sample sassafras tea brewed over an open kettle, and
enjoyed a reenactment of a frontier encampment during the French and
Indian War. We don't know yet what post-hike activities are planned for
this January. Each year brings something new, and you are bound to enjoy
Pre-hike activities are also
offered the evening before. Naturalists' programs, games, and refreshments
begin on Friday, January 16, at 7 p.m. in the Dining Lodge of Hocking
Hills State Park.
New and improved Winter Hike
who have not participated in the Winter Hike for a few years will be
delighted with improvements and repairs to the trails, walkways, and
bridges, and the new staircase that descends to Cedar Falls. And if you
haven't been in the Hocking Hills region for awhile, you might not be
aware that the population of black bears has been growing in southeastern
Hikers just might be lucky
enough to catch a glimpse of one of these awesome creatures among the
caves in this area.
Abundant wildlife, beautiful
scenery, stunning geological formations, and
thousands of years of human history--enjoy it all at the 2009 Winter Hike.
don't forget the fresh air, exercise, and great food. See you there!
January 17, 2009,
9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Hikers should assemble at Hocking Hills State Park Campground at any time
from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 17. The Winter Hike and all
pre-hike and post-hike activities are free. Donations are encouraged for
the refreshments, and for the return ride to Old Man's Cave. Commemorative
patches and hiking stick medallions are available for purchase.
The Grandma Gatewood Trail
When you hike this 6-mile segment of trail, you are actually walking three
trails simultaneously. This segment is part of two national systems, the North
Scenic trail and America's Discovery Trail.
You are also walking a segment
Ohio's Buckeye Trail that is officially christened the "Grandma Gatewood
This part of the trail is named in honor of Emma Gatewood of Gallia County
who, at the age of 71, hiked the Appalachian Trail by herself. Yes,
Grandma Gatewood completed a solo hike from Maine to Georgia in 1958. In 1959,
Gatewood walked some 2000 miles from Missouri to Oregon. In 1960 and 1963,
she again hiked the Appalachian Trail solo, and in the years between,
countless miles all over the Ohio countryside.
Yes, Emma Gatewood loved to
walk, but her favorite hike was this very same 6-mile stretch of trail
connects Old Man's Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave. Emma Gatewood led the
first Winter Hike and continued to do so for the next 12 years, missing
hike until her death in 1973 at the age of 85.