Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year's Day: Into Old Man's Cave

We decided to start our new year a little dfferently than the usual. Instead of cooking a big dinner and having some family over, we planned a hike. Our destination: Old Man's Cave, in the Hocking Hills State Park near Logan Ohio.

According to the park's website: "Old Man's Cave derives its name from the hermit Richard Rowe who lived in the large recess cave of the gorge. 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 lived out his life in the area and is buried beneath the ledge of the main recess cave. Earlier residents of the cave were two brothers, Nathaniel and Pat Rayon, who came to the area in 1795. They built a permanent cabin 30 feet north of the cave entrance. Both brothers are buried in or near the cave. Their cabin was later dismantled and relocated on the nearby Iles farm to be used as a tobacco drying house."

We were intrigued. Live an entire lifetime in a cave? What sort of place was this anyway?

The cave is located in a gorge cut through sandstone by Salt Creek. There are several waterfalls and lots of hiking options. Given our limited time, we opted to take the 2-mile hike that took in the upper and middle waterfalls and the cave itself.

It was warmer than usual on New Years day, cloudy and threatening rain but the temperatures stayed in the 40's. The ground however, was soggy, soggy, soggy from the heavy rains of the past few days.

We hoped that the rain meant that the waterfalls in the park would be flowing full. They did not disappoint.

I wondered how those people got down there...

 and soon found out. The trail winds down and down, and I have to admit there were times when my vertigo nearly had me frozen against the cliffs. The steps are stone and many are not level and/or are high steps for a short person with a bad knee, but here and there kind young men grabbed my hands and helped me over some of the harder places. Bless them! I was determined to go on and not turn back after coming all this way. Vertigo is an odd thing--I never know when it's going to hit. This day, it reared its mean old head a few times but in the end I won.

The green lushness of the place reminded me very much of Beartown Rocks in Pocahontas County, WV. Ferns abounded and I wondered what it must be like in this place in summer.

Amazing rock formations everywhere.

And waterfalls! A person could satisfy their waterfall craving here!

This wild whirlpool is called the Devil's Bathtub. Can you imagine tying a load of clothes in a sack and dangling it in that? I bet the clothes would be clean in no time.

Larry enjoyed trying out his new phone's camera. He's still getting the hang of it, but he took many photos during our walk.

And another waterfall... ahhhh....

These steps caused me to catch my breath! At the bottom I found I could not make my feet move. I was frozen to the wall, until a nice young man, who had been watching me come down, came over and gave me a helping hand. Whew.

At the bottom of the steps, this place--well worth the scare.

Along the path, a witch hazel shrub was in bloom. It was nice to see something flowering on the first day of the year.

More falls, which we would cross...see the path there?

Huge, jutting rocks hang overhead...

This bridge was another vertigo-inducing experience. Normally I'd skip right across something like this but it took everything in me to cross it this time.

Far above, the A-frame bridge we would cross later on our way out.

The pale area in this photo was such a surprise--it looked like the sun was shining on it, but it's actually a completely dry area under a gigantic hanging rock--the Old Man's Cave.

Roots of an overturned tree drew my eyes; they looked like basket-weaving.

Then through a tunnel..

and under a small waterfall...

through another tunnel...
and there it was, the yawning opening of a gigantic cave. I wish I had some people in this photo to give an idea of the scale of the place.

Here Larry talks under the cave to a young veteran we met along the way. More about him later.

Can you imagin living in this place? Shelter, running water, plenty of game, wood for fuel, and natural protection from any marauding Natives that might pass by. Perfection.

The end of the trail. Larry and his new vet friend posed for a photo. I asked permission to post it because this man's story is incredible. At 42 years old, he has already had a broken back and other injuries and has had three heart attacks. He also has many blood clots in his legs and elsewhere, and walking was a real struggle for him. But he did it, and he is an inspiration to anyone who thinks they can't do something. With enough will power, the impossible can become possible. He knows he is living on borrowed time and he means to make the most of what time he has. It was humbling to meet him. Here I was struggling along with my vertigo and Larry's knee wasn't much fun, but this man had such serious health issues---and still he took that hike.  We never learned his name, but he will be in my prayers every day.

One last thought: John Muir once said we should not "hike" in the woods, but rather saunter. His words: “I don't like either the word [hike] or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not 'hike!' Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It's a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, 'A la sainte terre', 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them.”

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

When I used to lead groups of walkers I was always amazed at the cunning strategies employed by some of the ladies to get young men to hold their hands and help them across various obstacles. Never thought my own cousin would resort to such shameless tactics!

All British people seem to dislike the word "hike", preferring "walk", "ramble" or indeed "saunter". There's also the word "daunder" which implies even slower and less purposeful progress than "saunter".

Mary Garrett said...

What an adventure! Thanks for bringing us along. <3

Granny Sue said...

Ah, John, at my age it's embarrassing to need help. But it was encouraging to see how young men have not changed in this regard. They offered help without me having to ask. Anyone who despairs of the younger generation should get out to a place like this--they might feel more hopeful. Everyone we encountered was happy, relaxed and not in a hurry.

Debbie Del Signore said...

As usual, your writing and all the pictures made me feel as though I was right there with you! I was in awe over the size of that cave and all the beautiful water falls. It is a beautiful place and one that I will add to my Bucket List of things close to home that I'd like to see!!!

Nance said...

What a great way to start your New Year. Love the photos, the history and the people you met along the way. Thanks for sharing. My guy and I 'walk. No hiking for us. And so interesting to learn 'sainte-terre-ers . . . Saunterers'.

Michelle said...

In my house I am the one who likes to saunter. The others like to "hike" and seem to speed past it all, I think! These photos are beautiful and this place deserves time to be seen and appreciated.

Brenda Burke said...

When we lived in Ohio took our kids there often

jcm said...

Lovely!! I could live in that cave, gladly. What a gorgeous place and one I'd love to see. Sister-trip?? :-)

Quinn said...

That's a ramble alright! Good for you and Larry! I think I would have been sweating so much by the time I got to one of those pools, I would have gone in for a swim.

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