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