As a resident of the Great State of Ohio I’ve learned that though we lack warm sandy ocean beaches and towering rocky mountain peaks we have a lot to offer for the intrepid explorer and nature enthusiast. A couple weeks ago our little family got the chance to see some of the natural beauty that Ohio boasts – the Hocking Hills State Park area. Within just a few hours drive of our home we entered an area in the foothills of the Appalachians, warmer temperatures and a lot more green than we had up North. My husband had some things to deliver in Chillicothe, OH for work and since it’s only about an hour’s drive away he thought taking the kids and me along would be fun for a few days.
I’d never gone around the south of Columbus to get to Hocking Hills before. We’d always driven around the East then South. I’m so glad I got to see the rolling and winding countryside and the teeny burgs in between with weird names I’d never heard of like Kinnickinick. I couldn’t stop saying it :D. There are a large number of small farms along this route mostly with cattle and horses. Though we did see a few goats, mules and chickens here and there. As we wound around on country roads a wave of peace came over me as I gazed upon the bucolic scenes of cows grazing on the hillsides in the warm summer sun. I wish I had gotten some pictures of this area, but I kept dozing off I was so tired and the scenery so serene.
This was just the beginning of what would be a fantastic three days in South Central Ohio. We finally made it to the Old Man’s Cave area about 3 pm on a Wednesday and though we had had 80 degree weather up North the Sunday just previous it was just a hair over 50 degrees with a breeze running. The girls and I thought we were going to freeze. Once we got hiking all that changed. Even down in the crags away from direct sunlight we were pleasantly warm from the constant walking, climbing and careful descent and ascent through the hills. It didn’t take long before we were comfortably warm.
First we went to Cedar Falls. We were so looking forward to seeing water running because the last two times we’d been there none of the streams were flowing – once because of drought and the next time because everything was still frozen. This time you could hear the distinctive sound of trickling water mingled with chirping birds. As we tromped down the trails we would stop and gaze at the beauty of the weathered limestone. For a little while we forgot about school, work and our utter exhaustion from having to get up at 3 AM to drive 4 hours across the state.
By the time we were done at Cedar Falls it was after 5 PM and we were running out of time to go check into our “cabin” for the evening. Hubby insisted on at least going down to Old Man’s Cave and seeing the Upper Falls and the Devil’s Bath Tub. The girls were up for it so I went with it and so glad I did. The walk down to the Devil’s Bath Tub is amazing, complete with rolling stream, waterfalls and beautiful views of the deep gorge.
Just past there is a strikingly modern style walkway cantilevered over the stream. It stands in utter contrast to the surrounding natural beauty. The girls had a little bit of trouble navigating this mainly because it looks like it would be easy to fall between the sections and there are no railings. I wouldn’t cross it if it was icy, but when it’s nice and dry I have no problem with it.
The Upper Falls were beautiful and Old Man’s Cave was impressive. There was water coming out of the rock so we got plenty wet walking through the little tunnels right before the cave area. We would have continued down to the Lowers Falls, but we had a bathroom emergency that made getting back up topside imperative. That’s one thing I appreciate about the Old Man’s Cave area is that the bathrooms are more like a road side rest than the nasty pit toilets at the other areas of the park. I shouldn’t complain – at least we don’t have to squat behind a bush to do our business in the wild.
Earlier in the day we had dropped off the trailer we had to take down there for work at the State Park parking lot so it wouldn’t be so cumbersome driving through the twisting roads. We had to drive around a bit to find the Lazy Lane Cabins, Ltd. rental office and we made it there not a moment too soon. It was well after 7 PM and it closed at 8. We didn’t have cell service in the park so even if we wanted to arrange a late arrival it wouldn’t be possible anymore. Like a mom 🙂 I was getting anxious that we were taking way too long in the park and I was nervous about having left the trailer in the parking area. They patrol those areas pretty heavily at night and typically they will ticket and or tow vehicles left there overnight. Hubby wasn’t concerned and was convinced it would be just fine. So, we got our keys to our “cabin” and then decided to go into Logan for supper and to get a few things for breakfast since there isn’t much to find to eat in the park until after 11AM.
Typically, every time we go to Logan we eat at Bob Evan’s. It’s familiar and easy and we know what gluten free items there are on the menu for our oldest daughter to eat. So we relaxed for an hour or so and then had to go to WalMart to figure out what we were going to get for breakfast and snacks the next day. Since the “cabin” didn’t have a stove we were limited to what would fit in a mini fridge and could be prepared on a grill outside or in a microwave. We got some microwavable breakfast sandwiches, a breakfast bowl and gluten free bread for toast for Cookie, napkins, wet wipes and bananas. Off to our “cabin” we went.
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I have the word cabin in quotes several times above and here’s why:
Our cabin was an old train caboose that had been renovated to include 5 bunks, indoor plumbing and heating and a telephone for local calls. Cookie had read the first 4 books of the Boxcar Children series about three times already so when we saw this on the Lazy Lane website we thought it would be a lot of fun for the girls to experience. It was small but clean and replete with signs and information about where the caboose came from, train riding rules, funny old signs and history of riding the rails. The lower bunks were not at all comfortable and they did not have enough blankets to keep us warm. There were extra blankets in the drawers under one of the lower bunks but when I pulled them out they were stinky, covered in cat hair and dried food (I hope it was food :0). Needless to say I set those aside and left a note for the housekeepers that the extra blankets were super dirty. Thankfully, I’d brought a couple extra blankets for the girls to use so they were OK. Hubby and I were not so lucky. Even though we had the heat turned up we still got chilled. Every time I tossed and turned hubby said he could feel the whole caboose move; sorry honey. The next morning he climbed up in the upper bunks with the girls and wished he would have slept in the extra upper bunk because it was much more comfortable.
SO, if you ever have the chance to rent the Caboose at Steep Woods by Lazy Lane Cabins make sure you bring your own pillows and some extra blankets. It sleeps five in individual bunks. If you want a more comfortable bunk I’d recommend taking along a twin size camping mat or memory foam mattress topper to make your sleep more restful. Also plan on bringing some grillable or microwavable food items and bottled water for your stay. You’re at least 30 minutes from Logan and none of the local full service restaurants in the park area open before 11 AM nor are they open every day of the week or all 4 seasons. Save yourself some time and gas by planning ahead.
Stay tuned for part 2. . .
What is your favorite vacation area in your state?