Playing tourist

old mans cave bridge

Last week, we hosted family at Marsh Hollow. We decided to play tourist and pretend we were visiting too. I think our itinerary turned out to be a pretty good plan for a day trip to the Hocking Hills, or for just one of your vacation days if you’re staying in the Hills. We left the house at 10 am and returned home just after 4 pm to give you an idea about how long our tour lasted. Note: click on photos for larger views but only if you have a good Internet connection.

Jack Pine Studio furnacesJack Pine Studio

Our first stop was Jack Pine Studio on Route 180, about 10 minutes from Marsh Hollow.  Jack Pine is an artist who creates blown glass masterpieces. We were amazed as soon as we stepped into the showroom, where many of Pine’s beautiful art pieces are on display and for sale, along with work of other glass artists and craftsmen. The Studio’s other glass artists also create affordable blown glass pieces, with a heavy emphasis on pumpkins. A very cool (or hot!) feature of this studio, is that they are making glass pieces every day and visitors can watch art being created. Practicalities: they have a single indoor restroom, very clean.

Rock House

Inside Rock House

Inside Rock House with flash camera

Our next stop was Rock House, the only true cave in the Hocking Hills. There was dispute in our group about whether or not it is truly a cave since there’s so much light in it. Here’s the definition of cave from Wikipedia, which I think supports the “cave” designation:

cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the weathering of rock and often extend deep underground. The word cave can also refer to much smaller openings such as sea cavesrock shelters, and grottos, though strictly speaking a cave is exogene, meaning it is deeper than its opening is wide, and a rock shelter is endogene.

Hikers at Rock House steps

At the steps up to Rock House

Rock House trail is all downhill to get to the cave area, then hikers must climb up some old rock steps to get to the cave entrance. It is dark inside. Have your phone flashlight ready for the dark spots. After exploring the cave you will continue on the trail up and out of the gorge. It’s not as steep or long as the downhill.  Practicalities: We’ve taken small children and dogs to Rock House in the past, but it is definitely less stressful with an all adult group. Also, you will be glad you used the restroom at Jack Pine when you walk past the one at Rock House.

Conkles Hollow

Our next stop was supposed to be the gorge trail at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve on Big Pine Rd., about 11 minutes from Jack Pine Studio. As we turned onto Big Pine from Route 374, we saw that the road was closed. A worker told us a bridge had just been torn out and advised us of a long detour. We decided to skip this short gorge trail and head out to our next stop, which was lunch at….

Grandma Fayes

Grandma Fayes Grocery and Deli is a Hocking Hills institution and only 5 minutes from Conkles Hollow. Their motto is “if you forgot it, we probably have it.” Our lunch was delicious! Among the five of us we enjoyed: haddock sandwich, deep fried mac ‘n cheese bites, deep fried mushrooms, french fries, pizza sub, tuna sandwich, and turkey swiss cheese sandwich. Our only criticism was that the buns/bread were just so-so. Practicalities: this was a heavier lunch than most of us needed. I think we all could have napped. Pack a lunch, but stop here for the mac ‘n cheese bites to share. Also save your restroom needs for the next stop.

Hocking Hills Visitor Center

Hocking Hills Visitor Center

New Hocking Hills Visitor Center

It took us about 5 minutes to drive to the brand new Hocking Hills Visitor Center at Old Man’s Cave.  There are very informative exhibits about the region’s history, development and natural resources, plus great trail information. There’s a small cave for the little ones to explore, detailed information about the trail system, seating and convenient access to the Old Man’s Cave trail system. A small gift shop with Hocking Hills themed merchandise is also on site. Practicalities: The water bottle filling stations are just what every hiker needs. The restrooms are large and clean.

Old Man’s Cave

Hiker in small cave

Small cave at Old Mans Cave

Several entrances to the Old Man’s Cave trail system are steps away from the Visitor Center. We hiked down into the gorge, where I got completely disoriented because it wasn’t my usual way into this site. However, others got me righted and we headed to the Devil’s Bathtub, which did not have much water in it. We then hiked along a nearly people-less trail, across the awesome bridge pictured at the top of this post with my dancer cousin posing on it, to Old Man’s Cave. We thought about hiking to the lower falls’ basin, but the thought of hiking UP the steps, then down, then back UP again, wore us out. So we ended up exiting the gorge near the Naturalist’s Cabin, then back to the car. There is so much more to do at Old Man’s Cave, but we had one more stop on our tour and needed to get home by 4 pm.

Ash Cave

The falls at Ash Cave in skummer

Summer falls at Ash Cave

Ash Cave was our final destination, about 10 minutes by car from Old Man’s Cave or a six mile hike along the gorge trail, plus six miles back to your car. We wanted to leave on a positive note. The Ash Cave trail is very short and completely flat (wheelchair accessible). It’s a paved trail until you reach the actual rock shelter. There was very little water in the falls, but the spectacularly high rock shelter impresses even without water. Practicalities: This is a great destination if you’re touring with little kids.

It took about 20 minutes to return to Marsh Hollow. Some took the opportunity for a nice soak in the hot tub. Others started to gather ingredients for dinner. At least one checked into work online. One sat in a rocker on the front porch and just enjoyed this little slice of heaven we call home.

Last practicalities: To avoid crowds, visit the Hocking Hills during the week. Our tour occured after the start of school so that helped too. If you must visit during busier times, go early or late to the various sites. Take a long break in the middle of the day. And visit during off season, generally November through mid-March. Our lodging rates go down, along with the crowds.

Happy hiking!

Mary at Marsh Hollow

A very short wildflower walk

image of spring beauty
image of trout lily

Trout lily

Although it would have been interesting to photograph any wildflowers brave enough to pop up through the snow, I haven’t been too inspired to go on any wildflower walks in the chilly April we’ve been having. However, things have warmed up nicely and our fields are filling up with dandelions, spring beauties, violets and bluets. Up in the woods, the May apples are sprouting everywhere although they won’t bloom until May.

On today’s brief walk along the creek, I saw countless spring beauties and cut-leaved toothworts. The trout lilies are up too. I like their nickname: adder’s tongue.

Rue anemone are not quite as numerous, at least yet. Their creamy white “petals” are actually sepals. They can have 6-10 of these “petals.”

image of rue anemone

Rue anemone

The photo at the top of this page is a spring beauty. They are everywhere, with colors ranging from white to almost purple. Deer must not like to eat them as opposed to our domesticated lily leaves which must be a favorite deer snack.

John, our operations manager, went morel hunting yesterday. He’s got a patch he’s watching closely. Hocking County will get a lot of rain today and tomorrow, with further warming, so they ought to start sprouting like crazy later this week. Happy hunting, John!

Mary at Marsh Hollow

New footbridge at Marsh Hollow

Owner Dave Marsh is the guest blogger for this post

This past summer Operations Manager John and I needed a new construction project, and Marsh Hollow needed a new footbridge over the creek. After considering a truss and a suspension bridge, I stumbled on a modified truss (“rainbow bridge”) designed by Frank Petersohn of Vancouver BC. Although Frank has passed away, his son Michael now sells the very reasonably priced bridge plans, but fully cut and drilled kits are no longer available. For more information about constructing this type of bridge, please visit The Rainbow Bridge.

We found the design very appealing both mathematically and aesthetically. The arches are chords of a circle. We challenge granddaughter Makenzie to calculate the radius of the circle for this particular design!

Cutting and fabricating the arches, which are cut from stock 2X4’s, required angle cuts such as 18.4° and measurements such as 123 23/32”. To say the least these are challenges on a chop saw.  It wasn’t until we were nearly done that I got a digital angle measurement tool (should have had it from the beginning). Fortunately, I had Mary check and challenge my measurements (she was always correct). She also held many of the longer pieces being cut.

Note: click any photo to enlarge.

A new chop saw blade is a good idea. My chop saw actually caught fire and burned up during the project. Too bad it wasn’t the table saw because I really need a new one of those.

While a lot of the work and pre-assembly took place in the workshop, foundations had to be dug and poured and the arches moved into place over the creek. Getting the foundations parallel and aligned across the creek without a laser was also challenging, Fortunately, John is experienced with concrete work and took the lead in setting the foundations.  When all was done the two foundations were in near perfect alignment. I was convinced they were not aligned but in the shape of a parallelogram, but I was wrong.

Perfectly aligned foundations made the installation of the arches much easier.  We used a family “staycation” to set the arches. Thanks to our crew led by John including Brian, Grey, and Travis documented by Uncle Mike the actual placement went very smoothly. Note: the arches must be parallel and perfectly vertical to provide maximum stability.  I think we achieved that.  We also owe thanks to the ladies for entertaining the kids during this activity, cooking up a delicious lunch and serving cold beer.

The next steps included placing the crossbeams and staining the arches in place. The decking was assembled in sections in the workshop and transported to the site by John (they are heavy!).

During this time Jill, Mary’s cousin, was visiting.  She has a designers eye and gave us excellent advice about the design of the railings.  What you see in the pictures is a result of her input.   I think the railings give the bridge a very distinctive appearance.

Finally, because the slope of the ramps approaches 20°, we mixed Interlux Intergrip No Skid Compound paint additive with the stain to provide better traction during wet weather.  We also finished the hand rails with spar varnish make for a smoother hand hold.

We hope you will enjoy crossing the creek on our new bridge on your next Marsh Hollow vacation. It makes a great photo op and gives you access to our trail through the woods.

Dave at Marsh Hollow

An afternoon’s drive in the Hocking Hills and nearby Vinton County

We are planning a short family vacation at Lake Hope State Park, which is only about 45 minutes away from Marsh Hollow. Dave and I decided we wanted to visit first, to make sure we thought it would suit ages 3 to 78. Yes it will! Anyway, the park has lots to offer, from cabins to camping, to a small beach, marina, hiking trails, archery range, truly tasty dining at the lodge, mountain biking trails (I think it might be the no. one place for this in Ohio), a nature center….and lots of chill time. This would also make a nice day trip from Marsh Hollow….so stay here and go there.

The next stop on our drive was the new Hemlock Bridge Trail at the Hocking Hills State Park. If you follow our Facebook page, you might know that I went to the dedication and vowed to hike this trail soon. So here it is mid-June, and I have not. We are planning a creek bridge replacement at Marsh Hollow and wanted to get some ideas from the swinging bridge construction.We hiked part of it, but the park is not wrong to rate this as moderate to difficult. It is not appropriate for small children.  We were not prepared so turned back. Wear your hiking boots and bring your walking stick. Even though we only got to the turnoff to Whispering Cave then turned back, this hike is gorgeous.

Our final stop was at Jimbo’s Burgers & Beer, on State Route 56 in South Bloomingville. It is under new management and has been completely remodeled. We sat outside, as it was a beautiful June evening. The outdoor sound system was very nice. They are open Thursdays through Sundays so very much geared to the tourist trade. The mushroom-swiss burger was very tasty and large. You can have it on a pretzel bun or gourmet bun. Fries were also very, very good. The coleslaw was delicious but I generally prefer more cabbage and less dressing on mine.

Although we didn’t spend any time inside (except restrooms which are new and spotless), we could see that it was very nice, a mix of tables and booths and multiple big screen TVs. There is also a jukebox, which hopefully offers up more than boomer music.

It is also family friendly so yes, bring the kids. The menu includes more than burgers and the beer list is good. Hey, they offer Corona and Blue Moon, and all the traditional Bud and Miller stuff plus 1 IPA. We will go back for sure.

Mary at Marsh Hollow

Gifts for the fairies?

Fairy house

Click on photo for larger view

Fairy house interiorLast week we stopped by the Marsh Hollow fairy house for a visit. The fairies weren’t home, but the door was wide open and the place was crammed with gifts for the fairies! Or they are starting to hoard things for the winter. We saw a package of crackers, a stick of gum and a bandaid, among some lovely pinecones, pebbles and acorns.

Later in the week we revisited, and all the non-natural things were gone. So somebody appreciated them! We have a lot of squirrels in the woods – bet they had a taste of those crackers.

If you visit Marsh Hollow with a child, be sure to take a hike up into the woods to find the fairy house. Rhea, our resident fairy, often leaves gifts for young ones.

P.S. We wrapped a candy cane striped ribbon on the fairy house. We hope they like it!

Christmas in Ash Cave

Our advice: take a flashlight on this hike. It is incredibly dark. We hiked it two years ago, and had to shuffle along holding hands. While there are luminarias along the trail, it’s just not quite enough light once it gets really dark. However, it’s great to catch glimpses of the bonfire as you get closer. The hike can be started any time, 5 to 7 pm today, December 11. For more info, click the link in the title or go to http://www.thehockinghills.org/Park_Event_Holiday_In_The_Park.htm

Hocking HIlls Ash Cave Fire Tower now open

Dave and I hiked the Ash Cave to Cedar Falls trail yesterday evening, perfect day for a late afternoon/early evening hike. We saw exactly 2 people on the trail. Well, we saw them twice, once on the way out and once on the way back, but they were still just 2 people. The forest was absolutely lovely in the late day sun, and our tranquility was complete, except for those 2 people! By the way, this trail is 3 miles long, so a total of 6 to get back to the parking area.

We were thrilled to see that the Ash Cave Fire Tower is now open to climb. It’s located on this trail, but also accessible from a parking area at the corner of State Route 374 and Chapel Ridge Road. Built in 1934, the tower is 80 feet tall and you can see far and wide from the top. We were a little concerned about the fragility of some of the platforms at the end of each flight of steps. They appear to be the original wood. While most of the steps have been replaced, it’s obvious some of the platform boards are really, really old. In fact, on the first platform, two boards have fallen or been kicked off. I’ll report to Forestry today.