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

July 11 Weekend Update

And another weekend rolls around, with lots to do in the Hocking Hills. If you are visiting this weekend and want to enjoy the natural sites in some peace and quiet, get up early and get out. Summer weekends are super busy in the Hills and parking at the major sites can fill up quickly. An alternative is to go late. There’s plenty of daylight in the late afternoon and evening. However don’t start a long hike too late or you’ll be stumbling out of the park in the dark! Check out everything to do this weekend in the Hocking Hills Tourism AssocIation’s WEEKEND UPDATE.

There is no public pool in the Hocking Hills

Recently we’ve been approached by visitors looking for a pool at Marsh Hollow. The park people have been visited by people looking for the public pool at the old dining lodge. These pools do not exist. In our case, there never has been a pool at Marsh Hollow. As for the one at the lodge, when the lodge burned down the pool went away too. So no pools at these locations!

Recent interest in these pools can be traced to a blog entry I wrote in 2009 about the old pool at the now burned down lodge. I recently updated it to say that it no longer exists but apparently  people are reading cached pages that have not been updated. Not sure how people translated that post into Marsh Hollow having a pool, but we never had one.

One more time: there is no public pool at the old Hocking Hills Dining lodge, which burned down about 1 1/2 years ago. There has never been a pool at Marsh Hollow.

Visitors can swim at Lake Logan, which has a public beach. If you are camping both the KOA and Hocking Hills State Park campgrounds have pools, but you must be camping there to use them. There are also public pools in Logan and Nelsonville.

One last time: there is no public pool at the old Hocking Hills Dining lodge, which burned down about 1 1/2 years ago. There has never been a pool at Marsh Hollow.

 

Shadyside Haiku of High Praise

Marsh Hollow attracts the best and most talented guests. Recently, Debbie and Denny stayed with us at our beautiful Shadyside Cabin. Debbie was inspired to write a poem:

Shadyside Haiku of High Praise
 
Shadyside Cabin
Is a true woodland icon
A pristine retreat
 
Nestled by the creek
Offering peace & quiet
A haven for man
 
Hot tub bubbling near
Wood floors beneath your bare feet
Beams soaring o’erhead
 
Soft strains of music
Decorated in fine taste
Expertly designed
 
The place is perfect
My husband wants to live here
For eternity
 
I’ll miss him.


Another Level I Snow Emergency in the Hocking Hills

Pinewood cabin at Marsh Hollow

The Hocking county sheriff just announced a Level I snow emergency. There are only  few inches of snow, but township roads like ours are very hilly, curvy and only slowly plowed or sanded. We are lucky to be so close to a well-maintained county road and state highway.

New snow is so beautiful. I think it adds more romance to a weekend in the Hocking Hills. It’s usually very quiet and peaceful. While I was out getting the hot tub ready for this weekend’s guests, I listened to softly played classical music on our outdoor speakers. It didn’t bother the birds at the birdfeeder at all.

Birds are extra active when snow covers the ground. They also love the corn we put out for the deer. That usually draws in the bluejays – bold, noisy critters! In the photo on the left, a male cardinal is sitting on the feeder tray. Mrs. Cardinal is not in the shot, but she’s just off to the left. On the right side of the suet cake, a male red-bellied woodpecker is ready for his snack. On the left of the suet, a tufted titmouse has his/her rear end pointed at the camera.

I took this picture through the cabin living room window. I wish I had taken my Canon Rebel with me instead of the little pocket camera. Some of our guests have taken amazing pictures of wildlife they’ve seen at the cabin. I just don’t have the skills yet.

Mary at Marsh Hollow

Breakfast at Jack’s Steakhouse

Dave and I have had quite a few dinners over the years at Jack’s, especially when brother Rob and sister-in-law Deb would visit. Rob loves this place, and that may be an understatement. For dinner, this is your basic, local steakhouse. Nothing fancy here, and even Rob will admit that it was better when the actual Jack owned the place. In my opinion, it has really improved since indoor smoking in restaurants was banned. I am usually not that sensitive to smoke, but this restaurant was just a haze of smoke, even the nonsmoking section. Really ruined my appetite which is hard to do. But those smokey days are long gone.

Anyway, Rob and Deb like to have breakfast at Jack’s when they are in the Hills. Since we needed to be out and about this morning, we decided to have breakfast there. In the daytime, the restaurant is a much cheerier place than at dinner time. There was a good size crowd, a mix of locals and a couple of vacationing families. Service was just a little slow, but friendly and attentive once it started. Dave and I both had steak and eggs, but while he had hash browns, I had grits. Our “breakfast steaks” were thin, but quite good. The over easy eggs were the best I’ve ever had. Perfectly runny yolk, white cooked through but not browned or lacy. We both ordered the excellent sourdough toast, but could have had white, wheat or rye.

So after all these years I have to admit my big brother is right: Jack’s Steakhouse is a great place to have breakfast in the Hocking Hills.

Jack’s Steakhouse
35770 Hocking Dr.
Logan OH
http://www.jacks-steakhouse.com

– Mary at Marsh Hollow

Location:Logan OH

Wildflower: Golden Ragwort

photo of golden ragwort
Senecio aureus

I was trying to be arty for the Shoot the Hills competition with this shot of golden ragwort along the Marsh Hollow creek. That’s the bridge to our hillside trail in the background. From April to July, visitors to the Hocking Hills will see clusters of golden ragwort plants in wet ground, low woods, swamps and meadows, and especially along our many forested roads in Hocking County.

This ragwort is native to North America and can be distinguished from a lot of look-alike plants because it blooms much earlier than they do (always helpful for us amateur wildflower enthusiasts who get excited about a wildflower find only to discover that it doesn’t bloom until August). Another helpful tip for identification is that the basal leaves are heart-shaped, long-stemmed and often reddish beneath. I had to pull away a thick layer of leaves to find this plant’s basal leaves.

WebMD has an interesting write-up about the medicinal uses of golden ragwort, which include diabetes, high blood pressure, fluid retention & pain during childbirth. After reading the side effects, especially effects on the liver, I think I’ll give it a pass.

At this time of year, Marsh Hollow has a beautiful display of wildflowers, making April and May two of the most beautiful months of the year.

December in the Hocking Hills

Click on the title link to discover all the wonderful things to do in the Hocking Hills this December. Ice skating, cookie classes, parades, and much more. We’re going to try to hike the Lake Hope Holiday Trail of Lights this weekend. Note: that some events in this link are in the past. We’ll post a new link later this week.