If you are an avid hiker, what attracts you to the sport? Is it the solitude or one-on-oneness with the natural world that cruising through forest and fields provides? For me it’s both and then some, and hiking with the family is icing on the trail cake. For some, hiking alone is not preferred, which is one reason hiking groups are organized. This Saturday, January 15, is the Hocking Hills 46th Annual Winter Hike. This hike is one of Ohio’s most popular, organized hikes that drew a record-breaking, 5,417 hikers last year. With the fresh coating of snow southeastern Ohio is receiving, the hike should be a dandy and if you go, be sure to slip your camera into your pocket or daypack.
Hiking is a year-round sport that allows trekkers to see the landscape (and wildlife) in various views and poses—all photo worthy of course. The Hocking Winter Hike begins at Old Man’s Cave and if you travel the entire six miles, Ash Cave greets you at the end of the hike. At the half-way point, at Cedar Falls, a soup bean and cornbread refueling stop awaits (the meal is free but donations are appreciated). This special hike has seen diverse weather scenarios over the 46 years, from ice storms to heavy snow falls, and from unseasonably warm temps to rain sprinkles. The rugged terrain of Old Man’s Cave region is a treat to see and roam around and through, no matter what the season, but winter may bring out the best in the Hocking Hills.
The weather is only a part of the driving force that makes the hike what it is. It’s also the people and the diversity of the lifestyles that come out for a winter’s walk. Most are prepared in the clothing and gear department, but a few are not and it’s evident the holiday meals have slowed them down some. But all in all, the trail through Hocking Hills is a pleasant place to spend a day in Ohio’s winter splendor. You may even meet some old friends and make some new ones. A few years ago I met a man enjoying the gorge overlook about one mile into the hike. We shared a conversation and shot a few photos of each of us and our companions on the trail. That man and I (Hey Phillip!) have swapped hiking trail reviews and such with each other ever since our winter hike meeting.
Hikers enter the trail at Old Man’s Cave on OH 664, about 8 miles south of Logan, Ohio. When complete, buses shuttle tired hikers that file out of Ash Cave, to their vehicles at the parking areas at Old Man’s Cave and Hocking Hills State Park campground. Hikers are permitted to start the hike between 9 am and 11 am. Volunteers are stationed along the trail in case of an emergency.
What’s been your best hike so far?