A Hike Beyond Cedar Falls

 

Recently, my wife and I spent a weekend in our Evergreen Cabin. We love the free lodging perk of being cabin owners. As always when staying, we get out and take a hike somewhere in the area. For this trip, I chose for us a walk on the Chapel Ridge Trail (aka the Queer Creek Ridge Trail, aka the Cedar Falls fire road). Whatever it’s called, it’s a nice hike. The whatever-you-want-to-call-it trail begins from the back of the farthest parking area at Cedar Falls. An iron gate blocks vehicle traffic from entering. A wooden post with an arrow pointing to Ash Cave is located near the gate. The first third of a mile is shared with the Buckeye Trail and is part of the route hikers take when hiking to Ash Cave from here. At the apex of a sharp curve in the road, the trail to Ash Cave goes straight. We stayed to the right to continue on the trail.

Right away, the trail enters a beautiful hemlock forest and stays within or at the edge of hemlocks most of the way. The trail also stays just back from the edge of a seemingly unbroken wall of cliffs. In many places, stepping off the trail and walking just a few yards will place you at the edge of a precipitous drop off. A light cover of snow during our hike provided beautiful contrast and a perspective of depth to the rugged landscape that’s hard to grasp when everything is one color. Several small streams that bisect the trail all spill over the cliffs and created solid columns of rock-clinging ice many stories high.

At one point during our stroll, without any real good point of reference to share, we took a few steps off the trail and found ourselves standing above a massive long and narrow block of sandstone broken away from the main cliff. The breakage created a narrow but accessible passage between the slumped block and the cliff. Too tempting to resist, we climbed down into this passage and were surprised to find a natural arch on the underside of the slump block, created by eons of erosion not doubt. The arch is large enough to easily walk under. I tried to locate the name of this arch in my copy of Rainbows of Rock, Pillars of Stone but couldn’t find it. Perhaps we should be credited for its discovery. BTW Geology geeks: the aforementioned book is excellent catalog of Ohio’s natural arch and pillar rock formations.

At our turnaround point on the road, where it turns to the left and heads directly upslope, we decided to go off-road right, bushwhacking into the woods in the direction of the main gorge. The cliff line is a little farther from the road here, approx. 100 yards. We were headed to a landmark named Parish Rocks, as named on USGS topo maps. Viewed from below, Parrish Rocks is a sheer vertical cliff of approx. 150′ in height. From the top, a nice easterly view of the Queer Creek Gorge is offered, as well as a nice view across the gorge of the sandstone walls forming the north rim. From Parrish Rocks, we found a faint white blazed trail of unknown origin and followed it westerly for a quarter mile or so through more hemlocks and interesting rock formations. We headed back when this trail ran into several large downed trees.

In any season, this trail offers a beautiful, not too strenuous and not crowded hike. Trail runners will love it. In fact, this trail is part of the 20K loop of the annual Indian Run. Happy hiking!

(Sadly, I forgot my camera and was forced to use a cell phone for pictures. Many shots of the ice and views down into the gorge didn’t turn out too well.) Click pics below to enlarge.

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