Clear Creek Metro Park Hike

The recent string of nice weather highlighted by sunny skies and low humidity has made it too hard not to get out and do some hiking. A few days ago I was able to wrap up cabin duties early and decided to take a three-mile hike at Clear Creek Metro Park since I was close. Clear Creek Metro offers great hiking, fishing and more without the crowds found at Hocking Hills State Park. The park is located just a few miles from our Rocky Ridge and Laurel Ridge Cabins.

This hike will also be remembered by me as the hike where I decide to dump my Kodak Easyshare camera, which I’ve used for years on all my hiking trips, for an iPhone 6 camera. I’m a recent iPhone convert, switching over from an Android phone, so I wanted to really test the quality of the iPhone camera by taking a lot of pics at different levels of light, distance, etc. I think it passed. Sorry Kodak.

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Good News for Moonville

In a past post I wrote about the Moonville Tunnel—a supposedly haunted abandoned railroad train tunnel deep in Zaleski State Forest. Even if the spooky lore associated with this place doesn’t intrigue you, the tunnel in itself is a very interesting place to visit.

moonville tunnel6Years ago when the railroad was abandoned and the rails removed, the trestle across Raccoon Creek near the west end of tunnel was dismantled. The removal of the trestle restricted tunnel access to an often muddy unofficial trail along the banks of the creek, or to crossing the creek itself, which is difficult.

For years the Moonville Rail Trail Association has been working hard to convert many miles of the abandoned rail line to a multi-use trail. Part of this effort includes raising funds to install bridges where railroad trestles were removed, including the one at the west end of the tunnel.

Just recently, the Association learned of a grant they were awarded that will now cover the cost of constructing a new bridge over the creek at the tunnel. This is big news not only because it opens another stretch of the rail trail but also because hikers, bikers and horseback riders will have easy access to the tunnel—a key to promoting tourism in an area where every tourist dollar counts.

Here is the full story on the web site of the Vinton Courier.

Rockbridge State Nature Preserve

During a recent rainy stay at our Rocky Ridge Cabin, my wife and I were able to find a few dry hours to get out for a short hike. We chose to visit the natural bridge at Rockbridge State Nature Preserve located near the village of—you guessed it—Rockbridge. The natural bridge found here is considered the largest in Ohio, measuring 100 feet long, 10 – 20 feet wide and 50 feet high. 2 3/4 miles of trails traverse the preserve’s 202-acre property but if you just hike the trail to the bridge and back the distance is only 1 1/2 miles or so.

The north side of the preserve has frontage on the Hocking River. Canoers will often stop and hike the short trail leading from the river to the bridge. While standing on the banks of the river you can hear zipliners swooshing down the cables at the adjacent Hocking Hills Canopy Tours.

For more info about the preserve follow this link: ODNR Rockbridge Nature Preserve Page

Black Bear Hit near Hocking Hills

This bit of news caught my attention recently. A black bear was hit and killed by a car on US-33 just north of the Hocking Hills. Bears are exciting to see in the wild. We’ve seen a few on hikes and drives mostly out west but never in Ohio. The Buckeye State has only a small population of bears so it’s a shame to hear one was hit and killed. Here is the article as it appeared in a local newspaper: Black Bear Hit on US-33

Laurel Ridge Mountain Laurel

The large stand of mountain laurel at our Laurel Ridge Cabin property is in full bloom right now. Mountain laurel are found primarily above the cliffs that bisects this property because they thrive in dry, acidic soils. Blossoms start to appear beginning the last week of May and will last into early June. We tried to capture the essence of walking through this magnificent stand  in bloom but the video just doesn’t do it justice.

A Fresh New Look

If you’ve been to our web site in the past and then again recently, you may have noticed the site looks a little different now—actually a lot different. We had it redesigned to fit the needs of users viewing our site on a variety of platforms from smartphones to tablets to desktops and so on. Roughly half of our web site visitors are now using something other than a desktop computer to view our site and make reservations.

newwebsiteOur original site was one I personally developed myself using basically straight HTML, which was fine for our first few years of business. The problem with it was, as smartphones and tablets became more prevalent, it just didn’t port well to those devices with small screen sizes. In order to keep up with technology it was clear we needed to completely overhaul the site.

Once the overhaul decision was made, I actually thought—foolishly in hindsight—that I could redesign the site myself and make it compatible with a multitude of devices. The problem, which became very clear very early on, was that as web technology advanced I hadn’t advanced my knowledge of the technology. Fortunately, my wife works with someone who is well versed in the latest web design technology and who also happens to be starting his own web design company. Problem solved.

Thanks to Nate we now have a brand new web site with a new look and a responsive design that adapts the layout to the screen size of the device it is being displayed on. Nate now has a satisfied customer, a good reference and another entry into his growing portfolio. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Two Sides of Winter

Winter 2014-15 was late getting started, but when it finally arrived it swept in with a vengeance. Most of February brought one snowstorm after another. In fact, in the 10-1/2 years we’ve been in business, there is more snow on the ground right now than we’ve ever had at one time. I blame myself for all of this snow: In January, I bought a new 4WD truck and snow plow (please don’t ask why it took 10 years to buy a 4WD and a plow) and in late January I said to my wife that it didn’t look like I was going to get to use my toys this winter. Soon after foolishly saying this is when all heck broke loose in the weather department. I am happy to report, however, that my new toys are paying for themselves very quickly.

Amongst the hard work and challenges to keep ahead of the weather — and to keep from losing my sanity — I try to find beauty in the mess Mother Nature has left us. Actually, I don’t have to look very far — it’s all around me. What a spectacular scene winter brings to our properties, and to the forests, caves and waterfalls throughout the Hocking Hills. Below you will find a few winter snapshots from our properties and a few from Hocking Hills State Park after recent heavy rains during one of the few warm days we had in the last month.

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.

Eagle in Clear Creek Valley

Driving in the Clear Creek Valley near Clear Creek Metro Park en route to our Rocky Ridge and Laurel Ridge properties recently, I was very surprised to come around a bend in the road to see a bald eagle sitting in the middle of it. It flew to a nearby tree along the road and sat there long enough for me to capture a few pics with my phone. Unfortunately, the pic quality is pretty poor. I haven’t seen or heard of eagles in the Clear Creek Valley before so it would be very cool to have them start nesting here.

Clear Creek Metro Park is only 5 miles from our Rocky Ridge and Laurel Ridge cabins. It’s a beautiful park with plenty of hiking, small crowds and one of the few places to trout fish in central Ohio.

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Winter Rock House

Recently, I couldn’t pass up a sunny day with moderate winter temperatures and few inches of snow on the ground to get out for a short hike. The woods had been calling anyway so it seemed like the perfect time. Because I got a late start and also happened to be in the area, I decided to visit Rock House. It had been a couple years or more since I last visited. As expected, the trails were very icy so I strapped on my trusty YakTrax for much needed traction. The ice was thick over much of the trail. Many areas below the cliffline don’t receive any direct sunlight so the ice will be sticking around for a while.

Rock House is one of those places that– if you haven’t been there for a while–you forget how cool it is. It truly is a house made from rock. Looking out through the windows and seeing the white blanket of winter contrast with the earthy hues of the sandstone was a quite a beautiful sight. With so much contrast in color and light, along with amazing contours of the rock, Rock House a great place to try to be creative with your camera and its settings. Below are a few pics from my visit.

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