February 28, 2014

Looking Back at Some Spectacular Winter Scenery

As faint signs of spring are starting to appear, I thought I'd take a look back at a wonderful mid-February day that convinced me that I love winter hiking. That is a real revelation since we have never done much of it before and I always figured that winter was the off season for such activity. Not so! Despite frigid temperatures and lots of snow we've had a great time this winter exploring Ohio roads and trails. I've concluded that the best way to deal with a tough winter like this one is to get out into it.

So on a sunny day and with clear roads we headed with a group of friends to Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve in the Hocking Hills south of Columbus. In spring this valley, rimmed on both sides by high cliffs, is blanketed with a variety of wildflowers and is livened by the songs of warblers newly arrived from the south. At first glance, the winter scene appears lifeless, but closer inspection reveals all sorts of animal activity. Here a coyote ambled across a frozen stream:

A mouse emerged from its hiding place to run across the snow:

Here a small bird, a sparrow perhaps, left a wingprint:

One of our winter visitors, a northern junco, filled up on poison ivy berries:

Here is a hermit thrush, with its cinnamon-colored tail. These birds are among the first spring songbirds to reach Ohio.

The hermit thrush seems to be questioning the wisdom of a bath in the frigid stream:

A deer graced the hillside:

Sandstone cliffs line the sides of the hollow and this scene might be mistaken for Colorado:

Each turn in the trail revealed frozen waterfalls:

At the end of the hollow the ice formations were quite impressive:

After these breathtaking sights we had lunch and headed over to the short walk to Ash Cave. The "cave" is not a typical limestone formation but instead is a huge overhanging sandstone ledge. Curtains of ice lined the adjacent cliffs:

At the cave, a waterfall pours over a cliff. Still flowing, it has formed a truly spectacular ice formation. Our friend Jan, just over 5 feet tall, stood by the huge ice tower and provided some perspective: 

Here is a view from another angle:

And a close-up of the ice:

I absolutely loved this outing and was sorry when it ended. The next day we headed south for a road trip to Florida--what a contrast!


  1. Beautiful pictures! Have you seen the photos from people walking to the ice caves of the Apostle Islands? These ice formations are amazing. It's fun to see tracks in the snow -- loved the picture of the wing print.

  2. Bob and I participated in the annual winter hike in the Hocking Hills this year. We were a bit disappointed there was no snow cone under the falls at Ash Cave, but now I learn that if I had gone back a few weeks ago, there would have been a gigantic one. DOH! Loved your photos as per usual. I especially enjoyed the bird photos.