January 17, 2016

A Winter Hike in the Hocking Hills

Friday was cloudy but practically balmy, at least for January. With 35 degree temperatures we decided to meet some friends in the Hocking Hills south of Columbus for day of hiking. We hoped that the trails would not be icy, and indeed the footing was fine on most of the trails. We selected a segment of the Buckeye Trail, part of which we had been on before. The trail makes a 1400+ mile loop, winding into every corner of Ohio, giving access to many historic and scenic places.

Towering sandstone cliffs and dense stands of hemlocks are the main attractions on this stretch of the trail so the gloomy weather was not a problem. The area attracts lots of rock climbers and horseback riders as well as hikers.

Ice lingered in some of the hollows that we passed:

After climbing up the trail we reached a sort of plateau. Walking a bit off the trail we spotted a popular landmark that we had heard of but had never seen, known as Balanced Rock. This erosion-derived pillar is at least 40 feet high:

We encountered narrow passages

and even narrower passages:

I wondered how those hemlocks managed to get enough sun when they were small to grow into such big trees!

I'm glad I wasn't hiking when this big slump block crashed down. Look at the tree that has survived in a narrow crevice.

After lunch we did the short trail into Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve. It was a bit icier and we had to watch our step but it was worth it to see some beautiful ice formations. 

What do you see in this picture? A cross, a sword, a witch, an ice fairy? Or maybe the Ghost of Conkle's Hollow...

The end of the hollow was nearly inaccessible due to a huge hemlock that recently fell across the trail, leaving its large trunk and a great deal of debris. It appeared to have come from high on the cliff, and in falling it smashed some of the trees on the opposite side of the narrow hollow. Our friend Greg tried to find a way across it:

All in all it was a fun day and we were glad we made the effort to go exploring!

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