[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Southeast Ohio during the winter is visions of white, blustery snow with a chilling effect. Oftentimes the only outdoor activities that sound appealing are finding the nearest snowboarding spot, or walking briskly from the parking lot to the shopping center with a warm, toasty drink in hand.
When the temperatures are horrifically low and snow is garnishing the scenery in front of you, state parks do not often cross one’s mind. Trekking out onto the icy ground in an effort to hike to a scenic spot in Hocking Hills doesn’t sound very pleasant, let alone picturesque.
Guilty of making this assumption, I am here to say that such a notion is utterly false.
Old Man’s Cave is a hotspot within Hocking Hills, located on State Route 664 in Logan, Ohio. Adorned with various waterfalls and enormous, striking rocks, Old Man’s Cave is definitely a sight worth seeing, winter or summer.
According to Hocking Hills State Park, Old Man’s Cave was named after Richard Rowe, a man who lived much of his life within the recess. Rowe arrived at the gorge around 1796 and was buried underneath the cave once he passed away.
During this time of year, it is best to park near the Welcome Center next to Old Man’s Cave, a telltale marking that you are in the right area. This is very convenient, considering the frustrating and poorly marked roads of State Route 664. A sign for Old Man’s Cave will not appear until a few miles before the actual site.
Although the lack of markings did set a negative tone prior to arriving, the tenor quickly drifted away once finally entering the stunning park. The Welcome Center consists of the Campground Office and Nature Store. While this building is closed during the winter season, there are still clean, warm and easily accessible bathrooms connected.
After passing the chalet, steep, manmade steps lead you into Old Man’s Cave. Careful footing is necessary in order to avoid a dangerous tumble into the cave as these steps are covered in snow and ice. Once making it down the numerous steps, remarkable rocks full of grays, pinks and blues surround you, as you are sheltered within the giant recess.
Over the ledge lies a gorge, separating the main recess from the other side of the cave. Abundant trees lie throughout the area, adding to the relaxing and earthy environment. Continuing onward through the alcove leads you to a covered tunnel of descending steps edged with even more beautiful rocks. Once popping out, a lovely bridge takes you over the gorge to the parallel side of the cave.
Despite the natural beauty created by the wintry weather, there are still some hazardous areas. Slow and careful walking is necessary due to extremely slippery, ice-covered paths.
Several crevices and rocks within the walls of Old Man’s Cave create a distinguished look. From this side of the cave one of the most unique sightings is easily viewed while glancing upon the north wall. This face is popularly identified as the “sphinx head” which was created overtime through erosion.
Within Old Man’s Cave are the Upper and Lower Falls, along with trails that connect to Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. Due to the cold weather, a two-mile hike to Ash Cave may not be within consideration, however the Lower and Upper Falls are right within reach.
Still standing on the opposing side of the main recess, the frozen Lower Falls are seen draping overtop the sandstone. Melting water trickles down the frozen falls, creating a soothing pitter-patter while producing a pretty sparkle effect against the ice. These falls are relatively small and can even be touched if desired while standing behind them.
When peering below at the gorge, it is noticeably frozen on the surface. Underneath this frozen layer is moving water attempting to run its natural course. The area is a mesmerizing winter view full of rocks, trees, snow and even a few icicles hanging from the surrounding stonework. The icicles drip casually from above while shining among the sunlight.
In order to see even more frozen falls and icicles, it is necessary to continue ahead toward the Upper Falls. A much longer tunnel than before takes you to another bridge, crossing over the gorge once again. This bridge is very modern and eye-catching, made to appear as if you are stepping on ascending flat rocks. Caution is needed when crossing due to the gaps in between the rocks, along with a lack of railings. While the falls are infrequent at this point, this is the beginning of the breathtaking Upper Falls.
Everything within sight is snow-covered and beautiful, providing countless opportunities for pictures of the exceptional nature, despite the cold wind whistling past.
After crossing the next traditional bridge, a long stretch of back-to-back, serene frozen falls are seen in every direction. The entire area is encompassed with full, pure ice “falling” down in a statuesque, yet distinct and stagnant fashion. The winter topography is an unbeatable sight, unordinary and fascinating in comparison to a typical flowing waterfall.
The gorge below is frozen here as well, however, the water underneath can be heard and seen with a peaceful rhythm and pulse. Although the gorge isn’t entirely frozen, various areas are covered in footprints and sliding souls. A few miniature snowmen are spotted throughout the paths, decorating the glistening white setting with jolly spirits. There is something marvelous every few steps, making it hard to not stop and stare over and over again.
The Upper Falls continue for quite some time, leading to more adventurous areas, including an enormous bridge on top of Old Man’s Cave crossing far above the gorge.
The astonishing snow covered cave, frozen gorge and iridescent falls make for a free and memorable wintery day within Old Man’s Cave. The many unusual sites are fascinating and intriguing, something not quite expected for a winter day in Hocking Hills. The added snowfall enhances every part of this experience, along with the completely frozen waterfalls and iced-over gorge.
Old Man’s Cave builds a sense of enjoyment and appreciation toward cold weather, showing the true beauty winter has to offer.
IF YOU GO
How to get there: Once entering Logan, Ohio, follow State Route 664 South for about 11 miles to Old Man’s Cave. There is no exact address, however, the phone number (740) 385-6841 and extension two will connect you with the park office for further instructions.
What to bring: During the winter, a heavy winter jacket, sturdy boots with great traction, gloves and a hat are all necessary.
Where to stay: There are many different lodging options, including countless cabins, that can be found throughout Hocking Hills. Visit http://www.hockinghills.com for further information on activities, lodging and more.