Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Travel

June 21, 2012

Hocking Hills: Nature's beauty spot

Like some hearty outdoor recreation while on vacation but prefer it tempered with a touch of tasteful sophistication? Then you’d probably feel at home in Ohio’s Hocking Hills.

This beautiful area in southeastern Ohio is known for its high cliffs and narrow gorges, including Conkle’s Hollow, only 100 feet wide in places and considered by some to be the state’s deepest gorge.

Home to Hocking Hills State Park, the area has plenty of hiking trails, a resource I took advantage of when I met with park naturalist Patrick Quackenbush at the entrance to Old Man’s Cave Gorge.

As we made our way along the trail to the cave, Quackenbush shared his knowledge of the flora along the way, and I listened with rapt attention as he told me fascinating things about plants I’d barely paid attention to before.

The most popular of Hocking Hills State Park’s six areas, Old Man’s Cave is named for hermit Richard Rowe, who lived in the massive recessed cave after his family moved to the area around 1796.

Native Americans who took advantage of its welcoming shelter preceded Rowe by centuries.

After reaching the cave, perfect for a photo shoot, we hiked past the Upper Falls and continued up the trail to the hard rock surface on top where the view was as incredible as it was lofty.

A number of naturalist-led tours, including owl prowls, evening lantern hikes, canoe excursions and wildlife walks are offered throughout the summer. For more information phone 740-385-6842.

On my way to the Hocking Hills Canopy Tours, I stopped at the Welcome Center, which maintains the world’s only known pencil sharpener museum. The Reverend Paul Johnson started collecting 20 years ago and has since amassed a trove of more than 3,400 pencil sharpeners, reputed to be the largest in the world.

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