Monday, March 28, 2011

Hocking Hills State Park

This week, we are heading out to Hocking Hills State Park for a little getaway. We've booked a cabin near the park and plan on doing lots of hiking throughout this beautiful region. Although we had originally planned on going camping, the weather turned cold again and we didn't feel it would be much fun to camp in below freezing weather with a 9 month old baby!

Hocking Hills is a geological wonderland, an extremely popular hiking and camping spot in Ohio. The cabins fill up fast in the summer months, and crowds can be a bit of a problem if you go on a holiday or summer weekend. Last time we went, it was dead winter and we had the park practically to ourselves. This time, it's still the off-season, so we anticipate a pretty quiet park again.

Grandma Gatewood Trail, Hocking Hills State Park, OH

Some of the trails we plan on hiking include...

Ash Cave to Cedar Falls -Last time, we hiked from Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls and back, a roundtrip of just around 6 miles. For a winter hike, it was beautiful and peaceful. We want to finish the Grandma Gatewood Trail and hike from Cedar Falls to Ash Cave this time. The roundtrip for this hike is 4 - 5 miles.

Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve Gorge Trail - This 1.2 mile trek passes through a beautiful gorge with cliffs towering over 200 ft on either side. We are just doing the Gorge trail since the Rim trail can be a bit dangerous with small children!

Other trails we will decide upon as we see fit. Additional sites we would like to see include Cantwell Cliffs, Rock House and RockBridge State Nature Preserve. I will post a trip report as well as trail reviews upon our return!

Have you ever been to Hocking Hills? What is your favorite trail there?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

John Bryan State Park

John Bryan State Park is located near the villiage of Yellow Springs which locals know as the "weird, hippie" town and also where we happen to spend our weekends when not on the trail. It's just a short hop from Springfield, OH and boasts some great hiking worthy of review.

We hiked the North Rim Trail accessed from the Wingo Picnic area. Our original plan was to hike for 30 minutes and then turn back. We weren't prepared to make a loop hike since we were unfamiliar with the trails and the trail maps provided at the camp office were rather useless. Add to this several un-marked spur trails, and we felt better just sticking to what we knew. However, once we reached the first footbridge at the intersection of Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, Rob decided he wanted to make a go for it and hike the bottom Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Stage Coach trail back to the top. Since we felt pretty good and our 9 month old baby was enjoying the hike, we decided to press on.

According to the trail map, there should be an access trail linking the two trails (the rim and the bottom of the gorge). However, we found no such trail, so we believe the trail map to either be outdated or incorrect. We hiked to the second footbridge and found an access trail that looped back to the North Rim Trail. It did, however, add quite a bit of time to our trek! By the time we reached our car, our baby was fussing after being angelic for the previous hour and a half on trail. It was the longest hike we've take to date with her, and I'm really pleased how well it all went!
We ran into several other hikers, despite the nippy weather of the early morning. Several groups were out hiking and a few looked to be training for backpacking. We did see a camp of boyscouts in the campground on our way in, so it must have been them (we later ran into these boyscouts while lunching at Youngs Jersey Dairy just a few miles from the park). There was even a class going on at the Rim for rapelling, which we passed during the beginning of our hike.

We'll definitely be returning to John Bryan for more hiking and possibly some camping (the camground boasts spacious and well-shaded sites located throughout a hillside). Next time, we may venture into the Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve and over the Little Miami River for additional trails.

With all there is to do both within the park and the surrounding area, John Bryan State Park is a worthy destination for any nature loving person or family.

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