September 2003: Hocking Hills State Park


Logan, Ohio

Much of the bedrock in this area of Ohio was deposited 350 million years ago as the delta of a shallow ancient ocean. The sandstone is of varying hardness that has cracked and eroded into fascinating rock formations and caves. When the first settlers sought shelter in these recesses more than 7,000 years ago they found vegetation deep in the gorges that still hearkened back to the last ice age - stately eastern hemlocks and Canadian yew and birches thriving in the moist, cool environment. The tribes of the Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee knew the valley as "Hockhocking" for its bottle shape, created when glacial ice plugged the Hocking River. The state of Ohio began preserving this unique natural area in 1924 with a purchase of 146 acres.

Hocking Hills State Park is a superb destination for any dog, but is especially delightful for the canine hiker who is a few hikes beyond those days of the 10-mile treks. There are six distinct areas in the park - five for canine hiking: no dogs are permitted in the Conkles Hollow state nature preserve in the center of Hocking Hills. 
The star of Hocking Hills is Old Man's Cave tucked into a heavily wooded, twisting ravine. The Old Man was Richard Rowe who moved to the area some time around 1796 to establish a trading post. Upon arriving in Hocking Hills he stayed and lived out his life here, traveling with his two dogs in search of game. Rowe is buried beneath the ledge of the main recess cave. An easy, one-mile trail works its way into and around the primeval gorge; wooden steps and bridges smooth the way. Your dog will enjoy a dip in Old Man's Creek, especially in the pool beneath the Upper Falls.
Additional attractions near Old Man's Cave are Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. Both can be accessed by car and a short walk from the parking lots. For heartier visitors, a 6-mile trail connects all three natural attractions. There is more great dog-paddling under Cedar Falls and nearby Rose Lake.
In the north sections of Hocking Hills the trails explore impressive cliff formations on trails less than one mile long. The trails are wide and graded with easy footing for your dog as you make your way from the rim to the floor at the Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs. The Rock House is a perpendicular cliff that features hollowed-out rooms at the bottom. At Cantwell Cliffs your dog will enjoy navigating through separated pillars of sandstone that have left narrow openings with colorful names like Fat Woman's Squeeze.

Wayne National Forest (follow Route 33 East). Just east of Hocking Hills is part of the Wayne National Forest with 300 miles of trails, including the long-distance Buckeye/North Country Trail that also visits Hocking Hills. Another trail leads to Tinker's Cave, a rockshelter hidden between two ancient ridges. In the years before the Civil War Seth Tinker began "borrowing" unattended horses in local pastures and stabling them in the cave before herding them north to Lake Erie for auction. On the way home he would "borrow" some horses from northern Ohio and sell them to Hocking-area farmers. It was though that the cave was big enough to stable 20 horses for Tinker's nefarious venture. It is not known for sure how Tinker spent the Civil War, with the versions of his story varying widely. Some say he served with honor in the Union Army while other accounts have him stepping up his efforts and peddling horses to both Union and Confederate troops. He is often given the discredit of outfitting the Confederate raiders of General John Morgan who carried out operations in southern Ohio. His disappearance from Tinker's Cave is similarly shrouded in mystery. Many believe an irate horse owner finally caught up with Seth Tinker after the war and killed and buried him. Or he may have just ridden off into the sunset.

Ohio SR 374 connects all six areas of Hocking Hills State Park, 10 miles west of Logan and US 33.