Outdoor freelance writer Tom Lounsbury documents his return visit to the Hocking Hills area of ​​southeast Ohio

After visiting the Hocking Hills of Southeast Ohio with family last spring, I vowed to return at the first opportunity because there is so much to do and we had barely scratched the surface.

Hocking Hills is located in the foothills of the Appalachians and offers amazing geological features, including a wide variety of caves, ravines and canyons, carved out by glaciers eons ago. It is very clearly a nature lover’s paradise with a host of outdoor pastimes to pursue such as hiking, bird watching, canoeing/kayaking/tubing, horseback riding and zip lining , to name a few, as well as some pretty unique places to visit. .

It always amazes me that after traveling a long way through Ohio’s relatively flat farm country, you suddenly encounter a sharp change in terrain and atmosphere as you approach Hocking Hills. The roads climb, descend rapidly and all around as they wind through very scenic and forested hills.

It’s also beneficial to have a map to help you locate your destination, as getting a cell signal can become spotty, and the voice from the smartphone telling you how far to go and where to turn can suddenly become mute, and for quite a while.

My wife, Ginny, and I had the wonderful opportunity to return to Hocking Hills recently for four days of new adventures. Our destination was Logan, Ohio, which is the main hub of Hocking Hills, and our first stop was the Hocking Hills Regional Visitor Center, where we got the necessary maps and brochures of the places we planned to visit during our stay.

Right next to the Visitor Center is the Pencil Sharpener Museum, and Ginny and I have been around long enough to remember having some of these “vintage” pencil sharpeners in school. It was definitely a nostalgic moment for both of us.

Our next stop was to check into our cabin owned by “Cabins by the Caves”, which offers a multitude of cabins ranging in size from two people to large groups. Many even have hot tubs and wifi, and being located near Hocking Hills State Park, it was the perfect base for operations.

Ginny and I were in the “Chestnut Chalet Carriage House”, which is perfect for two people. It was immaculate and had a rustic feel that included cathedral ceilings. Cabins by the Caves has a grocery delivery service, and thanks to a list we had previously sent to them, our fridge was already stocked! There was absolutely no history and muss in this regard.

Ginny and I had a well-planned itinerary ahead of us, which is ideal for a writer wanting to cover as much as possible in four days and is also great for busy people by letting them know when you’ll be arriving.

After checking into our cabin, we headed out to the Hocking Hills Canopy Tours, which, by the shortest route depending on the voice on the smart phone giving directions, can be quite an adventure in this patch of woods! Well, folks, there were times when I thought we were driving down someone’s lonely driveway in the woods, but it turned out to be a road. And meeting another vehicle coming from the other direction would have required a bit of mutual courtesy and maneuvering, but all went well and we quickly arrived at our destination.

Hocking Hills Canopy Tours offers thrilling zipline adventures through the treetops along and even over the Hocking River. This includes a network of 10 ziplines and five Adventure Skybridges, and a children’s version called “Dragonfly”, featuring eight child-friendly ziplines and four Adventure Bridges.

Also offered, when there is a full moon, is the “moonshine tour” and I believe ziplining through the moonlit forest canopy would be a very unique adventure to experience! However, there was no full moon when we visited, but course manager Eric Lapchenko gave Ginny and I a full and exciting tour of the property in a “Rhino” ATV, something special. other than this business offers, which allows people to experience local wildlife. and flora in a different way, often from top to bottom. Far too soon, our first day has come to an end.

The next morning we hiked to “Old Man’s Cave”, which was not far from our cabin. Located right next to the Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center, the cave is accessible by walking over scenic bridges and up and down paths and steps carved into the stone cliff. The waterfalls flowing from the high cliffs above certainly add to the unique back-to-nature vibe. It really is an invigorating way to start the day.

Our next destination, located just seven miles from Old Man’s Cave, was the Jack Pine Studio, where Ginny had signed up for a glassblowing class, something she had long wanted to try. We caught up with Jack Pine (yeah, that’s his real name), who showed us around his grand facility, which included an art gallery showcasing the work of many artists near and far, involving jewelry, glass figurines , scrap metal and copper walls. sculptures and garden art.

We were then shown the glassblowing workshop, complete with a wide array of hot furnaces and skilled craftsmen at work. It was there that Ginny met her instructor, Nicholas Folz, who has a bachelor’s degree in blown glass and is working on his master’s degree. It was a hands-on lesson and Ginny got straight to the point. It was clear that she thoroughly enjoyed it all. She found herself working with an incandescent oven that generates over 2,000 degrees of heat. The molten, clear glass is first collected in a globe at the end of a long pipe, and the process begins. Small pieces of colored glass are then added from a set of bowls after the glob is formed, more heat is used and the blowing and shaping process begins.

Ginny’s goal was to create a glass pumpkin, which turned out quite nice, with an orange pumpkin with gold speckles and a green stem, all thanks to good instructions and help from Nicholas. As for me, my friends, being “all thumbs up” meant I had a great time sitting back and watching everything fall into place. Ginny considered the whole experience “awesome!”

Jack Pine also showed me around a storage room that holds over 6,000 colored glass pumpkins in anticipation of a glass pumpkin festival to be held September 23-25 ​​outside Jack Pine Studio, which will feature lots of artisans and their work too.

The first half of our time in Hocking Hills was very well spent and productive, and Ginny and I looked forward to our next adventures. What was really impressive were the warm and friendly people of Hocking Hills who are proud and passionate about their area and what they do.

Email freelance outdoor writer Tom Lounsbury at [email protected]