Friday, August 7, 2009

Hocking Hills State Park - Part 2

When I traveled to Hocking Hills State Park for the first time with my brother, I wasn't sure just what to expect. I had two immediate reactions: this was a wonderful geologic phenomenon that pictures simply cannot do justice and I was amazed at the number of casual tourists visting the primary features.

As I said in my last posting, the State Parks department has spent money and time to create easily accessible "points" for tourists to come in and view. This includes making the trails as easy to traverse as possible, building wooden bridges or steps when necessary to get you into the zone, and clearing some of it so the rock formations are much more visible. All of this is fine since there are more difficult hiking trails branching off from the individual stops. Unfortunately for us, the day, which started brightly enough devolved into solid hard rain.

Our second stop on our visit was to the "point" called the Rock House. This apparently is the only true cave in the area formed from erosion in the center of huge Black Hand sandstone that comprises the area. Black Hand sandstone is a primary base for a lot of this area of the hills coming from the early Mississippian era. A close look at the sandstone to me looked like very dry (though it was rock hard) sand pebbles and small whitish quartz stones. The Rock House itself sits up a 150 foot cliff and forms a tunnel-like area with various softly edged openings. There was a rumor that this was a location where notorious gangster Pretty Boy Floyd hid out, but I could find no proof to that rumor. I do know that people had been coming to area for ages though only those in the late 19th century had begun recording their visits (photo shows June 1889). According to the literature, water leaking from a horizontal joint parallel to the cliff face is responsible for the hollowing of this sandstone.

Historically, the area was used by Indians and later settlers as a platform for creating turpentine.
There are formations inside the cave that provided platforms and where sections had been created to allow the sap to run out of the pine wood as it was burned. As Turpentine was a vital part of Indian folk medicine, they produced it regularly. In 1835, one Colonel F.F. Rempel built a hotel complete with ballroom, livery stable and Post Office near the picnic grounds. None of that still stands, however.

From a hiking perspective, getting to the Rock House is a bit harder than that of Old Man's Cave. That possibly, its lesser popularity and the weather changing lowered the number of people our day there. Due to the wetness mixed with bright light, the views provided a wonder world, our own little land of the lost!
There is some climbing up some rocky footpaths along with some precarious views, but generally, to the careful hiker, the trail is moderate and safe.

The trail does have a history in which an early settler of the area was moving along the trail when he was attacked by a bear and gravely injured. He was able to escape, but later died and his widow and family soon left the area behind for safer counties.

When we reached the cave itself, the light was such that it was reasonably dark inside. Though the floor is relatively smooth, there were places you had to be careful to avoid tripping. While we weren't prepared, there were some people with flashlights to see inside. The tunnel-like area has "windows" so walking along it wasn't extremely precarious.

With the weather still holding, we decided to leave the immediate area and head to our final stop, the Cantwell Cliffs. (posting to follow).