Hocking Hills Bike Trip

IMG_2382I can’t believe another week has gone by. It’s nice having the occasional holiday weekend, resulting in a shorter week following the celebration, which must be why it’s already Sunday. I had a somewhat exciting Memorial Day weekend, from local fairs to headlining concerts to birthday and holiday picnics, wrapping up with a new trip under my belt.

I thought last Monday was going to be a relaxing day off where I would accomplish some much needed reading and long overdue sunshine absorption. I was instead awoken from my blissful sleeping by two young men set on adventure. Maps were out, GPS devices were being programmed, and I was enlisted to assist in uncovering the bikes and grabbing enough bottled water to get us through the day.

Thus began our bike trip to Hocking Hills.

It was a beautiful morning, and with the outer layers on our jackets and pants, the wind was no more than a pleasant breeze through my slightly opened visor. We didn’t encounter any trouble for the first stretch of our morning, and pulled over at Helen’s diner for a quick brunch since we were making good time. Helen serves breakfast all day, and while we waited for our meal, we tried to answer the trivia questions provided on each table. We made a good team, but I wouldn’t have scored very well on my own.

After leaving Helen’s, we made good time, sans a small incident of getting caught behind a huge plow rolling along at 15 mph, until we arrived in Danville and got caught behind the town’s Memorial Day parade. Despite our best efforts to ride parallel to the festivities and cut across, we ended up turning off the bikes, peeling off the helmets and standing with the other townsfolk to watch the tractors, old cars and fire trucks ride by with horns blasting while candy rained down on the kids in the front row. It was starting to warm up by the time we got back on the road, only to be slowed down again amid the traffic turning into the Utica Ice Cream Festival. Huge tents filled with arts and crafts edged the fields of cars… I couldn’t even see where the ice cream was stored. No one was interested in stopping so we continued south. I was hoping we could make a pit stop in the early afternoon on our way back if the crowds were down from this full force attendance.

Not too long after we picked up speed, we encountered a detour that looped us out though a small section of Amish country. After passing a couple buggies with no signs indicating where the detour meant for us to turn, we followed Brian’s GPS down an old gravel road, hoping our front tires wouldn’t be thrown off by the small stones. Despite my best efforts to convince myself that the destination was not nearly as important as the adventure in getting there, I was starting to wear out. My knees were getting cramped from being in the same position for hours and I was starting to overheat. We were able to pull over briefly to undo our outer layers, and as we headed back toward our destination the wind streaming through my mesh pants and jacket was almost invigorating enough to improve my somewhat defeated mood.

Unfortunately that stop was followed by a slow down as we maneuvered the New Straitsville Moonshine Festival and dealt with Brian’s GPS short-circuiting/over-heating when we were finally approaching the county line of the park. Luckily, after five hours of riding, we were close enough to follow the signs, and traffic, to our final destination: Old Man’s Cave. Families, cars and pets abounded as the park swarmed with vacationers picnicking and enjoying the nice weather. We stopped at the visitors station for a map and directions on how to find the cave, which we learned was not an actual cave, but a recess cave, not that the term meant anything to us. There were also some waterfalls to check out so maps in hand, we headed off into the woods.

It was nice and cool once we were under tree cover, and the boys went off to take pictures of themselves in front of cave openings, trees and any other natural beauty they could find. I was so glad to stretch my legs and just silently enjoy the woods. Silently as in my internal musings; kids were running and splashing in the river while one couple with an unleashed, massive dog hiked by.

The falls were pretty and the area was fairly clean for all the people who had probably passed through during the long weekend. We hiked back around toward the cave, climbing a unique stone bridge
over the water and crawling through some rather narrow tunnels as we weaved around to the other side of the trail. Apparently the white reflectors on our pants and jackets were apparent when we were in the dark, which is a good sign that our safety efforts are probably working.

The outcropping of the cave was enormous. From what the boys could make out on a plaque near the back of the cave, an old man and his dogs had lived under the outcropping for a number of years. We crawled around for a little while and then made our way back up and over toward the visitors station. My motorcycle boots were not meant for hiking trails, but I would like to get some hiking boots in the near future for just such an occasion. There were a number of other sites in the immediate area and several others within 10- 15 miles, but we were all ready to head home.

Our ride back was not quite so eventful; just one tractor holding up traffic, one missed turn during a different detour and by the time we got back to Utica, my ice cream craving had vanished. I was surprised at how tiring the ride was, even on the way back when we made it in the anticipated three hours. I tried to keep quiet, abiding by the ‘if you can’t say something nice’ clause, but I can be a wimp when I’m tired. I am clearly out of shape from riding in year’s past. Hopefully there will be more nice weekends this summer so I can get some more experience and develop some more stamina.

I think there’s more to see in Ohio than I’ve been willing to admit.

Brian and Mark Discussing Our Route
Brian and Mark Discussing Our Route

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