by Victoria Hart
A trip into the countryside doesn’t have to mean roughing it. Luxury and comfort abound in a rustic setting in the Hocking Hills of Ohio. Within a one-day drive or a one hour flight (to Columbus, Ohio) for half of the U.S. population, the Hocking Hills provides four seasons of activities and many reasons to escape the stress of everyday life. Leaf peepers will find October most appealing. The winter provides a quiet, often snow-covered view from a cozy cabin. Spring is a time for foraging through the forest in search of nature’s edibles. Summer is the time for hikes through lush forests, with cool breaks peaking into caves to experience nature’s air conditioning. Listening for the whoosh of waterfalls and hiking to see them is a year ‘round treat.
Where to Stay- The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls
There are several options for Inns, bed and breakfasts, rental cabins, and camping. For a solo venture or a couple looking to unplug and reconnect, the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls is a great choice. When I say unplug, I mean unplug. Well, there is WiFi, as the Inn hosts small business meeting and is a fabulous place for a writer to retreat. But, there are no televisions and no telephones in the rooms or cottages, and televisions in the cabins only to watch a movie, if you bring your own DVD. Cell phone service is available.
I was on a solo trip, staying in one of the cottages designed for one or two people. Each cottage sits on two acres of woods, with gorgeous views of the trees and the morning sunrise. As I pulled up to my cottage, I had flashbacks to my Girl Scout days, sleeping in a cabin at camp. The ambiance of the log cabin construction blended perfectly with the natural environment.
After taking off my muddy hiking boots, I entered the cottage to discover a sanctuary of luxury. This was no Girl Scout camp. A king sized bed was surrounded by windows on three sides of the cabin exposing the private wooded view. A deck with a porch swing was just beyond the windows. Morning tea on the porch swing, helping the sun to rise, could not have been better. Two comfy chairs and a gas fireplace in the room were the perfect setting for reading. The whirlpool tub large enough for two people was the ideal place to land after a long day of hiking. An electric towel warmer was comforting on a cool night. Two luxurious robes, a coffee/tea service, and fresh baked cookies whispered, “You are cared for.” For those not ready to completely chill, a small assortment of books and a shelf of old-fashioned board games was provided for amusement.
A large, hearty breakfast is included in the room rate. Lunch and dinner are also served at the Inn. The gift shop is stocked with thoughtful items guests forget, and may find helpful during a stay. Scented candles, stationary, journals, reading glasses, a collection of field manuals, snacks and wine are just some of the items available for purchase to enhance an unplugged weekend.
What to do Outside
The Hocking Hills State Park surrounds the Inn. The park, like all Ohio state parks, is free for everyone, every day. There is not one main entrance, but several stop offs, with adequate parking and well marked trails. Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs, Lake Logan and Rock House are all designated points to start a hike through the dense forest to see craggy caves and waterfalls. State park naturalists offer guided nature tours. Schedules can be found on the park website.
For a guided experience, High Rock Adventures provides opportunities for rock climbing, rappelling, and eco tours. Navigating mammoth rock outcroppings, squeezes and tunnels are all part of the challenge, which is more mental than physical.
Hocking Hills Canopy Tours offers a variety of adventures, including a 10 line zipline course and off road segway tours. There is even a “Moonshine” tour, for those brave enough to zipline at night, under the light of the silvery moon.
At Touch the Earth Adventures, owner Mimi Morrison leads guided kayaking tours designed to bring participants closer to nature. Birding tours by kayak, moonlight paddles, or something special designed just for your group are available.
What to do Inside
Chances are good that it will rain during a Hocking Hills visit. After all, the forest doesn’t get green on its own, and those waterfalls don’t roar without a little help from the heavens. But, that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. There are lots of inside activities as well. That is, if a nap or a book aren’t what you really need.
Logan, Ohio is the home of the Columbus Washboard Company, the only washboard factory left in the world. Take a tour of the factory and see how the process for making washboards hasn’t changed in 100 years. Although the washing machine replaced the washboard, this tool is still used by active military personnel, campers and the economically conscious. The annual Washboard Music Festival happens every year over Father’s Day weekend, and brings together folks who make music with their washboards.
For high-spirited visitors, Hocking Hills Moonshine in Logan is worth a stop to learn the history of local moonshine and take a short tour of the process. It doesn’t get any more local than locally grown corn for the mash, local spring water, and local owners who are the first legal moonshiners in their family. The leftover mash gets fed to the cows, making them the happiest cows on earth! Whether you decide to taste the 45 Proof Granny Apple or the 120 Proof Buckeye Lightning, the St. Clair boys will be glad to see you and tell you about their business, while pouring a sample.
If you go. . .
You won’t see many chain restaurants and hotels in the Hocking Hills, and there are not many large signs advertising activities. So, the best place to stop is at one of the Hocking Hills Visitor Centers. There are three, at 44 East Main Street in Historic Downtown Logan, 16197 Pike Street in Laurelville, and on the edge of Logan at 13178 State Route 664 South. Area maps, trail maps, and lots of brochures are available. But, for the most authentic experience, check out the community bulletin board, where you will see postings for local activities. Mountain musicians are all around. The community bulletin board at the visitor’s centers will tell you who is playing when at local bars and restaurants, churches, parks, or town squares. In the Hills, word of mouth is the best way to learn what is going on. So, warm up to the locals and ask for a good recommendation.