Sixty-one: I’ve Just Begun

I turned sixty-one yesterday, which sounds like a vast age until you reach it. And although I joke about being old, I don’t feel it.

To celebrate, The Engineer and I spent a long weekend visiting Hocking Hills, one of Ohio’s many beautiful state parks.

We did not camp. I tell you this because when I mentioned we were going, several people asked if we were camping. Well, no, because it’s winter in Ohio, and we camp in a tent! It was 11F on the first night and only warmed up on our last day.

The Engineer has, like, a gazillion points at Holiday Inn from all his traveling for work so we stayed there.

Neither of us had been to Hocking Hills before, though I’d heard it’s beautiful. It turns out “beautiful” doesn’t cover it. The park is breathtaking, awe-inspiring, full of waterfalls, gorges, caves, and other rock formations.

Darling Daughter and Partner drove over on Sunday to hike with us. I was so pleased, not just because she’s my daughter, but also because they seem to genuinely enjoy and look out for each other. It warms my heart to see them together.

We hiked from Ash Cave to Cedar Falls, only about three miles, but the snow made it more challenging than you might expect.

Here are a couple of pictures of Ash Cave. I’ve no idea who the people are in the photos; I was just grateful we were there in the winter so there weren’t hundreds. Hocking Hills is an extremely popular park, so popular that when we stopped by on Saturday to pick up some maps, the parking lot at the visitor center was almost full even though the temperature didn’t get much above 20F that day.

Incredible, no?

There’s a fire tower at the mid-point of the hike, and although it’s no longer used, visitors can go up it if they want. (I didn’t.)

Eighty feet may not sound high, but take a look.

I was stunned and impressed when DD was the one who climbed to the top. Meanwhile, I admired the clouds.

Eventually, we reached Cedar Falls.

Seeing these spots in winter was incredible because we could walk on the ice right up to the rock formations.

The park had ice carvings near the trailheads of Cedar Falls and Ash Cave, and I was particularly taken with the ear muffs someone had provided for Big Foot.

After DD and Partner left, The Engineer and I celebrated the day, each in our own way — him with a beer, and me with a flight of margaritas.

In researching our trip, I had looked at trail maps from several sources including two apps, the paper maps provided by the parks, and a tour book. They mostly contradicted each other, which resulted in our hike the next day going from an expected three miles to over five. (This is why you always bring fluids [which we didn’t] and snacks [which we did].)

We were, however, warned about the ice … repeatedly and with good reason. This was one of the smaller patches.

There were several places where we did more crawling than hiking, and at the largest (about ten feet long covering the whole trail), I slid down the embankment and walked on the river ice, which wasn’t as glassy.

The Engineer risked life and limb crossing the ice patch, while I fretted what I would do when he broke his arm or leg since there were very few other hikers and no cell service.

We hiked from Old Man’s Cave to Whispering Cave, going up and down steep embankments over ice and snow, and it was worth it to see views like this.

For our final hike yesterday, we were going to walk around Rose Lake. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the lake trail and were only able to hike the access trail down to the lake and back up.

Still, we can hardly complain when the trail runs through a cathedral forest like this.

We might have missed the trail, but we saw plenty of signs.

From top left: 1) How could you not love a road named “Sauer Kraut?”
2) I still don’t understand why we would have had to disrobe to test the fire alarm had we been in our room, but we weren’t so it doesn’t matter.
3) Restaurant rule #1 made sense to me.
4) The beach rules were being strictly adhered to when we checked out Lake Logan, though some hardy souls were ice fishing.

I’ve written before about my fondness for old barns, especially those with Mail Pouch Tobacco ads painted on the side. This affection extends to other “ghost signs,” and apparently I’m not the only one (click through for more examples).

I’m not 100% convinced this is actually a ghost sign. The lettering and phrasing look real, but it could be a reproduction because the paint looks more fresh than one might expect given the style of lettering in “Firestone.”

Seeing these is like viewing a piece of history, a memory of everyday life in the past, and I like that very much probably because someday, if we’re lucky, that’s what we’ll be.

This brings me back to how I began this post — a comment on my ancientness, and I suppose here is where I should offer some bit of wisdom or something I’ve learned in my more than sixty years.

Here it is: One thing I’ve learned is how important it is for me to continue to go new places, seek out new things, and to try activities I never thought I’d try, to not limit myself to being the type of person I think I am. I won’t even say this applies to everyone. I have no way of knowing if such an attitude is right for you. I just know if I always followed my initial reactions, I would have missed out on a lot (beekeeping, for example).

Also, I think experiencing new things, as much as you can for as long as you can, helps keep you young.

That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

Self-Isolation: A Good Excuse for a Walk

Today, I didn’t get dressed until noon. Oh, I was up – drinking tea, doing laundry and dishes, and writing about Harriet.

Still, spending a third of the day in one’s nightie does tend to make one feel rather slothful and slovenly.

Fortunately, I was able to convince The Engineer we needed a walk.

We are lucky to live within driving distance of several parks, with many trails at our disposal, and today I had a hankering to see the heronry.

The males return each year in late winter to scout a nest site, and the females follow a few weeks later. Courtship involves the mail finding sticks to present to the female.

After the pair builds the nest, the female will lay three to seven eggs, which are incubated by both parents until they hatch in late April or May. The heronry is a busy place in early summer, with so many mouths to feed!

We have been to the spot in the past, watching the harried parents try to keep their hungry offspring happy, but today, we saw the courtship behavior!

It was too chilly to stand and birdwatch for long, however, so we drove to a trailhead to start our walk along the river.

The trail follows what used to be the towpath for the Ohio-Erie Canal, and so follows the river, with the now-empty canal on the other side. Behind the wall you see in the picture above, there used to be a gristmill.

As we walked, we saw mounds of snowdrops.

We have enjoyed cycling this path many times, but it’s a different experience to walk it on a cool, spring weekday, allowing more time to take photos.

Whenever I pass this little ruin, I wonder about the person who built it and what it was. The pretty part is stone, but there’s also a bit made of concrete block, so it can’t have been abandoned that long ago.

The river is wide in parts, but shallow. We tend to see a lot of empty bottles and cans, especially on the parts where there are little beachy-like banks. A few years ago, The Engineer began bringing a plastic bag to fill for recycling. And we always seem to fill it.

In fact, on Sunday, we filled the bag twice because we found a recycle bin ♻️ at our turnaround point!

But what amazes me is the number of little plastic bags of dog poop people leave by the side of the path. I mean, why bother bagging it if you’re going to leave it? Do they think there’s some kind of doggie cleanup brigade that patrols the path?

Today, we explored an offshoot of the main trail. It connects to another park system, running directly above the main trail in parts. It’s higher than it looks in the photo, but I was still surprised it was there because I’ve cycled the main path for at least fifteen years and never knew about the offshoot.

The second path leads to a former quarry, where sandstone was cut for the canal, and later for buildings in Cleveland and Akron. They also cut millstones for the German Mills American Oatmeal Company of Akron, which became the basis for Quaker Oats.

This signpost was at the edge of the quarry.

And the path eventually led to the top of the quarry.

These tracks are left from a narrow gauge railway, used to transport the stones to a feeder canal where the heavy cargo would be loaded on a boat for further transport.

I took a picture of this tree because I liked the way the roots look, and the way it seemed determined to grow, even as those roots clung to the earth, trying to find the support it needed to do so.

Lastly, I include these two photos because both made me smile. The first is because someone took the time and dirtied her hands to smile at us.

And, the second because seeing green buds on trees in spring is a joyful occasion.

I hope you take the opportunity to enjoy the season too.