The beauty and wonder of winter in Ohio
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I simply cannot put into words how breathtaking this hike was.
First off, let's start out with a little about me. I'm a 31 year old who decided that outdoor adventures are much more exciting than anything indoors could offer. I've always been an "experiences over materialistic things" person (don't get me wrong, I love my creature comforts, but I'll take a cruise over a diamond any day of the week...) but I've never really been a winter girl. In high school, my family and I went skiing in upstate New York and Michigan. Heck, I was even on a club hockey team and a intermural curling team in college. Despite all that, I'm really not a big FAN of cold weather.
That being said, we decided that going for a day hike in our newfound favorite place on earth, Hocking Hills in southeastern Ohio was a good idea.
So, off to Dunham's, Bass pro shop, a local Wolverine boot salesman, and many Christmas gifts later, and we were geared up. Dan got a pair of gaiters (which they don't make for short people like me... they were more like unflattering thigh-highs on someone who considers herself as having a "tall day" if I measure 5'3" with shoes on), we both had boot spikes, water/weather-proof boots, thermals, I had on my cold-weather running top (with form-fitting hood and mitties), and we both had our double lined Columbia coats. To be honest, we looked like an ad out of "Winter Hikers USA" magazine.
After our slightly less than 2 hour drive, we didn't have much trouble finding a place to park. I convinced Dan to drive his truck (although my little sports car get about 20 mpg better we figured the truck stood a better chance in snowy parking lots and unpaved areas). We set off for our hike. I wanted to see a bit more of the #1 tourist hike, "Old Man's Cave." Despite the snow, ice, cold, closed gift shop, and general icky Ohio winter weather, it was quite busy. *sigh* Just once I'd like to have it peaceful. Not necessarily to myself, just not overrun with overly loud people and screams and squeals bouncing off the rocks. Ah well... it was breathtaking none-the-less.
The giggle of the day came from people watching, though. LADIES, can I give you a piece of advice? The majority of readers on Travbuddy will have probably already figured this out or at least have the common sense to figure it out of the need ever arises, but for those that this may apply to, let me give you a public service message that will make your life easier. JUST BECAUSE THE WORD "BOOTS" IS WRITTEN ON THE SIDE OF YOUR OVER-PRICED DESIGNER UGG BOX, DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE A GOOD THING TO TAKE ON STEEP, ICE COVERED HILLS. I saw more 20-something miserable girls in their cute little Uggs, soaked to the bone, teeth chattering, because they had to slide down snow-packed stairs on their bottoms due to absolutely no traction on their fuzzy boots with little dangly puff balls.
Anyway, I digress, once we got away from the main area and followed the Buckeye / Grandma Gatewood trail between Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls, the view was nothing short of spectacular! We passed Whispering Falls, which I took pictures of. I tried to get either Dan or I in most of the pictures so you can see just how MASSIVE the ice formations are. I never in my life dreamed that I'd like to go to Antarctica... until now. I had seen pictures of "blue" ice and had heard about it, but this was the first time I have ever actually seen ice that is roughly the color of the Caribbean waters. No kidding! It had so much depth and it glistened in even the least little bit of sun. God can really do some incredible things with ice.
Again, I just can't put into words how beautiful it was. I've seen Hocking Hills in 3 seasons now, and I honestly can't tell you which is my favorite. It's like a different, completely magical world every time I go. I can't wait to get back in mid spring when the new green things finally poke out of the ground and the falls are roaring from the fresh rains.
Don't take my word for it, though. Make the trip to Ohio. Along with party islands that rival the keys (in the summer anyway), the best Zoo in the country, any sporting event you can think of, art, culture, and great food, we have some of the most beautiful hiking on earth. See you on the trails.