Friday, February 1, 2013

Summer Throwback in the Hocking Hills Pt. 2

Here's Part 2 of the Hocking Hills throwback. (Part 1 is here.)

Ash Cave as the sun quickly falls. Ash Cave is the largest recess cave in all of Ohio, and as you can tell from this photo, it is absolutely huge. The Eastern Hemlock trees on the left cut off another portion of the "cave," so this isn't even the whole thing. Ash Cave is so called because of the large piles of ashes found by explorers and settlers. These ashes were, according to the most popular theory, left over ashes from Native American Indian campfires from years and years of buildup. In fact, Ash Cave and the surrounding area is rich in Indian history. This site was also used for camp and township meetings as of more recently when European settlers were moving into the area. Ash Cave was also the site of Sunday church services, with the large Pulpit Rock at the head of the service.

Another view of Ash Cave.
Ash Cave is about 700 feet long, 100 feet deep, and 90 feet tall. Depending on how wet it's been, there's normally a small waterfall and pool from Queer Creek as it falls over the rim.

This is Upper Falls of the Old Man's Cave area. A little hazy, isn't it? Well, during the day this was taken, the gorge was filled with fog. It was really cool to watch form. We started off entering Old Man's Cave while it was clear, but a quick shower followed by periods of mist and drizzle filled the gorge with fog that lasted a few hours. Anyway, on this day, the "falls" were nothing more than a little trickle. Not very breathtaking, but still beautiful.

Ah, this is a bit better. I took this back in 2011, and the waterfall was flowing strong. Regardless, the whole gorge is interesting whether the waterfalls are filled out or not.

This is a common sight through all of the gorges. This photo was taken at Old Man's Cave too. These large boulders dot the creek. Years of erosion ate away at the cliff sides and large "slump rocks" fell into the gorge. These boulders were taken over by moss, trees, and ferns over the years, as you can see in this photo. Slowly, these plants will break down the boulders, but none of us will be alive to see that erosion process finished.

When I took a closer look at these boulders, I found...

Ah! A millepede! Narceus americanus to be more precise. These millepedes are some of the largest ones in Ohio, along with Sigmoria millepedes (Black and yellow millepedes which smell like cherries if you pick them up and give them a tiny shake). In fact, these millepedes can get a few inches long, and as big around as a dime or so. They are harmless detritivores that can be quite common in the Appalachian area of Ohio. 

Another common sight in Ohio Appalachia is honeycomb weathering on cliffsides. Normally, this type of weathering is found along coasts where the salt aides in the weathering. Obviously, the oceans are far from Ohio, so this weathering happens another way. Water seeps through the rocks and brings along some minerals which are harder than the blackhand sandstone and are more weather-resistant. As the sandstone is weathered, these mineral deposits, such as iron deposits, are left.

And a surprise find for me and my hiking partner! I heard a strange whistling near a creekside along the Grandma Gatewood Trail (which connects Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls and Ash Cave) which I'm pretty sure was a Red-Shouldered Hawk. It sounded very agitated and I set out to find it. Instead, I found the source of the agitation, a Barred Owl! It was far off enough to where my 200mm lens couldn't get close enough, so I had to zoom in on the resulting image (hence the bad quality).

A minute after I found it, a British family on vacation passed by on the trail. I called them down and asked if they were interested in seeing an owl, and they jumped on the offer. They got really good looks after the owl took flight, leaving the grandpa to grandkids, along with me, in awe at the impressive bird.

That's another thing about the Hocking Hills. You never know who you're going to meet there. While most visitors are Ohioans, it is still a tourist spot, and on this trip I met people from Britain, along with hearing Spanish and a few Asian languages around me over the course of the four days. The Hocking Hills area of Ohio is a treasure for us Ohioans, along with every other person, and we should actively work to conserve it for future generations.

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