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 Old Man's Cave 

Submitted by Carlo Becker on Fri, 02/14/2014 - 20:08

Oh, the beauty!

The first time out of Athens, we discovered nature more beautiful than I would have expected to find so close nearby.

     Last Sunday, the day following our dinner night, I intended to stay home, and read, read, read. Steinbeck, Kerouac, and biotech (this latter for my GLC class). It was cold outside, sheets of snow and ice on sidewalks and streets, on lawns and trees. And I was still tired from last night. But on the other hand - did I really want to read about biotech?

     My roommates Geeg and Natalie came up with the idea of driving to Old Man’s Cave because they hadn’t seen it in winter yet. They said I should join them, and since I had never been there at all, sure thing! After some deliberations as to whether we (or rather, Geeg) should really take the car out on the snowy roads of Southeastern Ohio, we decided to try. To complete the expedition party, I texted our friends Sam and Sophia if they were interested in joining us. And they were. So, less than half an hour later, we were on the road.

     It was the first time that I left Athens and the immediate area surrounding it, and with only about one hour, it surely was a short ride. But we made it a good road trip. Fitting five people into Geeg’s not-too-big car made it a snug and cozy ride on the back seat. Swiping the steamy windows every other minute in order to take a look at the rolling hills on both sides of the highway, and the snow covered grasslands that stretched between scattered patches of bleak woods. So much for aesthetic pleasures. The actual fun was provided mostly by stereo: my roommates have a pretty good taste in music, and we listened to a lot of classics: Crosby, Stills and Nash; Steely Dan; Dylan; Stones; Steve Miller Band. Even better—for most songs, all of us joined in singing, especially Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” which just seems to be Nat’s and Geeg’s song. Great one, too!


     Soon we approached the Hocking Hills State Park, and a few minutes later we eventually arrived at the parking lot for Old Man’s Cave. I was still not quite sure if this cave would really be as nice as predicted - and why would it be so much different in winter than in any other season? After all, caves are not really exposed to snow. Turns out that the designation “cave” is a blatant understatement for what we were about to see!

     Among snow-laden conifers, we descended a couple of stairs and then went down an incline between smoothly shaped black rock protruding towards us from the left and right. It took me two or three more minutes to realize that we were now right at the bottom of a long gorge. This was our destination, not even necessarily the cave itself.


     As we walked (and slipped, as you will see) through it, I continually lagged behind because I had to take so many photos of this beautiful scenery. Its steep crags laying bare the naked, now brown-coppery to pale grayish rock. The crystal icicles hanging from the ledges in the hundreds and thousands. The meandering creek that coiled and twisted its way along the bottom of the gorge, revealing its clear waters only where the sheet of ice no longer prevailed. The conifers and the bald and leafless gnarly black trees all around us. This was much more than I had expected from this trip!

     Walking through the gorge, we repeatedly had to face the challenge of descending thickly frozen stairs. While we still tried walking them the first and second time, we realized that this would not really work, it was even dangerous. Instead, it was much easier, and much more fun, to just slide down! So we squatted on our cheeks and heels, used our hands for support, and slipped down those icy stairs. It’s hard to imagine how funny this actually was - both seeing it and doing it! And there were a lot of stairs, so we had quite some practice to master the discipline.

     Moving on like this, we came to three or four frozen waterfalls, one of which was only half frozen, another had some water trickling inside of it. So it must have been the perfect temperature that day to allow for some water to appear in its liquid form while most of it was solid ice. When we passed the cave itself, we wanted to go on first and then return to check it out. We never did. Our way brought us up on one side of the gorge, and we decided that it would be too much of a hike back just to see the cave. I’m positive that we will go there again in spring, and then we’ll visit the cave, too.







     The ride back home was much quieter than the one that brought us out here, I guess because most of us were somewhat tired. Additionally, the former excitement had given way to reflection and satisfaction. Back home, we had a good cup of hot chocolate and enjoyed some leftovers of last night’s potato dinner. After that, and into the night, I eventually read some Steinbeck and biotech. Kerouac was the one who had to yield to this day’s outdoor experience. I know he'd be the first to understand.

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