Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hocking Hills State Park

Hello again, and welcome to Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio! Hocking Hills is a particularly heavily-dissected region of the Allegheny Plateau; a plateau which runs from west of the Allegheny Mountains and covers roughly half of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

The land in a dissected plateau can look hilly and mountainous, but they are not true hills and mountains in the classical sense. The earth's crust is not bent or folded, nor is there much metamorphism or magmatic activity. Instead, the rock layers are mostly level but heavily eroded in some locations, giving the appearance of hills and even mountains.

A large Blackhand Sandstone formation in the Hocking Hills region helped to produce impressive cliffs and deep gorges due to its hardness and relatively high weather resistance. However, not all of the sandstone in that area is the same composition, leading to some diverse colors and erosion patterns. That means that there is some great hiking in those hills!

Behind me is Old Man's Cave, one of the most popular stops in the Hocking Hills. It's not a cave in the formal sense, rather it is a formation where softer types of sandstone have been sapped and eroded away, while the harder Blackhand sandstone remains mostly intact in the upper layer, forming a large overhanging roof.

Old Man's Cave derives its name from, Richard Rowe, a trapper and hermit who lived in and around the cave with his two dogs in the early 1800's. They say that he ir buried somewhere under the cave's overhang. Spooky! You can see by the scale of the people in the photo below that Old Richard had quite a spacious residence.

This place rocks! You never know what kind of formation is waiting for you just around the corner.

The colors and textures can be enchanting.

In some places in the sandstone, water has seeped into little pockets around the larger granules of rock and sand. With a little natural acid, or with the help of freeze-thaw cycles, these pockets become larger, and can make the surface look like a honeycomb. They call this honeycomb weathering. Go figure!

Nature is persistent, that is for sure! This tree wrapped around and latched on to any cracks in the rock that it could.

Waterfalls, like Upper Falls below, lend to the beauty of this place.

Each region of the park had its own feel, such as Cantwell Cliffs below, but the sandstone unites them all with a common theme.

Beauty is everywhere for the observant.

It's not all about rocks though. There is a bit of diversity to the park, such as this pleasant patch of grass.

Just walking beneath the lovely canopy of sycamores, oaks, and eastern hemlocks made this a rewarding experience in itself.

Butterflies and wildflowers also adorn the park.

And did I mention waterfalls?

And caves? And caves with waterfalls? This huge overhang cave is known as Ash Cave.

One of my favorite places in the park is Rock House! It is much more cave-like than the other caves in the park, but what make it really cool are the pillars of sandstone which make an impressive appearance, and an important role in holding up the tons of rock above your head! The cavernous house feels like it could hold two school buses, maybe even three if you squished one up.

These pillars are some of the most colorful formations in the park, making them a real treat to see.

Even the wall on the outside of the Rock House are naturally painted in whites, blacks, oranges, browns, reds, and greens.

Below is Cedar Falls. What's funny is that there is not a single cedar tree around. Early settlers had mistakenly thought that the eastern hemlock trees surrounding the falls were instead cedars, and so they called it Cedar Falls. By the time the mistake was realized, it was too late, as the name had already stuck.

Just above Cedar Falls is a pretty cool walking bridge. The shape that you see in the circle is of another formation in the park known as the Sphinx Head. I'll let you try to find the actual formation along the Old Man's Cave trail if you make it out here. Speaking of out here, I am out of here. See you next time!

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