Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chuck E. Trees

We've been working hard lately, all four of us, so this morning we decided to treat ourselves to a day in the woods -- sort of.

Sort of a day, because we didn't leave the house 'til noon. (Please don't ask me why.) And sort of the woods, because a trip to Old Man's Cave on Memorial Day weekend is more like an assault on an amusement park than a walk in the wilderness, what with hundreds of untethered, unruly young'uns about.

Old Man's Cave is nestled in Hocking Hills State Park, near the town of Logan, Ohio. It's truly a spectacular natural feature -- a deep, mossy gorge with several waterfalls and, of course, dozens of recess caves. Walking trails, enhanced by old stone walls and arch bridges, criss-cross the gorge, several times disappearing into dark passages in the rock before emerging again into the damp air.

The place is popular, and it shows. The vegetation has been worn away 20 feet to either side of marked trails, leaving wide, muddy thoroughfares trodden bare by the thoughtless. Countless shortcuts testify to human laziness, and maintenance appears to be a casualty of the State of Ohio's ever-tightening belt.

Beyond the blight, however, the gorge remains a jewel. During my time there today, I did my best to ignore the out-of-control out-of-schoolers and tried to imagine what it must've been like when Old Man Rowe lived in a deep den near the Middle Falls.

To my delight, I found a few places where I could gaze across a pool at a waterfall, or up through the trees at the sky and almost feel like I was alone in the woods. Instead of trying to absorb the grandeur of the place all at once, I got close to small things, closer to the earth.

There was a brief moment when all I heard was the soft rush of water.

I'll go back to Old Man's Cave again one of these days, perhaps soon, but next time it'll be when the crowds are somewhere else. A football Saturday sounds good.

A rainy football Saturday sounds even better.