Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, a weekly series in my blog where gratitude is always shared about someone or something in my life I’m truly thankful for, which for today is for a recent hiking trip I took with my best friend Cedric to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio.

For those who’ve never heard of Hocking Hills or never been there, it’s south of Columbus, by about an hour and a half or so driving time and, as defined by Wikipedia, is a deeply dissected area of the Allegheny Plateau that features cliffs, gorges, rock shelters, and waterfalls, all due to the Blackhand Sandstone in the area.

Ever since moving to Ohio back in 2014, I’ve been wanting to visit this part of the region, mostly because the pictures I always saw of it reminded me of a place (Mohawk Mountain) I used to hike quite frequently with my Dad in upstate New York near where I grew up, one that I was always extremely fond of visiting.

While initially Cedric and I had actually planned to spend a few days away at Cedar Point during his visit, after learning the amusement park wasn’t even scheduled to open until July 9th due to COVID-19, we decided to alter our plans and head to the Hocking Hills region instead, given how much we both love nature. We stayed in nearby Athens, Ohio, and on the morning of the 5th of July, we headed over to Hocking Hills State Park, arriving just past noon to the Visitor’s Center at Old Man’s Cave.

Once there, we assessed the status of all the major attractions and began to set a course of action. We agreed to start with the trail right there at Old Man’s Cave and then attempt to walk to Whispering Cave, seeing we couldn’t drive there with its parking lot currently closed. While my original desire was to simply drive to each attraction and do as little walking as possible given my ongoing issues with my physical health, I decided to pray and do as much as I could. After two hours and several miles of walking rough terrain, we had conquered all of what Old Man’s Cave had to offer and even visited Whispering Cave as well! One highlight to mention during this part of the day was this rickety bridge we had to cross to get to Whispering Cave. As I walked across it, Cedric wildly moved it, leaving me looking like a gumby flailing his arms wildly in the air. It was a rather funny spectacle to watch that’s for sure.

Nevertheless, riding the high from conquering that walk (and maybe also from the dark chocolate espresso beans I gave into after it!), we drove over to Cedar Falls and did the trail there next. We quickly moved on to Ash Cave next, walking the entire trail there as well, and then drove all the way up to Cantwell Cliffs after that, doing the same there. By that point, it had been several hours of walking up and down trails, over and through rocks, and in and out of formations. We were both totally spent but yet neither of us wanted to finish the day without completing the only other one we hadn’t been to, that being Rockhouse. So, we headed there on a mission, which interestingly enough, ended up being the highlight of our day. The formations there, chiefly the oddly-shaped cave you can actually walk through, were very stunning, especially when the sunlight shone through all the little gaps and holes.

After 6.2 miles walked, almost 19,000 steps taken, 82 floors climbed, several liters of water guzzled, and multiple snacks consumed, we had most assuredly had our fill of seeing the most incredible geological formations, forest flora, and natural waterfalls Hocking Hills State Park had to offer. But, what was most impressive about the day for me was the actual fact that I totally completed a hike I haven’t been able to do in years. And how did I do it? Well, I attribute that to God, because I know if I had left things up to my brain, I wouldn’t have made it past visiting Old Man’s Cave that day.

So, as a full day of hiking came to an end, I must say Hocking Hills is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited in my life and something that I know my inner child truly enjoyed. It really brought me back to a time in my life where I regularly explored the mountains in upstate New York as a kid, and the mountains of Virginia as a young adult. Hiking is something I absolutely love, which is why I’m so grateful I was able to see as much as I did in Hocking Hills State Park and why I’m dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday to the day I spent there with my best friend Cedric.

Peace, love, light, and, joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson