Hoedown in the Hills: Exploring Ohio's
The Hocking Hills area of Ohio near Columbus
has long been a favorite getaway for Midwestern vacationers-in-the-know.
The wooded, rolling hills are the perfect place to indulge in outdoor activities
like hiking and camping, fishing and wildlife viewing or just sitting on
the cabin porch and relaxing in the peace and quiet. But word has gotten
out that there are a few surprises in the woods including a world-class
way to put some extra "zip" in your trip! Let's take a whirlwind tour:
Rocking in Hocking
Few things in the Hocking Hills will get
your adrenaline flowing like a some time spent with the folks at Hocking
Hills Canopy Tours where they have a zipline course set up that will take
your breath away, especially if you like to scream while you're "flying!"
The tour begins with a safety and instructional session then you climb
into your zipping harness and helmet and take a short ride to the first
launching platform. There's nothing quite like the feeling of stepping
off a platform high above the ground for the first time, putting your trust
in a network of steel cables as you leave your solid footing. But soon
even novices are hollering and hot-dogging along to the landing platform,
ready to hit the next cable and fly again. There are four "sky bridges"
along the way too; these give you a bit of a breather from zipping and
give you a little more time to appreciate the scenery as you walk the narrow
suspensions over gullies and creek beds. The course takes about three hours
to complete and when you reach the final landing platform you get to rappel
down to the ground where a cool drink and a snack await. Zipline fanatics
will love the newest addition here, the quarter mile-long SuperZip where
you launch from a seventy-five foot-tall tower. The SuperZip experience
can be purchased separately or as part of the main ten-line adventure.
I did the main course and it was the first time I ever zipped and I must
admit I was a little nervous at first. But the guides here are great about
putting you at ease and helping with your launch and landing and it didn't
take long before I relaxed and enjoyed this unique thrill ride. Located
in Rockbridge. www.hockinghillscanopytours.com
After flying through the air with the greatest
of ease, how about some down-to-earth fun? See the Hocking Hills from a
different perspective when you hop onto an ATV and hit the woods at Hocking
Hills Nature Trails. They have a huge expanse of land here with trails
to suit all tastes from easily-navigated routes for beginners (or those
who want to go a little slower and maybe hope to see a deer or two) right
through to a rough course where rocks, ruts and fallen branches have been
left on the trail to make it more challenging. There's a big open grassy
field where you can "open her up" and speed around a lot faster than you
can in the woods and then there's what is for many riders the most beloved
of areas---the mud hole! There's something very primal about blasting through
the mud pit and sending the muck flying in every direction, knowing that
your ATV is equipped with 4-wheel drive to keep you from getting stuck.
Some riders come just for the pit and spend their whole session charging
through the mud; they'd consider it a sin to leave the premises without
a head-to-toe mud splatter. Obviously if you are going to do this you need
to come dressed appropriately; that's something to consider even if you
aren't hitting the mud because there can be puddles on any given trail
at any time. www.hockinghillsnaturetrails.com
Located in Logan.
The Hills Are Alive
Yes, with the sound of music. Musicians
and music fans have a rare opportunity to enjoy an informal evening of
entertainment thanks to a long-standing tradition at Studio in the Woods.
Studio in the Woods is one of the many places to stay in the Hocking Hills
where you can get away from it all yet still have all the comforts of home.
In other words the accommodations here are not rustic cabins but they are
tucked away in the forest so you have plenty of privacy. On most Friday
nights Studio in the Woods hosts Bella's Café, an all-night-long
jam session where everyone is welcome to come and listen or join in the
picking and singing. The folks who show up to play are collectively known
as the Twisted Pickers and if you show up once to play then you're a permanent
member of the group.
The fun takes place in a large living room
furnished with a piano and dozens of acoustic instruments of all sorts
and there are comfy chairs all around. The atmosphere is completely down-homey
and friendly as people pick up an instrument and play for awhile then maybe
switch instruments or sit for awhile to chat and sip wine. People come
and go throughout the evening and the music doesn't stop until the last
player calls it a night. Again, this is very informal and you don't have
to be staying at Studio in the Woods to participate. There's no cost either
but you can take some food for the pot-luck dinner and some wine or beer
if you like. Call for more info and directions: (740) 332-6076. www.hockinghillsstudiointhewoods.com
Located in Rockbridge.
It's always fun to seek out some of the
things that help to give a particular area its personality and the Hocking
Hills have a couple of spots not to miss. First up is Etta's Lunchbox Café
and Museum located near New Plymouth. At first the place looks like a typical
roadside eatery, and indeed Etta's menu of sandwiches and other lunch items
keeps the café packed. But while you're waiting to fill your belly
you can feast your eyes on an amazingly diverse collection of 850 lunchboxes,
a display that includes everything from the first humble boxes ever made
through to boxes featuring today's designs. There are lunch "pails," boxes
showing cars, planes and spaceships, celebrity boxes featuring everyone
from the Beatles to a goofily-grinning Cheech & Chong and of course
Hello Kitty. Boxes celebrating TV shows, Popeye, cowboy Roy Rogers, Barbie,
all sorts of cartoons, the Hooter's Girls and dozens of one-off designs
are on display. Chances are if you carried a lunchbox in your younger days
you'll see one like it at Etta's. NBC's Today Show has visited this wonderful
tribute to pop culture and you can see it for free with any purchase in
the café. And if Etta's general manager isn't too busy he'll personally
show you around and share anecdotes about the collection with you---ask
for Tim. Closed on Wednesdays; call for more info and directions: (877)
Musicians in particular will love the Columbus
Washboard Company Factory. Yes, this place is exactly what it says---a
factory that makes washboards, the old-fashioned clothes laundering gadgets.
Folks all over the world still use washboards to clean their clothes and
Columbus Washboard supplies a great deal of these, including putting them
in care package-type kits to send overseas to American servicemen and women
who are in combat zones and often have no other way to do laundry. But
most washboards sold today are used either as decorative items or as musical
instruments and here you can see and purchase a wide variety of either
kind. The boards come in various sizes and with various "rub surfaces;"
different metals and different styles of corrugation give the musical ones
unique tones while decorative washboards can feature the traditional metal
rub surface or glass, mirror, cork or even chalk board. The tour here is
self-guided and you'll see row after row of different styles of washboard,
some historical pieces and at certain times you'll get to see the boards
being manufactured. And since the place is frequented by musicians, you
might even get treated to an impromptu washboard hoedown in the hills!
Located in Logan.
With all the fun and exciting things to
do in the Hocking Hills it would be easy to forget that relaxation is also
a top draw here. To top off your visit to the Hocking Hills with style
and class you need to spend an evening at Glenlaurel Scottish Inn &
Cottages. Glenlaurel is one of Select Registry's "400 most distinguished
inns of North America" and indeed if you stay here in their Manor House,
Carriage House or one of their cottages you will experience the ultimate
in country comfort. Guests who are not lodging at Glenlaurel can visit
at dinnertime for a treat not to forget---how about a six or seven course
gourmet meal served in a beautifully-decorated and intimate dining room,
complete with views of the equally impressive grounds? Glenlaurel always
hosts a "welcome" get-together before dinner and you will certainly know
when it's time to forego the appetizers and get to the table; that's when
the bagpiper, dressed in full Scottish regalia, leads a procession into
the dining room. Part of the reason that Glenlaurel is so amazing is the
involvement of owners Greg and Kelley Leonard; the pair are "hands-on"
innkeepers and all of their efforts go to keeping the inn fun and welcoming.
An evening spent strolling the grounds, dining and mingling with guests
(and the bagpiper!) will be something you'll be talking about for a long
time. Dinner reservations are a must; call (800) 809-7378. www.glenlaurel.com
Located near Rockbridge.
Call to dinner
The Hocking Hills area is big but no matter
where you're staying you can reach most of these attractions within an
hour and certainly you can squeeze several of them into one day's activity.
I stayed at the Bear Run Inn, a bed & breakfast that personifies all that's desirable about lodging in the Hocking Hills. The inn sits in a clearing only yards from the forest in a setting so quiet that one night, sleeping with the window open, I was awakened in the early morning by the sound of deer having their breakfast in the inn's flower garden. Humans are fed really well here too; Marcia will serve you a filling soufflé with all the trimmings for breakfast and make sure you're comfortable in your room (or cabin for larger parties.) Husband Bud will show you around the property including the fishing pond and the fire pit where you can cook out if you choose. Music lovers will get a kick out of asking the couple about Joan Baez's recent stay---the legendary singer and her entourage spent some downtime between shows recharging at the inn and Bud will be happy to show you the pictures. www.bearrun.com.
To view a map or get other information to help plan your trip, visit: www.1800hocking.com
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