Hocking Hills Trip With the Kids Post-Divorce Papers

Do you have a place, a destination, or a trip you’ve always wanted to take either with your family or spouse? Hocking Hills was my place. I’d always wanted to go. We talked about it multiple times over the course of 19 years of marriage but something always came up, often other financial obligations that took precedence over a trip to Hocking Hills. An excuse always presented itself, such is life. We tend to put off the things that will really matter in the long run, like planning family vacations and getaways with your spouse to reconnect, spend quality time together and make the memories that strengthen the marital bond. Ultimately putting off what is vital for the family and marriage for some other short-term gain or for something we assume should take priority over the need to take a break from all the work and really remember why we do all the work we do, who we do it for, what we do it for, we’re so American! 

On average Americans receive less than 10 paid vacation days a year while Europeans receive at least 20 and sometimes up to 30 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays a year per Forbes. So where does that leave us Americans? Divorced. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But it does leave us less connected with our families, not as refreshed, rejuvenated, or recharged as we could be, which would ultimately make us more productive at work in the long run. I have European friends that definitely get it right, when they come to the states they make the most of their time here, they travel, see all the beauty, they understand that life is fast…it needs to be savored, every last drop should be enjoyed. They truly embrace the fact that we need to work in order to live and not live in order to work. And that we need breaks. And boy were we in need of a break from the fast-paced lifestyle we got thrown into this past school year. 

Just a quick recap for any new followers, in the past year I became a survivor of financial abuse,  my grandfather passed away, I got served divorce papers, and lost my uncle (those last 3 all occurred in a 3 week span). I took on a couple long-term sub positions in some challenging schools, was greeted by adolescents with some behavioral issues (I’ve been called every name in the book, had two fights in classrooms, and had a student offer to assist me in falling down the stairs, had pencils thrown at me, etc. and the crazy thing is, as I sit here typing I miss them, I miss them all..time and patience helped them see that they could trust me). My mom guilt this past school year was off the charts…by the time I left work, picked everyone up from school/after school location (shoutout to my village, I couldn’t have done this past year without you!), put a load of laundry in, made dinner, and got prepped for the next day I had hardly any time left to help kiddos with homework and projects. And then weekends were for trying to catch up on all the housework that was neglected during the week and any house projects, like taking apart garbage disposal to fix it. Long story short, I’m still in the process of going through a divorce, slightly stressed from the school year, and in dire need of reconnecting with my kids after such a fast-paced and stressful year. Where to go when you’re feeling depleted, stressed, and in need of reconnecting with others and yourself? As Julie Andrews said in The Sound of Music, “I go to the hills…” Hocking Hills!

Game face on & ready for a Road Trip!

I can finally say that after 19 years of wanting to go to Hocking Hills that that dream has finally come to fruition. Though not exactly as I had envisioned we’re slowly getting acclimated to this new normal of it being just the kiddos and I. And let me tell you Hocking Hills did not disappoint! Which was good because truth be told I had been building this trip up in my head for years. We hit up all the “hot spots”…but first, like any good story, it’s best to start at the beginning so the children (and adults) have a better idea of what it is that they are looking at in terms of the formations, the ecological science, and history, and you can plan your visit accordingly (FYI-cell service is extremely spotty, you’re going to want to also inquire about a map) so our first stop was the Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center.

Hocking Hills State Park

Park Address: 19852 State Route 664 S Logan, Ohio 43138

Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center: Old Man’s Cave Parking Lot, State Route 664, Logan OH 43138

Phone: Park Office (740) 385-6841

Hour: Year-round dawn to dusk 

Admission: FREE 

Maps: https://thehockinghills.org/getting_there_from_here.htm

Daily Hikes & Monthly Programs: https://thehockinghills.org/Monthlyprograms.htm

Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center (At Old Man’s Cave and accessible from the Old Man’s Cave parking area).

As we entered the visitor center any mom can tell you what our first stop was, the restrooms, lol! They are extremely clean, and a great place to freshen up before hitting the trails.

Then we walked around and quite literally got a feel for the lay of the land… learning about the history….

This bedrock was deposited more than 350 million years ago as a delta in the warm shallow sea which covered Ohio at that time. Subsequent millions of years of uplift and stream erosion created the awesome beauty seen today.

The sandstone varies in composition and hardness from a softer, loosely cemented middle zone to the harder top and bottom layers. The recess caves at Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, and Cantwell Cliffs are all carved in the softer middle zone. Weathering and erosion widened cracks found in the middle layer of sandstone at the Rock House to create that unusual formation.

Other features of the rock include cross-bedding, honeycomb weathering, and slump blocks. (Source)

They have exceptional displays that illustrate each of the seven major hiking areas so you have an idea of what formations you will be looking at once you’re there, as well as a small-hands-on model on how you are to navigate the formations and hikes, all hikes are one way. (don’t be “those people”…we were “those people” just once because it started pouring, shhh).

Once we had the lay of the land/rock and freshened up one last time in the clean restrooms we were off!!! 

Old Man’s Cave

Details: Old Man’s Cave State Route 664, Logan OH 43138

Old Man’s Cave is one of the 7 major hiking trails of Hocking Hills State Park in southern Ohio. The one-way loop trail is approximately 1 to 1.5 miles long and begins at the kiosk at Upper Falls.

Hikers can choose from 2 exits:

Exit 1—At Old Man’s Cave, which ends at the Naturalist Cabin and Visitor Center. The trail is 1 mile and takes about 60 minutes.

Exit 2— Past Old Man’s Cave to Lower Falls, following a steep incline with an elevation change at the winding stairway, which ends at the Naturalist Cabin and Visitor Center. Exit 2 is 1.5 miles and takes about 1.5 hours.

A wheelchair/stroller accessible trail runs from the Park/Camp office past the visitor center to Lodge Road. It is a little more than a half-mile in length and includes a ramp and observation deck at Upper Falls.

We began our hike and I will fully disclose that my teenagers were throwing out a lot of resistance at the fact that w were going to go hiking for the next two days. But once they came round the bend and say this my son said, “Mom, this is awesome, it’s a big W” (translated, that means to win, which means I totally nailed it!) Then my 11-year-old chimed in too stating she felt like we were on an adventure, we were explorers! Honestly, I don’t know how anyone could be here and not be amazed and in awe…it is so amazing that a blind person could feel the beauty. 

Lower Falls felt like something straight out of a movie, it was gorgeous, and the peaceful feeling that encompasses you is indescribable! (we look a bit waterlogged in our pic, it rained on and off the day we went, which was actually kind of nice, there was hardly anyone on the trails).

Rock House

Details: Rock House 16350 OH-374, Laurelville, OH 43135 

Rock House is one of the 7 major hiking trails of Hocking Hills State Park in southern Ohio. Rock House Loop Trail is about 1 mile. Hikers enter from either the upper or lower parking lot, but both trails come together and exit at the shelter house (at the top).

I would advise bringing a flashlight for this one! We ended up going on a rainy day and it was extremely dark inside the Rock House there are steps, puddles, etc. once you enter the Rock House, but man is it gorgeous! 

This is one I’m not certain I would have taken my children to when they were younger, though every child’s maturity level, or should I say curiosity level, is different, I would say 4 and up for this one. 

Cantwell Cliffs 

Details: Cantwell Cliffs OH-374, Rockbridge, OH 43149 

Cantwell Cliffs are one of the 7 major hiking trails of Hocking Hills State Park in southern Ohio. The path is the most rugged in the park system, remote, and a one-way in and one-way out loop.

There are over two miles of trail with two loops, each being one mile. It takes approximately 60 to 80 minutes to hike each loop of the trail.

This might have been my favorite, next to the falls. You definitely don’t feel like you’re in Ohio. With every step you are greeted with a new magnificent view, you can’t help but slow down…and slow down you should, take your time down the steps, and when you get down turnaround look up and simply exhale. 

I felt like I’d been holding my breath these past 8 months. To suddenly find yourself at age 42, with no partner/spouse, three kids, responsible for maintaining a household, the appliances, vehicle, all the pets, lawn, etc., and being a substitute teacher during one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging school year for teachers, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have days when I questioned how I was going to do it all if I could do it all. Through the grace of God I did, he sent me so many helpful souls with serving hearts to help, he humbled me enough to graciously accept their help (you can’t do it alone, nor should you). And as I released my foot from that last step I turned around and exhaled! For the first time, I felt like we were going to be okay, though the divorce isn’t finalized, and I’m still learning all the ins and outs, legal terms, etc. Hocking Hills blanketed me with a layer of calm that I’d never experienced before.

After our peace-filled journey to Old Man’s Cave, Rock House, and Cantwell Cliffs we called it a day! We stayed at the Sleep Inn, it was literally 6 minutes from Cantwell Cliffs. And it checked all the “mom” boxes…they offer a free continental breakfast, rooms have a fridge and microwave, have an indoor heated pool (open 7am-11pm, so kids can get that swim in before bed that helps them fall asleep much faster), and late checkout (noon!)

Sleep Inn Logan-Hocking Hills Ohio

Address: 12830 Grey St Building A, Logan, OH 43138

Phone: (740) 331-4811

Website: https://www.choicehotels.com/ohio/logan/sleep-inn-hotels/oh706?mc=llgoxxpx

There are four more Can’t-miss stops in Hocking Hills, Cedar Falls, Whispering Cave TrailConkle’s Hollow and Ash Cave (located back by Old Man’s Cave, a great place to finish your visit so you can stop off at the Visitor Center to freshen up before getting on the road). We’ll leave those to explore on your own…I will make two more suggestions, for those coming in off of the road to explore there is a Cane’s Chicken on the way in, you can grab that and take it into the park to cover lunch or an early dinner. I always like to try to eat at places we don’t have at home when it comes to our splurge meal (I like to budget one meal on vacation/trip as a splurge).

My second suggestion is to go into Walmart and get food for a picnic lunch and/or dinners when in the park…and swing back to Walmart before you go for a souvenir, my kiddos opted for t-shirts ($12).

Heading home after a peace-filled beautiful adventure in Hocking Hills!

No matter where you are in life, what milestones you might be experiencing,  good or bad, Julie Andrews said it/sang it best “I go to the hills…”. Go to the hill and be blanketed in a peace that only Hocking can provide, Hocking Hills, where you can finally exhale from the stressors of life! 

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