Gus Scale: Old Man’s Cave

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Hocking Hills State Park’s trails can be rather rugged, but there are still some suitable for members of the busted lung club. One of those is a short, out-and-back trail to Old Man’s Cave.

The Old Man's Cave Trail gets a two on The Gus Scale, but only for the steps to get in and out of the gorge. Other than that it's a walk in the park!

The Old Man’s Cave Trail gets a two on The Gus Scale, but only for the steps to get in and out of the gorge. Other than that it’s a walk in the park!

Hocking Hills is one of my favorite places to go in Ohio. This state park in south-central Ohio is full of all the outdoors you can take – but it can get a bit rugged out there, especially when you’re operating at less than full lung capacity. But fear not! There are still some things you can do, even if you aren’t able to get out to hike the full Buckeye Trail.

Old Man’s Cave is a short, easy one-mile hike from the visitor’s center. The cave is named after a hermit who lived there with his two dogs in the 1860s. You can take the trailhead that comes down behind the visitor’s center, and all the stairs that go with it, or you can hop on the trail from the opposite end of the parking lot and pass a couple of pretty little waterfalls on your way out.

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The trail follows a creek through the base of the gorge.

The downside to this path is there is a bit of a tight spot at the beginning of the trail, just past the waterfalls. There are some steps worn into rocks, and it’s a tight squeeze to get through. It’s wide enough for one person, but things get a little tricky when you have two hounds with you, competing for who’s going to be the leader. It also gets a bit tricky when people try to pass each other on this part of the trail, but it is short enough that you can usually wait to see if there is anyone coming before you start up or down.

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This is the second of two waterfalls you’ll encounter on the trek to Old Man’s Cave.

The trail to Old Man’s Cave is an easy mile – even if you have busted lungs. The trail is wide, and mostly flat because you are following a creek along the gorge. Getting in and out of the gorge is the only strenuous part. And I know this trail is super easy because I did half of it without oxygen (completely by accident, Dr. M! I promise.)

We hiked the mile to Old Man’s Cave and were almost halfway back before I noticed that my oxygen wasn’t puffing anymore. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the tank was full. I thought something was wrong with the gauge or the tank, but it turned out I just hadn’t turned it on when we started our hike.

I’m super smart.

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Meet Stubbs, Emme’s hiking partner. They compete to see who can sniff the most trails, and get the most attention.

But not using oxygen – however unsafe that is when your lungs do not absorb enough oxygen from the air – showed me that my lungs were getting better, and stronger. If I’d had it on the entire time we were hiking I may not have needed to stop to rest at all! It also demonstrated just how easy this hike really is.

For those of you looking for a longer hike, keep going past Old Man’s Cave and take the Buckeye Trail three miles to Cedar Falls. Add another three miles on the trail and you can hike all the way to Ash Cave. Just remember – these aren’t a loop, so if you go seven miles out, you’ve got to come seven miles back!


Gus Scale: Greeter Falls


Greeter Falls is beautiful, but be mindful of the fork in the road. Choosing wrong way could land you on a trail ranked seven out of seven on the Gus Scale.

GusScaleLvl7When we were visiting Foster Falls, we saw a sign for Greeter Falls and decided to check it out. But first, we checked a map. That’s right folks, we learned our lesson not to get into a trail we knew nothing about. Now, if we could just learn to follow the map.

I found Greeter Falls on All Trails, and it was described as a “moderate 1.8 mile hike.” I said that’s doable for the cripple in the group (me – I’m the cripple) so we decided to hit the trail.

It starts out as a fairly level, wide trail. When you come to a fork, you have the option of taking an upper falls trail, or a lower falls trail. Choose carefully, for you may choose your doom.

The upper falls trail is what All Trails calls “moderate.” I can’t dispute this because this isn’t the trail we took. Instead, we took the lower falls trail and proceeded down the precipice toward our second swimming hole of the day. This trail is rugged – very rugged. I ranked this one a seven out of seven on the Gus Scale. Overall, it is comparable to the Foster Falls level of difficulty, but there are some differences to take into consideration.

After taking the fork for Lower Falls, the trail is similar to Foster Falls. You still climb around rocks and pick your way to the bottom of the ravine. When you’re hiking down, I can’t stress enough making sure you have on proper footwear. Even with it on you could roll an ankle – like Karli.

I was several yards back, held up by taking photos and being slow, when Brandon came rushing up asking if I had water. I thought someone had a heat stroke or something. Actually, Karli sprained her ankle, falling and flaying one of her shins on the rocks in the process.

So wearing long pants may not be a bad idea, either.

Did that ankle stop her? No, ma’am, The Beatkeeper also plays roller derby, so she just added the cuts and bruises to her collection and kept on trucking down that hill.

We kept going, all the while knowing that every inch we went down we would have to come back up again. Every so often someone would yell back to me to make sure I wanted to keep going. It’s beautiful and there’s a waterfall at the end of the trail, so I said keep going.

Then we reached the edge of a cliff.

Even though the area is a well-known rock-climbing area, we didn’t have to scale a cliff face to get to the falls. No, we just had to take an aluminum spiral staircase. It’s kind of cool, if you’re not afraid of heights, falling, or open-backed steps.

Well, the waterfall was in sight, so I said, “We’ve come this far. Might as well keep going!”

Then someone shouted back, “Uh, Cassie … there’s more steps?”

Why not? I’m already farther in than I should be. What’s two more flights of steps and a ramp of doom?

We made it down, but the last flight of steps stops at a ramp that is about a 45 degree angle. I didn’t even fool with that, I just clomped down on the rocks and took my chances climbing/crawling over them. And when I say rocks, I mean large rocks, not those little ones you skip stones with.

We got about 10 feet from the ramp of doom, plopped down, and watched some guy jump from about halfway up the falls. I’m definitely not recommending this to anyone – so don’t try so sue me if you break your neck and die trying.

The climb back out was hard on all of us, and my friends are all in reasonable shape. But for me, I felt like I was stopping to catch my breath every 10 feet. Still, it was a great trail and I’d recommend it. Just be prepared, or take the Upper Falls Loop.