"" Writer's Wanderings: In My Backyard -- Hocking Hills, Ohio

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In My Backyard -- Hocking Hills, Ohio

There is nothing like a trip down memory lane especially with grandkids tagging along. They were excited about seeing a cave and we were excited about revisiting the place where we spent our honeymoon--Lake Hope lodge. Bet you thought I was going to say the cave.

Hocking Hills is about an hour and a half drive south of Columbus. The huge state park has several cave areas to explore. Most of them are open-ceilinged caves or recesses in a rock wall so they are not dark and foreboding to youngsters or oldsters with claustrophobia.

Our first stop was Old Man's Cave. And yes, it derives its name from an old hermit who once lived there. The trails and bridges have been updated quite a bit in the forty-one years since we spent our three honeymoon days exploring the area.

Earth tones freckled by sunlight filtering through the trees above us painted a varied and colorful landscape. The kids were excited to find a frog who quickly plunged into the creek and escaped their eager hands.

We climbed back out of the cave area and headed the car for Lake Hope, about a fifteen minute ride up the road. The nature center there does a hand feeding of the hummingbirds during the summer in the early afternoon. Along the way we hoped to find a deli or some place to grab something to eat for lunch. Just as we were running out of hope we spotted Etta's.

Normally I would not take grandchildren into a place that looked like this but we were running out of options. To our surprise however, Etta's Lunchbox Cafe was very good. Oh, the inside didn't look much better than the outside but you had to realize that this was an eclectic mix of all sorts of antiques and furnishings from the 50s.

We placed our order for sandwiches to go and then stepped into the back room to peruse the collection of over 150 old lunchboxes on display. After a few more minutes enjoying the rocking chairs on the front porch, our orders were ready and waiting in lunch bags all marked with what was inside. For under $6 each we got a huge sandwich, a big dill pickle spear, and a bag of chips. The kids got grilled cheese (under $5) and all the fixings. Their sandwiches were still warm when we pulled into the nature center at the lake.

If I'd had any doubts about our choice for lunch, they were erased when the park ranger pointed out to the others sitting there that we had found the best place for lunch in the area. She was right.

After our lunch, we listened to the talk about hummingbirds and then sat for about a half an hour grasping a floral tube full of sugar water hoping for a hummingbird to alight. The ranger takes in all but one feeder for the two hours that people can hand feed. The hummingbirds then go to the patient waiters. One lady attracted a bird twice. The best time for doing the feeding we learned was earlier in the summer. There are more birds around then.

It was getting hot and sticky and we opted for a little drive in the A/C of the car. We found the place where the Lake Hope lodge used to be. It burned in 2005. It was more difficult to find which cabin might have been ours. Of course after 41 years, it could have been torn down and rebuilt. But I did take a picture of one for posterity's sake. The only souvenir I have of our honeymoon is an acorn that I encased in plastic--oh, and one really sweet guy that I'd like to keep around for 41 more years.

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