February 3, 2017

The Hike at Cantwell Cliffs

This post originally appeared on my previous blog, A Face to the Sun, on August 9, 2012.)

I am not a hiker.  Never was.  Maybe it's my level of physical fitness, ahem.  Well, a few days ago, I met my challenge.

Hubby's family came from Hocking County, so we traveled there recently to look around. We stopped at Cantwell Cliffs in Hocking State Park, the area where his grandfather, great-grandfather and on back lived for many generations.  The park was green and gorgeous, and the day was clear and sunny.  We saw before entering the cliff region that two hikes were available there - a moderate hike of 3/4 mile and then a more strenuous one of about 2 miles.  A moderate hike - we could do that, of course. Wouldn't take long.  So off we started along the edge of the top of the cliffs, but on fairly level ground.

For the first fifteen or twenty minutes, we marveled at the large stone cliffs with their enormous boulders and interesting formations. We had areas of two or three or five steps up and down, but it was not a difficult walk. Then things changed.  The steps became more frequent and went on for longer distances, all near the cliff edge.  We debated whether to just retrace our path and go back, but really, the trail wasn't impossible and Hubby kept reassuring me that we were probably close to the end anyway.  So we just kept walking and talking and enjoying the scenery, following the red dots marking the trees for the moderate hike.

 At last we came to a series of about twenty steps leading downward along the cliff's side.  It looked a little treacherous.  I didn't want to descend, but Hubby thought it looked really interesting and all would be well because after all, it was only a 3/4 mile hike, and we should be almost done.  So, clinging to every little tree trunk, rock, or even weed along the side, I slowly limped down the steps, hoping that this was the last challenge of the day and praying that neither of us would fall.   Finally at the bottom of the rocky steps, we hit a level trail again and I breathed a sigh of relief...until I looked ahead and saw these steps going up and up and up, following the cliff's edge as far as I could see.

 We debated - should we turn back and go where we knew what we had to face or should we just plunge away into the unknown before us?  I looked around and then I saw it!  The tree with the yellow dot - the mark denoting the strenuous path.  When had we wandered onto that?  Hubby said again, optimistically, that the end couldn't be too far away. Right.  I'd heard that before.  It had to be 90 degrees and the perspiration was rolling.  We had not seen another person on the trail.  We stood there for awhile, taking in the endless steps in front of us and the drop-off of the cliff to the right of us, and finally decided to just keep going.  So, with newly acquired walking sticks in hand, up we went. Five steps, rest and wipe dripping forehead - five steps, rest and wait until the heart stopped thudding - five steps and clean off steamy glasses - five steps and pant awhile, repeat...

Finally, 1 1/2 hours from our initial step onto the trail. we emerged into a fabulous area toward the top of the cliff where an overhang of rock provided shelter.
And, best of all, we saw other people!

"Are we at the end?" I asked, pleadingly.  "Why, yes," we were told, "all you have left is Fat Woman's Squeeze."  How appropriate, I thought wryly.  We looked to our left and there it was...the last challenge.  With the thought of a cold drink of water and the AC in the car spurring me on, I started slowly up the last flight of stairs, hoping they were kidding about the "squeeze" part at the end.

And we did make it, with no squeeze at all, thank you very much.  
With a sense of accomplishment and almost two hours after we started this adventure, we headed out to lunch and a cold drink, basking in the blast of air from the maximum air conditioning in the car.  

Later that day we stopped at Old Man's Cave, where we confidently and unanimously rejected the idea of the 6 mile hike around the premises! 

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