I spent the weekend running the trails at Hocking Hills, which far exceeded my expectations. I drove around the park to explore a bit and decided to start my Saturday run from the Cedar Falls area. I followed the Indian Run 20k loop around Rose Lake, through the campground, and to the A-Frame bridge spanning Old Man's Cave Gorge. From there I had a hard time following the loop back to the Dining Lodge, and I had no intention of running the road portion of the Indian run course, so I explored Old Man's Cave and picked up the Buckeye Trail back to Cedar Falls. What an incredible 3 miles of trail from Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls. It's not very hilly but it's very scenic and very technical. When I got back to Cedar Falls I ran into some friends, had some lunch, and chatted for a while.
After my friends headed on their way I decided to navigate the south portion of the Indian Run 20k loop. This didn't go so well. I missed a turn right after Cedar Falls parking area and instead stayed on the Buckeye Trail south, all the way to Ash Cave. What a fantastic mistake! This is a great 3 mile section of trail, again not too hilly, but very scenic and quite technical. Ash Cave is really impressive. It's like Big Lyon falls but about 20 times bigger...no joke.
All in all, this combination of trails was just over 12 miles an had no roads except the small section through the campground. I loved it so much that I decided I would run it again Sunday. The only question was whether I would run it alone or not.
I had planned a COTR trail run on Sunday, but failed to realize that no one would show up because of Mothers Day. We are a more well adjusted bunch than folks give us credit for :) ! I still had a blast out there and on Sunday started south at Ash Cave and ran the same trails, to Cedar Falls, to Old Man's Cave and back. This is easily my favorite trail I've ever run...and that's saying something considering my affection for Mohican.
After the run I did a little scouting. I ran noticed a MTB trail parking lot so I parked my car and ran a bit of the loop. Very promising - only a 1/2 mile down the same campground road you run through on the Indian Run 20k loop, if you turn right onto that road instead of left. If you've never run the Indian Run, you have no idea what these reference points mean. (a bridle trail also intersected this east campground connector road, which leads me to the next though).
Another area that caught my attention was the bridle staging area accross from Old Man's Cave. I parked the car and studied the map. The first thing I notices was a Buckeye Ttrail alt. route (bridle trail) connects here that takes you all the way back to Ash Cave on an alternate trail! It's marked with white blazes instead of the traditional blue. I'm gonna run this all the way to Ash Cave next time I'm down there...it was very easy to follow. Speaking of blue blazes, the Buckeye Trail runs right through this bridle staging area and continues north. Approx. 2 miles north is a really cool rock climbing gorge, which is just south of Big Pine Rd. North of Big Pine Rd. is a huge network of Bridle Trails, where getting in 10+ miles would be simple...the trails are all very well marked. I can't wait to get down there to explore more!!!!
All weekend I was thinking, why does the Indian Run have so much road when there are all these great trails? I can see if it was just an issue of parking, but the Ash Cave and Cedar Falls parking areas were probably bigger parking lots and there was nobody at the Ash Cave lot...
I'd love to hear some comments/feedback about this next idea... I think I'm going to spend Labor Day weekend down at Hocking Hills. The thought was that I'd do a Saturday, Sunday, and Monday run - ala the Mohican training weekend, different trails each day. I'll reserved a couple adjacent campgrounds, do some running, have some beers and barbeque, play some horseshoes and cornhole. It would be fun to have spouses and kids down too and they could do activities in the morning, early afternoon, while we're off running.
I'm excited just thinking about it...chime in and let me know if you're interested!!!!