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Close to Columbus: Hocking Hills Getaway

 Halie Williams Close to Columbus: Hocking Hills Getaway
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After telling myself numerous times that I needed a vacation from the stress of school and work, I recently got what I asked for. Last week I had the pleasure of attending a press trip for travel writers to Hocking Hills, made possible by Weirick Communications. Through the Thursday – Sunday trip and our jam-packed, no room for down time, itinerary, I had more fun than I could have ever expected. I also realized that a lot of Ohioans, such as myself, with the mindset of a far away beach getaway, forget about our own little slice of paradise only an hour and a half away.

I’ll attempt to mention every place that we visited, however it could get kind of lengthy.

We arrived at Old Man’s Cave, Thursday around 3 p.m. for a hike with naturalist Pat Quackenbush. Before I go on I should probably make note of the unpredictable, not so perfect weather throughout the weekend, although I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the state that we live in. However, despite the fluctuating rain, the ‘chilly’ feel actually made for great hiking weather. Pat, Hocking Hills State Park’s one full-time naturalist, was not only humorous and kind but also highly knowledgeable. I felt as though I left the gorgeous hike with enough expertise on nature and the surrounding area to give my own tour.

Pat Quackenbush at Old Man's Cave.

From there we headed over to The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls with delightful innkeepers Ellen Grinsfelder and Terry Lingo. After viewing a few of their cabin options and a wonderfully informational wine tasting, we enjoyed a relaxing and scrumptious dinner in the Inn Restaurant. Overall, it was a spectacular environment with gorgeous accommodations, and even better food.

Dinner at The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls.

After dinner we departed for our Lazy Lane cabin. We stayed in Steep Woods Retreat, an adorable and spacious cabin tucked far into the woods.

The next morning we rose early for breakfast at The Ridge Inn Restaurant, a family owned restaurant in Laurelville. I had pancakes, which were pretty delicious, but nothing compared to their famous homemade donuts, which we were assured are just as a hit with every customer as they were with us.

The Ridge Inn.

After breakfast and a short foraging hike, we arrived at Glenlaurel, a Scottish country inn with stunning cottages and fine dining. Although a little too flashy and fancy for my liking, I would recommend this place for any romantic getaway.

The Glenlaurel Inn.

It was then off to stress-relieving skeet shooting at Hidden Haven and then a scenic air tour at the Vinton County Airport. I must say, maybe because it was my first time in an airplane of any kind, the air tour was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Instructor Harry Sowers was one of the most intriguing people I’ve met in a long time, and wasn’t able to go a minute or two without cracking some kind of joke. In summary, he was amusing to be around.

Scenic Air Tour with Harry Sowers.

We then ended the night with a kayak trip on Lake Hope with Mimi Morrison from Touch The Earth Adventures. We slowly rode down the lake until sunset and the combination of the peaceful serenity of the surroundings and Mimi’s genuine conversation made it a perfect end to a perfect day.

Kayaking on Lake Hope with Mimi Morrison.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at the Welcome Center before checking out the unique Pencil Sharpener Museum and Columbus Washboard Factory. Both in which were not what I expected but cute tourist stops.

The Columbus Washboard Factory.

From there was a light hike through Ash Cave. The trails were pretty simple which may have been partly because of the attraction of full families. However, the scene was astonishing and found myself standing behind the waterfall starring and taking a mass amount of photos until it was time to leave.

Ash Cave.

We had Jimbo’s for lunch, a casual bar, which was sort of a nice change from the pricey, fancy food. I had an enormous, yet amazing, bacon cheeseburger, which I learned that they hand make themselves, and onion rings.

Then it was time for the complete highlight, at least in my opinion, of the trip. The Hocking Hills Zip Line Canopy Tour was one of the most enjoyable activities I have ever had the privilege of doing. As the GEICO pig would say “Pure. Adrenaline!” Owner, and our zip line tour guide, Dan Eckel, was full of energy and struck me as the type of person who finds joy in every aspect of life and I thoroughly enjoyed his company, as well as the experience. So much that I decided to ride their new attraction, the Super Zip, twice in a row.

Zip lining in Hocking Hills.

From there we headed to dinner at the Brass Ring Golf Club for some of Chef Moe’s phenomenal food. We had everything from loaded fries, to corn fritters, to fish, to the best BBQ ribs I’ve ever tasted. Then ended the meal with Chef Moe’s Chocolate Volcano Cake. All I can say about her cake is, wow, considering that at the time it left me speechless. I couldn’t stop myself from eating the whole thing. Literally, I ate the whole cake, and I’m not ashamed.

Sunday, before departing back to Columbus, was breakfast at Shaw’s Restaurant, another fine dining place combined with a hotel. The atmosphere was quaint and upscale and the food, including their signature cinnamon rolls, was equally as enjoyable as each place we had visited beforehand. After receiving a small tour of the building I saw the gorgeous array of rooms and kitchen in which cooking classes are given.

Shaw's Restaurant & Inn in Lancaster.

The last item on the itinerary was a visit to Rockmill Brewery. This craft beer brewery showcases Belgian-style ales that made me contemplate changing my “I don’t drink beer” ways. Brewmaster Matthew Barbee was engaging and personable. He also knew exactly which foods to pair with each beer, somewhat like a winery, and made sure we had said food when we tasted each. I certainly hope more Columbus area restaurants look into Barbee’s incredible brewing.

The Rockmill Brewery.

We then departed for home, in my case back to Columbus.

My first press trip, and first visit to Hocking Hills since I was very young, was a complete, enjoyable success and something I truly needed at the time. I left planning my own personal getaway in my head to come back.

Disclaimer: This travel excursion to Hocking Hills was provided by Weirick Communications and included travel accommodations, complimentary meals, entertainment and other all-inclusive provisions.

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