Eleven years ago today I visited more old stomping grounds. I drove past the library in Nelsonville, Ohio, where I had my first job out of library school, and on to the small town of Logan:
The text underneath says, "Gateway to Ohio's Scenic Wonderland"
and no, they're not being facetious.
I lived in Logan from 1989 through the end of 1990, and again from the end of 1991 till April of 1993 (the gap was library school in Indiana, which I mentioned before). Looking back, I think the time I spent in Logan was the unhappiest of my life. My marriage, to the man I now realize was the love of my life, was falling apart, and I hated Logan, with its small town parochiality, with a passion. As I told my ex just before I left, a) I was living in a fishbowl as the library director's wife, and b) he may have transcended "outsider" status by virtue of his position, but otherwise, unless you were living in the house your grandparents were born in, outsider was who you'd be forevermore.
The combination was ugly, and I really had no choice but to escape. Which I did, finally. Alone.
So why was I back here? I'm still not sure. I drove past the library where my ex was still director, but did not go in, drove past our old house a few blocks away and saw that the trees we'd planted in the yard were ten years larger and the flower bed I'd planted was still going strong, then I headed out of town into the Hocking Hills.
The Hocking Hills (hocking always sounds like a verb to me, maybe akin to choking? I don't know) are really quite pretty, and they'd been a favorite place for me to practice escaping before I managed the real thing. The hills are dotted with six small state parks, most having to do with caves of one sort or another.
Ash Cave is my favorite, with Ash Creek freefalling 80 feet over the lip of the cave to a pool below. In the wintertime an ice cone builds up in the pool that can reach halfway to the cliff edge, and in the summer you can practically stand under the falls and watch the water come down at you.
But when I arrived there this time the falls weren't falling and the pool was empty:
A dry Ash Cave
It's still pretty, but it was something of a disappointment.
The short path to the cave leads through some beautiful woods:
While I was living in Logan, this trail was made handicapped-accessible, which was nice.
I made another stop at the biggest unit of Hocking Hills State Park, Old Man's Cave, so named for a hermit who lived there early in the 19th century:
Again, the waterfall was dry that day.
Ironically, part of the trail at Old Man's Cave was washed out from floods a couple of winters previously. But it was still lovely, and some of the foliage was downright incandescent:
On the trail to Old Man's Cave
Having stomped my old stomping grounds sufficiently, I headed back to the highway and into the rain.
A few hours later I found a state park with a campground and laundry facilities just north of Zanesville, where the rain stopped just long enough to let me get settled for the night.
The next day I was headed for more old stomping grounds, but ones with much happier resonances.