Hocking Hills

(Photo: Liv Jumping In Near Lower Falls)
After seeing our old football in her parent's basement that we bought on Route 66 in March 2012, Liv told me she thought it needed to be tossed around again. Unfortunately, with both of us working we couldn't take off on another month-long road trip or hike across the country again. For now, we had to look for something closer to our backyards.

After driving to Liv's house in Kentucky, we set off for Southern Ohio to hike the Hocking Hills section of the Buckeye Trail. We didn't plan much. Not that we ever did. We just picked our destination and got in the car.

(Photo: Liv and Sam at Upper Falls)
"Ah, this just feels right," Liv said after pulling the passenger door shut on my dented-up Honda Civic. We've developed an emotional attachment to the old junker. It carried us all over America without a grumble. Well, maybe one, when its muffler fell off in a ghost town on a pitch-black night in New Mexico. It may not look great, but all of those dents have a story, so we love it like nobody else could.

After I backed the car out of Liv’s driveway, it was March 2012 all over again. Fifteen months may have passed, but they were just a tick on the clock to me now.

Liv checked her road atlas and copy of “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” for anything to see along the way. She wouldn't tell me what she found until we got there, which was fine by me. She could have led me to a tire fire, I was just happy to be on the road with Liv in the passenger seat again. If I ever have the desire to be rich, it will be so I can just do this for the rest of my life.

(Photo: Liv at Serpent Mound)
"Serpent Mound?" I asked after seeing the sign.

"Yep, that's it. You haven't been here before have you?" I hadn't. I take a certain comfort in knowing that no matter how much I see, I'll never see it all. It guarantees a lifetime of adventure.

I had no idea what to expect, but it was exactly what it sounded like. The Fort Ancient culture supposedly built it a thousand years ago on the edge of a 300-million year old asteroid crater overlooking Ohio Brush Creek. Each bend in the snake-like effigy mound pointed toward the position of the sun or moon during the equinoxes and solstices.

Nobody knows for sure exactly who built it or why, but it doesn't matter. Humans did it and a thousand years later other humans were still compelled to care for it. That's enough to make it special.

(Photo: Liv at Cantwell Cliffs)
Even though the 1,300-mile Buckeye Trail passes right through Hocking Hills, they really don't want you parking there to get on it. We drove around the rest of the day, but never found a place to leave the car near the trail that didn't have a sign saying, "No Overnight Parking." We instead did what we've always done when stuck in the middle of nowhere at night without a plan, we found a place to sleep in the car.

Some might say we should have planned, but we made the best of it. We stayed up late with a cooler of beer and tossed the ball around under parking lot lights. It wasn't a desert road in random New Mexico, but it would do.

(Photo: Liv at Cantwell Cliffs)
The following night we’d be joined by Sammy (Sixgun) in Hocking Hills, so the next morning we just drove into park and spent the day hiking around Cantwell Cliffs. What we first saw we didn't expect to find in Southern Ohio, a huge amphitheater-shaped cliff with a long thin waterfall pouring down its center.

I took photos and Liv climbed to a spot behind the falls to sit with the view. Before leaving, she climbed back down to stand under the waterfall and cool off.

“Wait, that picture didn’t turn out right!” I yelled from a rock high above the ground. She didn’t even know I was taking a picture. “Stand under it again real quick!”

(Photo: Liv Under the Falls)
“Hurry, it’s really cold Cam!”

“Come on, let it hit you in the face and pretend you’re enjoying it!”

I snapped my picture. “Did you get it?” she yelled with large drops of water careening toward her face. I gave her a thumbs up. I'm waiting for the day she just flips me off and walks out of frame, but she never does.

(Photo: Liv Climbing)
After we hiked a couple miles, Liv found a rock she needed to climb. I watched nervously with my camera as I always do. It makes me anxious every time, but I know it will bug her if she doesn’t get to the top when she knows she can, as much as it bugs me if I don’t get the picture I want.

We found a campsite and later Sammy and her boyfriend joined us. The Drifters were together on a trail again. We stayed up late doing one of the things we loved to do most while hiking the Appalachian Trail: played cards and drank beer in the woods while making each other laugh all night until finally stumbling to our tents.

(Photo: Liv and Sam Near Rock House)
We didn’t miss anything in Hocking Hills. We hiked every trail and saw every geological feature and waterfall the park has to offer.

(Photo: Sam at Rock House)
Then we drove back to Kentucky, a state I have called home since. I can’t think of a better place to live and work until the next adventure begins.

Actually, that's not fair to say. When you push yourself to do something new, it's all an adventure.