Our last day at Hocking Hills, we embraced two very delightful hikes. The first took us into Conkle’s Hollow and the cliffs about the gorge. The second involved Rock House, a tunnel-like corridor situated midway up a 150-foot cliff of Blackhand sandstone. These two walks brought a wonderful conclusion to our adventure in southern Ohio.
Conkle’s Hollow included a paved, wheel-chair accessible path through a rocky and rather rugged gorge surrounded by rock cliffs on both sides. The valley floor is so deep below the cliffs that very little sunlight touches portions of the gorge. Articles about the area report that during the spring and summer, the valley floor is covered with a plethora of ferns and wildflowers shaded by the hemlock, birch, and other hardwood trees overhead.
Before we took the easy stroll through the gorge, Rocky and I decided to take the rim trail along the cliffs above the gorge. Getting to the trail involved taking some wooden steps in order to climb the 200 feet in elevation – 92 wooden steps to be exact. The steps not only provided a nice burn in the calf muscles but it led to an outstanding hike around the highest cliffs in the area. Rocky does not like heights much at all so we did not try any dangerous balancing acts in order to get a special photo for our album. We took every precaution to successfully complete the trail and lived to tell our grandchildren about it.
This hollow was named for W.J. Conkle who left his name and the date 1797 carved into the sandstone on the west wall of the gorge. Who says that graffiti spoils nature for everyone else? “Billy Jim” was probably some juvenile delinquent or a criminal on the run that today has a beautiful gorge named after him, because he just had to carve his name in the rocks. He probably even lied about the date (maybe it was 1897 and he faked it all just to get his name on the brochures – just kidding here. Anyway, I find backstories into names of places very interesting, even if I don’t have all the details I desire to know.
The Rock House is much more than a cave. It is a corridor running some 200 feet with a ceiling of up to 25 feet high. The corridor varies between 20 – 30 feet deep into the side of the mountain. This unusual cavern is located halfway up a 150-foot cliff of Blackhand sandstone. For the most part the house had dry floors with an occasional puddle to avoid, but I would image that the cave would have that damp feel all year round as water leaks down through the cave at various points along the expanse.
According to local folklore, many residents have frequented Rock House over the years. Robbers, horse thieves, murderers, and even bootleggers earned Rock House its reputation as the Robbers Roost. It indeed would have been a good hideout and is, today, an excellent refuge against inclement weather, and in the day, it could have served as an excellent long-term housing environment. Richard Rowe, or another of my relative hermits, might have been attracted to this mansion in the rock. If I were on the run from the law (which I am not), the Rock House would have been an excellent roost indeed.