July 1, 2002
“You’re staying at Jim Martin’s rustic place, ALONE?” the clerk asked me in semi-horror as I placed bread, pasta, bottled water, and fresh fruit on the counter by the register.
“Have you seen it?” I asked, getting what I knew would be a negative shake of the head in return. The clerk followed with a story of a couple who had relayed their dismay after staying there. Having to actually hike to an outhouse in the middle of the night! I just smiled. Adventure had always been tempting to me. This was one I wasn’t about to pass up.
I’d arrived in New Plymouth, Ohio, for a night in a 200 year old cabin in the Hocking Hills area. I gazed up the trail, preparing for what I hoped would be one trip only of hiking in with necessary items from the car. There was no driveway to the cabin, but there was a meadow where the car could spend the night. I parked backwards, so my front-wheel drive could more easily pull out the next day, in case of rain during the night. I pulled what I needed in clothing and toiletries from the car, repacking it into a small duffel bag and balancing it with the grocery bag from the store. A third bag held a flashlight, my journal and pen, a camera, and a small coffeemaker, grinder, and coffee beans.
I began my short hike toward the cabin, past a lake with water lilies, where I heard the echo of frogs croaking, along with an occasional splash. As I approached the half-way mark up the trail, I saw the shadow of a structure in the distance that looked like a page from a history book. Across the water and just through the pine trees was the two-story log home that the owner had relocated and restored from Gatlinburg, purchased from a woman who had grown up in it. It was rustic and intriguing, and my heart beat a little faster in anticipation. I rearranged my bags of supplies and continued on. Walking closer, I saw the large porch in front, rocking chairs placed conveniently for gazing out into the woods.
I entered from the rear of the building, as the front door was locked not by a modern lock, but with a board that inserts across the back. As I stepped inside the one room cabin of hand hewn logs, I knew immediately that I’d entered the realm of bygone years. Every item was reminiscent of the past, from the antique stove to the large wood table in the center of the room. There was no running water, but there was electricity, so I placed the groceries in the old-fashioned refrigerator and took out a container of bottled water. The kitchen provided a pump and sink, but I’d been warned the water was not drinkable. I decided to play it safe and use bottled water, even for boiling pasta and brewing coffee.
Climbing the stairs to the loft, I found a comfortable double bed, an additional set of bunk beds, quilts, old chests, and rocking chairs. I was apprehensive only about the 200 yr. old “bathroom,” which sat a short distance from the cabin. The trail to it was wide enough to see easily by daylight, but I’d been told this was snake country, bear country and whoknowswhatelse country. Yet, opposed to the couple who had reviewed this cabin to the store clerk, I found the history and authenticity interesting and educational, which was why I’d purposely chosen this cabin over a much newer one with first-class amenities.
Setting my flashlight by the back door, I settled in for the evening. Pulling a heavy pot and a bowl from the selection in the kitchen cupboards, I succeeded in fixing pasta. With my meal, I curled into a rocking chair on the porch. Evening descended with a hush across the woods. Fireflies twinkled in the shadows of the nearby trees, and a sense of immense calm washed over me.
As night fell, I moved inside and spent the evening writing and reading, finally deciding to brave a trip to the outhouse, which turned out to be exceptionally tidy and much less primitive than I had feared, even sporting dried flowers and framed pictures. Shower facilities were shared with another cabin on the property, located in a building nearby.
Like a true pioneer woman, I bolted the wood slats before climbing up to the loft. I anticipated some nervous sleeping, being not only isolated but in an apparent time warp. To my surprise, I slept soundly. There were no raccoons scurrying around on the roof or any other wildlife that I could hear. In the entire stay at this quaint cabin, the wildest creature I encountered was a small gray tabby kitten who shared the porch with me. Morning arrived and I was grateful once again for electricity as I poured myself a mug of fresh ground French Roast. Check-out time wasn’t until noon and I remained until the last minute to enjoy this unique lodging, as well as the peaceful surroundings.
I will admit that this cabin is not for those travelers who seek only luxury accommodations. They won’t find a Jacuzzi tub, fancy bath soaps, goose down comforter or room service within these sturdy log walls. But the beauty of the area made this a spectacular getaway and the lesson in history was fabulous. The cabin offered a chance to take an inside look at a simpler time in life.
On my way out of town, I stopped to take an easy hike and admire the breathtaking scenery at Old Man’s Cave on Route 664. I left Hocking Hills very thankful for my chance to stay at this retreat from the modern world. And yes, I also stopped at the store where I had purchased groceries on my way in, where the clerk now has my “yes-I-survived-the-night-and-even-loved-it” positive review.