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Here are some recent images from SE Ohio’s amazing Hocking Hills.
October 29 dawned a wet, cool, and misty day, so I took advantage and headed to southeastern Ohio and the beautiful Hocking Hills region. The main destination was Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve, a picturesque sandstone box canyon thick with Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and many other tree species. The following photo was made along the Rim Trail, a path that traces the upper edges of the cliffs that define the gorge. Rolling waves of fog moved through the valley, and it was often necessary to wait until the mist cleared enough for photos.
Tenacious Eastern Hemlock trees cling to the cliffs on the sides of the gorge, interspersed with more colorful birch, maple, sourwood, tuliptree and others. The presence of a disjunct stand of hemlock – it becomes common far to the north of here – means a little slice of the boreal forest in southern Ohio. Northern species of breeding birds such as Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus), Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)) and other northerners nest here, attracted by the dense hemlock stands.
A steep forested slope rises from a river bottom, anchored by towering Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) with their ghostly white trunks. While the oaks remain largely green, splashes of color are provided by Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), Red and Sugar Maples (Acer rubrum and A. saccharum), Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and others.
All of the precipitation flushed local streams with plenty of water, and the numerous waterfalls in this region were picturesque. This one is known as Robinson Falls, formerly called “Corkscrew Falls”. It is now protected as part of a state nature preserve, and a permit is required to visit.
A small stream, its rocky banks littered with fallen leaves. One can practically smell autumn in this photo, and in real life the wonderful admixture of scents – overly ripe marcescent foliage, decaying leafy detritus, damp humus – epitomized the scent of fall.
A dashing vine by any standard, at least in fall, a vigorous stand of Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) blankets a sandstone cliff face. This native member of the Cashew Family (Anacardiaceae) is a heavy-hitter in woodland ecology. Its copious berry production fuels birds galore in fall and winter. Everything from massive Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) to comparatively elfin Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) feast on the fruit. Indeed, Poison Ivy berries are one of the main reasons that the latter species can winter far to the north, unlike most warblers.
Finally, one more vista of the gorge at Conkles Hollow and its massive sandstone cliffs, some of which rise to 200 feet. One of the great pleasures of living in the midst of the great Eastern Deciduous Forest region that cloaks (or used to) much of the eastern U.S. is witnessing the change of seasons. All of them have their own allure, but fall is hard to beat for sheer showiness.