Hocking Hills

My first foray journey through the caves and waterfalls of Ohio’s Hocking Hills happened hand-in-hand with a girl. She was 19 years old, and we were in love.

My second journey through the caves and waterfalls of Ohio’s Hocking Hills happened hand-in-hand with the same girl. This time we went there to celebrate our marriage that’s now 19 years old, and we are still very much in love.

The first time around, we had just endured a year of long-distance relationship — maintained by sending three or four letters a week to each other through the U.S. Postal Service — so we relished every opportunity to be together: looking into each other’s eyes… holding hands… sharing experiences, and not just writing about them… Honestly, I think we would have been happy to spend time with each other in a dentist’s office; still, the pristine natural beauty of Hocking Hills only amplified our enjoyment of each other. We explored the caves in the State Park with her sister and her Mom (who also functioned somewhat as chaperones). We roasted marshmallows and chatted around the campfire. We looked up at the stars in the black night sky.

The second time around, we needed to recover from her first year of graduate school and our oldest son’s first year of high school (in addition to lots of other moving parts in our family of five). At times throughout the frenetic school year, it felt like it might have been helpful to send letters to keep in touch — though weekly lunch dates and family dinners fulfilled a similar function — still, we really needed time to be together: sipping coffee and soaking in the hot tub on the back deck of our cabin… taking naps in the middle of the afternoon… hunting for antiques and good barbecue… We’ve had years, especially about a third of the way into our marriage, where we were tempted to the break tradition of an anniversary getaway because of the expense or the trouble involved with making sure our kids had proper care — but we have since recognized the vital importance of this annual rhythm for spending time together.

Hocking Hills was a great spot for enjoying each other, even after all these years. We explored some of the same caves we visited all those years ago (without chaperones!), but we also branched out to try new trails. Kind of a metaphor for life and love, I think: Some familiarity, but also some untapped adventure.

It’s an honor to journey through life with my girl. Our relationship has spanned many delightful decades, still I hope the best is yet to come.

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