Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hocking Hills Graffiti

New and old graffiti at Rock House, Hocking Hills State Park.

I've visited a lot of caves and rock formations and almost always, I've found graffiti in these places. I found numerous examples at Hocking Hills over the weekend.

One interesting thing I've noticed is that many tour guides will point out old graffiti, usually from the 1800's, but will also ask that people refrain from adding to it. While this is totally understandable, I think it's worth noting that the only difference between the grafitti pointed out by tour guides and that discouraged by them is age.

Carving into rocks destroys them over time, but the carvings also serve as a sort of ledger or log. You can see who was where and when, and sometimes even what they were doing. Teens who carved names and dates into Rock House in 1890 probably did not get into trouble since those areas were not protected at that time; teens who do the same in 1990 could have been kicked out of the park or worse.

My question is, how much time must pass before we regard carved graffiti as historic rather than with disdain? I saw some from the 1980's and it seemed to mar the rock surface, but another inscription from 1809 fascinated me. Is the difference that the features of Hocking Hills were once just part of a larger wilderness, something that was expendable since so much of the country was still uninhabited? Is it that old human instinct to mark something not everyone could find? Now that we have fewer and fewer of these beauty spots to visit, they become more valuable and there isn't the need to claim where you have been, since so many have been there before. Perhaps that instinct to commemorate a visit still lingers, even when it no longer means anything.

Moonville Tunnel

My husband and I spent Labor Day weekend with friends in a cabin near Hocking Hills. We headed out Sunday to hand-feed hummingbirds at Lake Hope State Park, where I happened to pick up a historical tour brochure and discovered that the Moonville Tunnel was on park property. On one of my many visits to the Forgotten Ohio site, this story caught my eye and I made a mental note to visit one day. Because I have planned many trips to weird spots, it was funny to happen upon this local gem by accident.

I always assumed the Moonville Tunnel was something you weren't encouraged to visit and thought it was on private property. Much to the contrary, the park maintains a road and trail and a forest ranger keeps an eye on things since copperheads abound and there are plenty of places for people to get hurt if they aren't careful.

The most awesome park ranger I've ever met acted as a gatekeeper, giving us the choice between a creek crossing and a poison ivy-riddled path that would surely end in days of itching. We chose wet feet.

The remaining trestles:

The creek crossing:

While the tunnel is supposed to be haunted by a drunkard who fell on the tracks one night and was killed, we saw no signs of ghosts. We did, however, see plenty of messages left by visitors past. This one says "Stabby the hobo".

One of the more sinister pieces:

All in all, this was a pretty cool side trip. It would be great to go back at night, but judging from some of the art, I'm not sure how many of these folks I'd like to run into. The frightful effect would be heightened by the fact that this is in the middle of nowhere. If you're ever in the area, stop by. Just be sure to watch out for copperheads!