This week, we’re featuring some adventurous and relaxing getaway ideas from the Hocking Hills. Just an hour southeast of Columbus, pairing these two destinations makes for a great summer trip that includes spectacular nature and the pleasures of a big city!

I recently had the chance to try two experienced that were brand-new to me. I will admit, they scared the tar out of me at first, but once I found myself in the moment, I had the most amazing time! I'm talking about rock climbing and rappeling, both with Hocking Hills Adventure Treks (HHAT).

I've been hiking in the Hocking Hills many times - I love the scenery - the mossy, green rock formations, the waterfalls, the cliffs and hemlock trees, the wildflowers and ferns. But I never once pictured myself hanging off one of those spectacular cliffs - 100 feet from the ground - dangling next to one of those incredible waterfalls.2013-04-19 12.55.16

Hocking Hills Adventure Treks offers all kinds of guided tours throughout Hocking State Forest, a vast area of wilderness less traveled that the more popular Hocking Hills State Park but no less beautiful. From the gravel parking lot we hiked over a river, through a valley and up into some giant sandstone boulders. HHAT's naturalists pointed out the incredible bits of beauty all around us, and told us why the Hocking Hills are a place like no other. Awaiting us at a rock shelter was Shawnee storyteller, Ron Haddon, one of the last native Shawnee speakers in Ohio, who told us stories of how his culture viewed the special nature of this place. 2013-04-19 14.51.39

Enlivened with a sense of awe and respect for nature, it was time to climb! I've never done this before, more than scrambling up some piles of rocks, so the face climb of one of the 40-foot boulders was exhilarating and a bit nerve-wracking. Expert climbing guides ensured I was properly belayed and gave me some tips for scaling the rock. I'll admit, I made it about 1/2 way up before I ran out of foot- and hand-holds. It's something I'll definitely try again. 2013-04-19 14.22.39 To cap off the trip, we had the chance to rappel off a cliff, right next to a waterfall. Looking down from the top, I figured this was about a 200-foot drop (I later learned it was more like 100...) Safe and secure in my harness and in control of the speed of my descent, I decide to trust the equipment and slowly lowered myself off the ledge. Slowly. Slowly. Once I got past the lip of the cliff, I was really hanging there - so far above the ground - above the treetops! And the waterfall was just feet away. It was such an incredible adventure I'll never forget, made even better by Hocking Hills Adventure Trek's naturalists, guides and storyteller, who made me truly value this amazing, singular place. 2013-04-19 15.27.44