DNR issues Hocking warning after man falls from cliff

Logan, Ohio — Officials at Hocking Hills State Park advise hikers to wear ice cleats when taking to trails this winter, and always stay on the park's marked trails, regardless of the season or weather.

The warning came after Seth Wyckoff, 28, of Rockbridge, fell 30 feet into a park gorge at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 18. As with similar incidents in the park, Wyckoff was hiking off the marked trail at the time.

Members of the park's rope rescue team rappelled into the gorge to aid Wyckoff, who was eventually flown by medical helicopter to Grant Medical Center in Columbus. He was critically injured and was in the intensive care unit on Feb. 19.

Given the cold, snowy winter, hiking trails at Hocking Hills and nearby Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve are likely to remain slippery until late March or early April, according to Matt Eiselstein, a spokesperson for the Ohio DNR.

The Rim Trail at Conkle's Hollow was closed in mid-February due to icy conditions.

Warm temperatures and thaws on the park's upper trails can be deceptive to anyone hiking below.

"It can be 15 degrees cooler down in the gorge," Eiselstein said. "Icy conditions will stay well into spring there."

He emphasized the importance of following marked trails in Ohio's most-visited state park. Park officials increased the number of trail markers in the park, following several mishaps last summer.

"And don't go (hiking) without ice cleats this time of year," Eiselstein said.

Venturing out on ice-covered lakes and ponds late in the winter season can also be dangerous. Frequent thaws and re-freezes leave ice thin in spots.

The DNR advises snowmobilers and ice anglers to stick to familiar areas or consult local bait shops and outfitters prior to any outing

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