My husband and I took advantage of one of those "winter getaway" offers and got away.

My husband and I took advantage of one of those "winter getaway" offers and got away.

We didn't get far, of course. We never do. If warm sands and palm trees call to us, they need to speak up. All we hear when the urge to flee strikes are the chilly, wet sands of Lakeside and the blowing snows of southern Ohio. Perhaps ice is interfering with our reception.

We do understand that three days in Hocking Hills merely exchanges flat for hilly. Otherwise, as this brief comparison illustrates, we may as well stay put:

In Hocking Hills: it's cold.

At home: it's cold.

In Hocking Hills: it's quiet.

At home: it's quiet.

In Hocking Hills: we have no near neighbors.

At home: we have no near neighbors.

In Hocking Hills: we have a septic tank.

At home: we have a septic tank.

In Hocking Hills: we are encouraged to conserve water and use our towels more than once.

At home: we conserve water and we certainly use our towels more than once.

Not that we were unable to distinguish any differences between our getaway cottage and our own house. The differences were threefold: 1. We didn't bring the dog, which allowed us to sleep longer than his bladder usually dictates; 2. We didn't prepare our own meals, which allowed us to eat quiche and butternut squash ravioli instead of something that, well, wasn't quiche and butternut squash ravioli.

And 3, having distanced ourselves from whatever we should have been doing at home, we were free to do almost nothing, which in this case turned out to involve reading the entries in the journals that are so often placed in lodgings like these.

The first page of the journal usually is filled by the innkeeper, who encourages guests to share their experiences with others.

What follows is a mixture of styles and expressions. Some people praise the silence and the isolation, using phrases such as "relax and renew" and "quiet beauty of the woods." Some throw their backs out striving for poignant simplicity: "I was happy here."

One guest described rediscovering her love for her husband, then went on to transcribe, in tiny cursive, a long series of biblical passages, with citations that took up most of the left margin. How she managed to rediscover anything besides writer's cramp before checkout time remains a mystery.

Many guests wrote the name of the inn vertically on the page, then found words for each letter: Comfort. Elegant dinners. Downtime. I usually stopped reading two or three letters in, thus protecting my sensibilities from contrived entries such as "Really nice" or "Feels good to relax and renew."

A final subset of journal writers includes those who came to the woods to frolic. These are the people who speak in coy euphemisms, the most popular of which is "if you know what I mean." "If you know what I mean" can make even the most innocent comment sound salacious, like something you'd never say to your grandmother. "I came here to enjoy the quiet beauty of the woods, if you know what I mean." Many of these writers - nearly all of them are female - follow that up with little smiley faces, which in my mind, anyway, translate to ladylike snickers. If you know what I mean.

Others don't bother to be discreet. In another journal, in another cottage on another getaway, my husband and I read entries out loud off and on all weekend, our horror at the revelations mixed with a sort of grisly fascination: "Me and my boyfriend just loved the hot tub " "We came here to celebrate the end of finals week and boy oh boy " The entry that made specific mention of the kitchen table was the one that ended the game. I'm not sure we didn't throw the journal down to go scrub our hands.

Hot tubs, by the way, have somehow become synonymous with "Hocking Hills getaway." Most resorts both have them and flaunt them as the best if not the only way to truly appreciate the quiet beauty of the woods. After reading that last journal, my husband and I vowed never to put so much as a toe in a hot tub again, and the fact that the inn we recently visited doesn't have them was a huge factor in our decision to go there. Eeuw. If you know what I mean.

Our inn did have whirlpool baths, along with showers and all the other amenities, and wherever water ran were posted neatly printed and framed warnings. "You're in the country now," each one began. Explanations of hard water, well water, septic tanks and dual-flush arrangements followed.

Most were old news to us.

"Isn't it strange that we get away by leaving the country and the quiet and the stars to come here, where it's country and quiet and starry?" my husband said. We agreed that we ought to schedule our getaways in Manhattan, where it's urban and noisy and glaringly illuminated.

Then we smiled and looked at the sky. The Big Dipper was up there. You'd think we never left home.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer.