McConnell’s Mill State Park: Hell’s Hollow

After hiking Alpha Pass and Kildoo Loop, I followed the advice from Tom, maintenance with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and hiked Hell’s Hollow. I passed the parking lot at first because it’s right after the one-lane bridge, and I was more concerned with oncoming traffic than looking to my left! I feel more lost looking for trailheads and parking than I ever do along a trail, even if I go off-trail. πŸ™‚

Once parked, I headed toward Hell’s Hollow Falls. The trail to the falls is short (1.2 miles out and back), flat, and very easy to hike. This would be an excellent hike for families with small children or any adventurer who doesn’t want to expend a lot of energy for a beautiful view. Spend as much time as you want, though. You’ll find a bench before the falls to enjoy the sounds of the waterfall or perhaps a picnic. In my case, waterfall and snowfall!

The trail follows Hell’s Run, the stream that courses through a natural rock flume and cascades over the rocks at the end. On this frigid day, icicles hung like translucent fangs from the stream bank’s mouth. I ❀ monsters and see them everywhere. πŸ˜‰ And, of course, I had to hike Hell’s Hollow, simply for name’s sake, which may have stemmed from the stream disappearing underground into Hell presumed.

You see teeth too, don’t you?

Winter has a way of changing the landscape more than the pastel blooms in spring or the blaze of ochre, rust, orange, and reds of autumn. Snow and ice mute such vibrancy. Winter’s white veil hides the face of the land, and you can’t quite be sure of your step. As you wander into the naked wood, you hear the crunch of your footfall, and it sounds like bones being gnawed. Deciduous trees raise gnarly branches like gaunt arms of hungry giants reaching everywhere, for anything. Especially you.

Winter has a way of reminding you of danger and death. A hush barely more audible than the grave pervades the air. Its cold could nip off fingers and toes or cradle you into the darkest sleep; its frozen maw could crack open and swallow you whole. Not to mention, you could slip on icy rocks or those steps that lead down to the waterfall.

But, winter has a way of showcasing the beauty of nature you can find no other season. The ordinary transforms into the extraordinary.

I only half jested with “the frozen maw could crack open and swallow you whole.” The area is pitted with sinkholes, formed as the limestone beneath the surface dissolves (basically eaten away by acidic water) and causes a collapse of the material above. Caves and the Hell Run rock flume form in the same manner–the dissolution of limestone (dolomite in other regions). The fact Hell’s Run vanishes from the surface and flows underneath provides additional evidence this is a karst landscape.

Which means I’ll go cave hunting later! πŸ™‚

Despite recommendations to hike to Hell’s Hollow Falls April to November, I say visit in the winter, with snow and ice abounding! It’s outstanding. πŸ™‚ I did continue on the Slippery Rock Gorge trail after and hiked 2 miles into Hell Run Valley and back. Eventually I’ll do the entire Slippery Rock Gorge trail and report on it. Until then, enjoy my view of Hell’s Hollow Falls.

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