Of all the parks I have visited in Western Maryland, Swallow Falls is perhaps the most beautiful, no matter the season. It houses the oldest stand of Eastern hemlocks in Maryland (well over 300 years old) and one of the largest waterfalls in the state as well. (Muddy Creek Falls originates in Cranesville Swamp, an extraordinary bog, especially when visited in the fall. Huge Sarracenia purpurea plants grow all over the bog.)
The park trail winds close to the Youghiogheny River, moving up and down the slope. There was about six inches of snow on the ground, and the lacy limbs of the hemlocks still bore a hefty load of it. It was cold, about 20 degrees or so, but the scenery more than made up for rosy cheeks and frosty toes.
The forest was relatively empty that day, with just a few hikers nosing around the forest. The sign points the way to each of the park's waterfalls. We turned right.
The trees were untouched in the park; even tiny limbs had pencil thin traces of snow. Heather stole my sweatshirt because she was "cold" or something.
This walkway leads you down to the rushing waters of the smaller waterfall. It used to be a bit more treacherous here in the winter with no railing to guide you.
An Eastern hemlock limb, lightly dusted.
Apparently, Swallow Falls got its name because of the flocks of swallows that would roost on this rock formation. The view is downriver from the smaller waterfall.
The smaller of the two waterfalls, taken from downriver.
The hemlocks grow anywhere and everywhere along the Youghiogheny.
Fifty-three foot Muddy Creek Falls gets its name from all of the detritus washed down from Cranesville Swamp in West Virginia. It flows down from here and join the Youghiogheny.
The icicles were enormous.
The sky started to gray over again as we left, bringing a bit more snow to Garrett County.