If any park deserves a love song or sonnet dedicated to it, Shale Hollow is that park.
It's not just the shale cliffs rising from the creek bed, or the towering oaks left standing while the land around them was cleared for farming. It's not just the gurgling of the creek after the rain, or the white-tailed deer met on the trail, or the vistas spotted from the top of the cliff.
It's the sum of the parts -- and this park has so many that it's hard to count them all.
Shale Hollow Park is Preservation Parks' most visited, and more and more Delaware County residents have discovered it. But for those who haven't, the 211-acre park is located off U.S. Route 23, just north of Lewis Center Road, at 6320 Artesian Run.
I can't think of many parks where you step in and out of different feelings so quickly, but Shale Hollow is one of them, as I was reminded during a recent walk on the trails. I started in the off-trail exploration area deep in the park. Here, visitors can wander in the land tucked between the double horseshoe bends formed by Big Run Creek. Wading in the creek is encouraged to better view the spherical concretions emerging from the shale cliffs and to feel underfoot the "potato-chip" shale pieces on the creek bottom. The cliffs stay damp, lending a humid and cool feel to the air, and the geology is a reminder of just how ancient this beautiful spot is.
I left the damp environment behind as I headed up the cliff and onto the primitive trail. As I walked out of the "hollow," the oak trees picked up the breeze, stirring the leaves and dropping acorns onto the trail. This trail is well-trodden dirt and best for single-file walking; it heads directly north through the trees toward a connection with an asphalt neighborhood trail along Hyatts Road, but instead I chose to take a right fork, which leads to the creek. Although it's not far from the busier parts of the park, this trail section feels remote and lends itself to observation and reflection. It smells good, too, with pine needles adding their clean, elevating fragrance to the air.
Next, I stepped onto the well-used, gravel Great Horned Owl trail, which cuts an oval through the eastern part of the park. An initial uphill climb past tall trees and over little creeks gives way to a meadow and views of Route 23, with its cars and trucks whizzing by. Then it heads back into woods, then meadow, and finally back downhill to the core of the park. In a way, that short stretch of trail next to the highway feels intrusive, but it also reminds me to be grateful for this lovely park, set in the middle of busy southern Delaware County development.
Additional verses of this sonnet have yet to be written. We at Preservation Parks hope to add primitive trails to the southern half of Shale Hollow, which currently is closed to the public.
Those 60 acres add exponentially to the beauty of Shale Hollow, and one day we might be able to share them not only with the birds, deer and squirrels, but with the people of Delaware County.
Sue Hagan is marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks of Delaware County.