Feel the peace and power of Swallow Hallow

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 November 2013 at 12:00 am

Nature trail at wildlife refuge leads to wonderland

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALABAMA – When we all woke up to a dusting of snow on Wednesday, the first snowfall in many months, I cancelled my morning plans and headed out to the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

I’ve been having an awakening of sorts in recent months to the natural wonders all around those of us who live in Orleans County. This place is stunning. My favorite time of the year may in the spring when the fruit trees are in their blossoming glory.

Nature reigns supreme on the 1.3 mile trail in the wildlife refuge.

This past summer was a joy with what felt like day after day of spectacular sunsets. They were orange, red, purple, and some had an array of colors. I have friends in the big cities and they hardly ever see a decent sunset.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning. I was going to Swallow Hollow, period. Everything else could wait about two hours.

I’ve been on this 1.3 mile loop through the woods a couple times before, both times with little kids so I couldn’t really take in nature’s glory. I couldn’t let my guard down. I had to stay vigilant in case a child fell in the swamp.

So Wednesday, after the first light snowfall of the season, I embarked on a nature hike all by myself. Swallow Hollow is part of a wildlife refuge that covers about 11,000 acres in Shelby in Orleans County and Alabama in Genesee County.

Swallow Hollow is on Knowlesville Road, east of Route 63. I hoped Swallow Hollow was in Orleans County so we could claim this as one of our assets. But I think it’s slightly to the south in Genesee County. Close enough. We have about half the refuge in our county so why quibble over a technicality?

Swallow Hollow has an elevated boardwalk over the swamp. It makes for a wild walk. I give the refuge and whoever made this happen a lot of credit. I’m sure there were some naysayers when the idea was put out there: Let’s put a boardwalk in the swamp.

I’m grateful the project became a reality and we have public access to such a special place. Swallow Hollow was closed to the public for five years until the boardwalk was upgraded for about $500,000 in 2006. This was met with great fanfare by the public when the trail reopened.

You’re on the boardwalk at the beginning and the end of the trail. You spend most of your time walking on a dirt trail. (It was covered in snow on Wednesday.)

The birds are happy in the refuge. They sound like an enormous joyful chorus.

It was a chilly morning Wednesday and the autofocus didn’t work on my camera. I had to use the manual focus and a lot of photos that I thought were winners were actually slightly fuzzy. But it’s hard to walk out of Swallow Hollow without some good ones.