Five Days in the Hollow

We’re in Savage River State Forest, which isn’t really a hollow (“holler” for you non-Southerners). It’s a deeply wooded, steep valley that feels like a hollow, but it’s actually up in the Allegheny Mountains of Maryland, near Sleepy Creek. 

I started calling it a hollow as soon as we got here, when I broke out my ukulele and made up this verse to a favorite song.

I’d rather be in some dark hollow

Where the sun refuse to shine

Than to be in Small Country Campground

Where there’re too many of my kind. 

I think it’s funny!  The tune is an old traditional about being lovesick, and the Grateful Dead used to do a fast-paced version with Bobby singing low in spots.  

I think true hollows are in such steep valleys that you can’t see the sky, but here we do get a bit of sun.

Traveling Here

To get here we crossed through West Virginia, over hills topped with long lines of wind turbines high above us, like Brobdingnagian fence rows. Some were even in the clouds. 

As we descended, we turned onto the narrow road that winds alongside a creek (called Big Run) that feeds into Savage River. This long stretch of road has just a few campsites along the run, and they’re all down in the valley crowded with hemlock, maples, and beech, plus lots of moss, mushrooms, and nettles. Many tall trees have fallen in the woods along the ravine; the rangers here must leave the forest natural. The pileateds we’ve already seen appreciate that.

As we drove along beside the creek, we slowed at each little break in the forest to peer down each path, trying to find one of the two campsites deep in the woods that we’d stayed at before. This is our third time at Savage River, and we distinguish our past campsites by which foster dog we had we with us (first Nutmeg at a site right on the creek, then Banjo as a trial foster on a site with a sweet little path through the woods down to the creek). 

At the end of the valley road, we turned around and went back to a site new to us that caught my eye, and this turns out to be the sweetest yet.

Best Campsite Around

Already someone has stopped their truck in the road and walked down our path to ask if we’ll be here all weekend; we’re not the only ones who know this is the best spot around. 

It’s a short path off the road directly to the creek, but the woods are so dense that you can’t see the Airstream from the road unless you’re looking straight down the opening that the path affords. The creek is a few steps behind the rear bumper, running so fast with spring rains that we can hear it when we’re in bed at night. 

After we so carefully and successfully backed the Airstream down this path (OMG we avoided our first scratch, hurray!), we set up chairs by the firepit and more chairs by the stream, and a hammock in the woods, 


Before we could sink into nature, we drove back out to leave our payment envelope in the iron ranger (I love that term) and bought firewood from the ancient guy running the fishing supply store who sold us wood the last two times.

If you go meet him, know that Chainsaw the Jack Russel will jump on you vigorously (like his namesake) as soon as you get out of the car, but he just wants to say hi, and he’ll go back in the store when the old man yells at him. Plus you can load up the back of your truck with as much wood as you want for pennies on the dime of other places.

Fully Immersed

What an amazingly peaceful place this is.  No person in sight, steep woods to one side as the land plunges down to the creek, forest with undergrowth for a stretch that includes the width of the creek and narrow road and shoulders, and then the land rises straight up again. 

There are two colors here: the bright green of new growth and the black-green of deep inside the forest. The tips of the short-needle hemlock show off both. 

The sense of isolation is helped by the fact that we have no cell service, either of us, and that means no wifi even from our new hotspot in the truck. (If you’re reading this on the 29th, that means we drove out to the interstate to get cell signal to check on the house closing, and I uploaded this while waiting to get the agent on the phone. Dear lord I hope the house closes.)

In any case, without constant dings from our phone at the campsite, all we hear is the creek and the forest, and today a light rain.  

After walking Banjo along the windy road very early this morning (not a single car to dodge), I set up under the awning and am listening to the birds, waiting for the rain to stop.  It’s hard to predict the weather when you can hardly see the sky because of the valley walls around you. 

While sitting here listening to the rain, I recorded a short bit of me singing and playing the uke under the awning, just that one new verse of Dark Hollow that I made up. (I’m expecting a Grammy next year, of course, so let me know if you want to mentioned in my acceptance speech). Here’s the link.

This place does feel like a dark hollow, and I’d really rather be here “than some big city, in a small room, with a girl on my mind,” as the original goes. 

You guys stay safe! Talk to you again when we’re in Ohio.

12 thoughts to “Five Days in the Hollow”

  1. Bravo! I love your new home and your little ditty is perfection. Keep playing!

  2. Lovely. And what an authentic sounding crackle you had on the recording–was that the fire?

  3. What’s the true definition of a hollow? I always thought it was “steep valley that feels like a hollow, but it’s actually up in the…… Mountains” , like Bacon Hollow or Mutton Hollow in Greene Co., VA. that is all I know of hollows, but don’t count on me for authenticity….I’m a city girl! Great post, thanks, Marie

    1. Gosh, maybe that’s right! But if it feels like a hollow but isn’t, that’s not much of a definition, is it? I’m any case, thanks Marie! It was great talking with you on the phone.

  4. Shelly, what a beautiful place! It makes me want to load up the trailer and get out of dodge. Thank you for your post. Hope you’re all doing well!