Where Learning Goes Underground

I was in Maryland when I got lost and drove aimlessly, little did I notice that I was already in Pennsylvania after my GPS from my car announced and welcomed me to the state from Maryland. Then, I saw the signage on the side of the road and it read Laurel Caverns. I was drawn to it and at that time, I have decided to come and see what’s in it for me. It was almost an hour and a half drive from Oakland, Maryland. I arrived at Laurel Caverns at 1430H. Parking is free and I went inside the visitor center and took one of the brochures and I got a little excited since I really didn’t know what to expect. I found out that Laurel Caverns is Pennsylvania’s largest cave. I went to find the staff and asked what they offer and told me about a tour in the cave. I automatically said, ‘sign me in for the tour where learning goes underground.’pa02

Laurel Caverns as I mentioned is Pennsylvania’s largest cave located in route 40 east of Uniontown. For travelers to get to Laurel Caverns, just put this address in GPS: 101 Skyline Drive, Farmington, PA 15437 that will get to the intersection of Skyline Drive and Route 40. It has Norman E. Cale Visitor’s Center which serves as a souvenir shop, tour meeting point, snack area, restrooms and changing rooms for caving gear.pa01

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Laurel Caverns Postcards

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Souvenir Shop

Laurel Caverns offers 4 tours, namely the traditional one hour tour, upper caving tours, lower caving tours and half-day and all-day educational tour. I chose the traditional one hour tour. Admission fee costs USD12 for adult. For more information about the cavern, visit this site at www.laurelcaverns.com.

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Cave Bats Entrance

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Hall of the Mountain King

I took the one hour tour for the reason that I don’t have the whole day to explore the cave and I’m not a certified cave explorer. Anyway, the traditional one hour tour is the most popular since it is suitable for all ages. It has a guide and tour starts every 20 minutes with the last tour of the day enters the cave at 1630H. This tour is not advisable though for schools and large groups wanting a private guide. That’s the reason they have the half-day and all-day educational programs which include rappelling classes, cave study excursions, BSA and GSA speleology, geology and forestry patches, badges and pins. But visitors need to call in ahead because this tour is only available every Saturday and other days by special arrangements.

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Tour with the guide

The traditional tour lasts about 55 minutes seeing Laurel Caverns as a natural cave which follows the natural slope of the mountain. The tour may be strenuous for some. The cave temperature is 52 degrees Fahrenheit year round so, a sweater or jacket should be worn. Non-slippery shoes are also important and never wear high heels to a cave. These are the photos I captured when I was down in the cave, spelunking.pa07pa08pa09pa10pa11pa12pa13pa14pa15pa16pa17pa19pa20The whole cave experience was amazing. I used to visit caves back in the Philippines and the Middle East but Laurel Caverns has been made accessible and more of a touristy vibe with the colorful lights. With the aid of the guide, cave explorers like me were able to navigate the different routes in the cave and were able to get important information and history as we go along with the tour. Indeed, Laurel Caverns is where learning goes underground.

Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland

It was a stressful day at work and when I got my days off, I definitely deserved a change of scenery. Thus, I have decided to do a road trip outside Ohio. I surfed the net and saw a natural wonder just a couple of hours drive, then, I drove all the way to that place. It is located in Maryland and since I really haven’t seen the state that well so, it was a plus. I got to my destination at 1145H in Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland.md01

Swallow Falls State Park is a state-owned, public recreation area located on the west bank of the Youghiogheny River which is in Oakland in Garrett County, Maryland. The state park has the highest free-falling waterfall. The park is known for its stand of old hemlock trees which are more than 300 years old and are the last stand of its kind in Maryland.md04md03

The park has a lot of events and activities that guests and visitors will surely love. Swallow Falls State Park is a great place to escape the busy city life.

One of the state park activities is hiking. The state park is famous for its tall hemlocks that dominate the silent woods. The 1 1/4 mile trail through S​wallow Falls guides hikers to witness some of the most breath-taking vista in Western Maryland. It is also a good location to hike under the shade of the old hemlock trees and pine trees.

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Hiking

Hikers won’t get lost due to presence of signs, maps and directions within the trail. The whole vicinity is not as massive as any other state parks. It is just enough for an hour or two walk in the park pace.

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Signage/ Directions

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Other activity is white water rafting. The Youghiogheny River flows along the park’s borders which passes through shaded rocky gorges and creating rippling rapids. With the Youghiogheny River and Muddy Creek which are white water rivers, the rivers contain severe natural hazards, such as waterfalls, violent rapids, swift currents, deep pools, underwater hydraulics, cold water, slippery rocks and rough terrain.

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Notice to Guests

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White water river

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White Water Rafting

Travelers can also do waterfalls sightseeing for the reason that it has 3 waterfalls, namely Upper and Lower Swallow Falls, Tolliver Falls and Muddy Creek Falls.

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Closer view of Upper Swallow Falls

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Upper Swallow Falls

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Lower Swallow Falls

Swallow Falls is the namesake of the state park. Youghiogheny River is the water source of this waterfall. There are two drops, each around 15 feet high. The upper drop is the more distinctive of the two.

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Tolliver Falls

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Closer View of Tolliver Falls

Tolliver Falls is just as interesting as its larger relatives. It is only a few feet tall and yet the location in the park is very scenic. It is on a side trail that is very accessible but have to wander around to find it.

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Muddy Creek Falls

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Closer view of Muddy Creek Falls

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On top of Muddy Creek Falls

Muddy Creek Falls is the highest crashing and free-falling waterfall at 53-foot tall which is a spectacular sight. The waterfall is even accessible by disabled individuals.  There is a boardwalk that leads to a good viewpoint of the falls.

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Boardwalk for Disabled

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Muddy Creek Falls viewpoint

In addition to that, tourists can do some sightseeing and find a really interesting spot or scenery within the state park. I got to see these breathtaking sights.md23md22

An individual can do some fishing too. The rapids maybe too forceful but the park is inhabited by rainbow trout. Fishing is perfect during the spring season and the rainbow trouts are stocked in the Muddy Creek and the river.

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Fishing in the Youghiogheny River

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Youghiogheny River

Then, there is camping. Swallow Falls State Park has campsites. In fact, it has 65 wooded campsites with a fire ring, picnic tables, and lantern post on a stabilised pad. Some sites have electric hook-ups and restrooms and shower facilities are nearby. They even have a program called OPERATION: CAMPOUT! where the state park can lend campers a gear free of charge that includes a tent, chairs, stove, lantern and more. This program though applies to military individuals and military families new to camping or experienced campers stationed or recovering in this area.md19

There are more to do in Swallow Falls State Park. Indeed, this mountain state park contains some of the state’s most breathtaking scenery. Travelers and guests can have fun all day and is also the perfect place to rest and relax.