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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Shenandoah National Park and Dark Hollow Falls

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 5/27/2024
Occurred: 7/21/2009
Page Views: 1805
Topics: #ShenandoahNationalPark #Virginia #DarkHollowFalls #Photography #Zachary
Michael, Zachary and I go hiking in Shenandoah National Park.

Whoever thought that waking up in a motel room with five people who all needed to shower and dress and have breakfast would allow for an early departure must have been clownishly naive. Oh, wait…that was me.

The goal was to get going by 8 AM. But by the time we had prepared for the day, loaded the car, taken Cailey home to her mother's, driven Karen home so she could dress for work, seen her apartment (quietly, so as not to awaken her roommate), and dropped her off at work, it was 11 AM.

So much for an early start.

We had to be in Greenville, South Carolina by the end of the day, where we were spending the night with an old friend. In itself, that isn't a terribly long drive. But I was adamant that we get to the Shenandoah National Park, which is a long-time favorite of mine, so I could show it to Zachary.

The Skyline Drive runs through Shenandoah, so we would be able to incorporate it as part of our route. Stops along the way would be optional but highly desirable.

The ride into the mountains is, itself, breathtaking, with small farms along the way and lush green grass and trees—like another planet, compared with Central Arizona. Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive run right along the backbone of the Shenandoah mountain range, so the road from Warrenton, Virginia to the entrance hairpinned back and forth as we gained altitude. We finally got to the park gate, where we paid the $15 fee and continued…all the way to the first observation point, where we had to stop and enjoy the view.

View from the Skyline Drive.

We'd already been driving for hours since leaving Reston; so it seemed reasonable to give Zach a little climbing time.

Zach and Michael in Shenandoah National Park.

Then Michael realized the area was bursting with wildflowers and insisted we get some photos of them. Here are all our wildflower photos from the park.

We got back in the car and not more then ten miles away, had to stop again—for a little bear cub who was foraging alongside the road!

Bear cub foraging in Shenandoah National Park.

We also came upon a herd of deer, but since I was driving I was unable to get the camera ready before they'd leapt out of sight.

I wanted Zach to see one of the waterfalls in the park, and decided on Dark Hollow Falls, which is only a little more than a half-mile from the road. Consequently it isn't an isolated spot, but there hadn't been much traffic so I was hoping there wouldn't be an actual crowd.

The ranger at the park gate had been kind enough to let us know which mile marker we wanted (between 50 and 51) and on which side of the road the trailhead would be. We found it without trouble (the big sign saying "Dark Hollow Falls" was a help) and parked. Michael made sure we were all drenched in Deep Woods Off (there were a few gnats flitting around our heads) and off we went on Zach's first East Coast hike!

The trail was short but steep, ending about 440 feet closer to sea level than it began. Zach was in his element; I so love that he seems so comfortable in any environment.

The stroll down was easy enough, thanks to the very well-maintained trail. We saw a few people along the way, but not so many as to spoil the feeling of wilderness, or at least, of remote park.

Dark Hollow Falls was just beautiful. I took two shots of it, one with a high shutter speed (to freeze the water drops) and one with a slow shutter speed (to give the water that ethereal look photographers usually use with waterfalls). See which you like best:

Dark Hollow Falls, shutter speed 1/250 second Dark Hollow Falls, shutter speed 1/4 second

The hike back up to the parking lot was a little tougher than the hike down. Not for Zachary, of course, who kept running to the top and then back to where Michael and I were to tell us how much farther we had to go. But believe me, we felt every foot of that 440 foot ascension.

We made one more stop before leaving the park for a final view:

The Blue Ridge Mountains

The rest of the trip to Greenville should be uneventfully pleasant, although instead of arriving when I'd hoped (around 8 PM) we should get there around 1 AM. My friend, Chris, has graciously told us he'll "see you when I see you!" Thank goodness for cell phones! They certainly make keeping people informed of your progress easier while on a long trip.