Friday, June 29, 2012

Dark Hollow Falls

We returned to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, this time heading south from the Thornton Gap Entrance east of Luray (VA).

Before heading out for the drive, we had checked the Shenandoah NP guide for information on the history of the Park.

By 1790, there were about 67,000 people in the area, most of whom lived in the lower Shenandoah Valley. Over the next 100 years,
tanneries, mills, and other businesses combined to exploit the timber, mineral, and game in the Park. Then came the Chestnut blight, which began in 1904, and over the next 30 years, the chestnut died off in much of the East. By this time (1925), over half of the population had moved off the ridge.

Severe drought, a wide-spread hog cholera epdemic, and the Great Depression furthered the economic plight of the region.

In 1926, work began on establishing the National Park. Deeds for the land, purchased from private donations and state monies, were given to the federal government, and Shenandoah NP was established in 1935.

The Park was being physically created by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and because it was near Washington, DC, the Park was used as a demonstration of President Roosevelt's Depression cures.

Construction of Skyline Drive, which runs the 105-mile length of the Park, began in 1931. Contractors hired local farmers (who needed work due to crop failures) to build the Drive, which was completed in 1939.

The seven photos above were taken from Skyline Drive and its overlooks.

I had wanted to take the 1.4-mile roundtrip hike to Dark Hollow Falls after seeing photos of the falls in the Byrd Visitor Center. References to the trail ranged from "an easy hike starting near Big Meadows" to "a little steep in places," but was described as being "well worth the trip."

Now when I read about a trail to waterfalls, I invariably think that I will start the hike at an elevation identical to the base of the falls. A nice walk to the falls will lead me to an open glen where I can view the falls by looking heavenward.

Also invariably, this expectation is incorrect.

The trail began with a wide, paved, inviting path. As it wound through forested areas, still wide and clearly marked, I began to notice that I was walking at a relatively quick pace.

Surprised, I congratulated myself at being in better condition than I realized.

But..., I also noticed that I was feeling discomfort in my toes. It seems that there was a 440' drop in the elevation of the trail in its three-quarter-mile course, and my toes were being pushed to the front of my shoes as I descended the trail.

When I reached the base of the falls, I was treated to a view of the Dark Hollow Falls cascading down some 70 feet over four major sets of cascades.

My eyes moved from scene to scene within the length of the falls.

While I was at the foot of the falls, there were 6-10 people at any one time either looking for just the right angle for a photograph or lining up family members for a photo.

The view of the falls was well worth the effort that was going to be required to make the return hike.

Finally, I had to begin the return hike.

I noticed that I walked with my eyes focused on my feet, mainly to avoid tripping over exposed tree roots, but also to avoid staring upward and realizing the climb that lay ahead.

I also took the opportunity on the return to photograph flowers. Photographing these subjects was more challenging that I expected because of the movement of the subject. After a bit, I realized that the flower was not moving on this still afternoon.

I was breathing a faster rate than I realized.

When I returned to the trailhead, I asked Kate, "Do I look as frazzled as I think?"

Kindly, she answered, "You look just like everyone else returning from the hike."

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