Father’s Day Waterfalls and Breweries

Between the AP World History Reading and family emergencies, it had been years since Laura, McKenna and I had been able to do something as a family for Father’s Day, so we decided to take advantage of this rare opportunity to go to Shenandoah National Park as well as to one of the breweries near the park. I selected as our “hike” in Shenandoah the Dark Hollow Falls trail, which, at about 1.5 miles in length is more of a stroll than a hike. Choosing a short hike with less than 500 feet in elevation gain ended up being a good call because one of the people I was traveling with can find a way to fall over on the most even terrain; and the other person is a six-year-old.

Little did McKenna know that borrowing one of Laura's hiking poles would have such dramatic consequences.

McKenna’s decision to use one of Laura’s hiking polls would spell trouble later.

There is a creek that parallels the trail, and McKenna wanted to get a closer look. So we decided to branch off the main trail andfound on the side trail a rock with a wet spot where water had diverged from the creek and spilled over. This left the hiker with several options to get by this obstacle:

  • Step on the slightly wet, non-slippery gravel at the base of the rock.
  • Jump over the rock, which was probably a pipe dream since even when Laura was moving at top speed, McKenna had compared her velocity unfavorably to that of a sloth.
  • Step on the clearly slick, watery, mossy patch on the rock.

With only one hiking pole, Laura, who had been nicknamed “Grace” during her time in Yellowstone, chose the third option. I would say that the results were predictable, but the way that she managed to jam her foot into three inches of mud as she was going down was impressively unpredictable.

In this picture, McKenna and I somehow made it just beyond the rock with a treacherous 1’x1′ wet spot. Somehow.

Laura’s choice was even more difficult to understand given that she was an experienced hiker who had as a younger hiker raised the degree of difficulty of her hikes through some questionable hiking techniques. Now…

No, McKenna! Mommy only has one pole! SHE ONLY HAS ONE POLE!

Sometimes it’s safer to just sit on a rock.

Against all odds, we made it down to the falls. Dark Hollow is one of the most popular areas in Shenandoah National Park, both because people don’t like to walk far and the falls are very cool.

Bonus – the wet rocks by the falls are easy to identify

We managed to extract ourselves from the trail without further mishaps. Next, McKenna was overjoyed to stop at the visitor’s center.


The worst part of the trip involved that plague of mountain driving: the slow, oblivious driver. This is the driver going ten to fifteen miles under the speed limit who piles up cars behind them as they fail to notice and/or use the half a dozen turn offs that less oblivious drives would pull into to let faster cars by. Had our car been been equipped with weaponry Mad Max style, Laura would have made them pay a stiff price for their violation of the mountain driving social contract. Instead, she had to take solace in the fact that the drivers were destroying their brakes with the endless braking necessary to maintain such a slow speed.

After a 1.5 mile constitutional which included that one tricky slippery rock followed by a car ride behind the slowest driver in Shenandoah, it was time for a break.

On the way home, we stopped at Blue Mountain Brewery, which has a big restaurant with lots of outdoor seating. The outdoor space has a field where a number of kids were playing, and we tried to get McKenna to go and play. Instead, she explained that she could not play with those children because they were from the country and she is from near the city. No, really. There’s only one thing you can do in the face of that kind of garbage…

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