PHOTO OF THE WEEK: DARK HOLLOW FALLS

Before launching into my amazing road trip, before hiking in California, before the Oregon beaches, I decided to explore closer to home (the D.C. area). Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is one of my favorite places. It was a worthy first stop on my incredible America-themed summer. And only an hour and a half from the nation’s capital, it’s hard to beat in the day-trip category. Dark Hollow Falls trail is one of the best in the park. It culminates with, you guessed it, a gushing waterfall.

Dark Hollow

An easy and pleasant drive up winding Skyline Drive, the trailhead conveniently sits just off the road. A minute later, I’m in complete solitude. While the top of the trail is brimming with sunlight and chirping of birds, the more I descend, the more the name of the place takes on meaning. The sunlight still filters through, but a silence settles upon the woods, save the wind’s gentle caressing of tree branches.

Dark Hollow

Shenandoah is famous for its waterfalls. And as the trail follows a stream — just noticeably gathering momentum — I quicken with anticipation. The silence slowly gives way to that distant yet distinct sound of falling water. The dampness increases. Life in the Dark Hollow is apparent. The stream cascades by the trail, and hiking down the steeper and steeper path, the waterfall emerges in all its glory and fury. Dark Hollow Falls do not disappoint. Neither does the fun, short yet challenging hike.

Dark Hollow

So after a well-deserved photo op, I start walking back up. And all uphill from here. But the beauty of the place makes one forget the effort. Or rather, it makes it totally worth it. Though a highly popular trail — for good reason — Dark Hollow Falls remains one of the greatest in Shenandoah National Park. Trees and rocks and water reign here, and immersing myself in the natural simplicity is as good as it gets.

Dark Hollow