52 Hike Challenge- Fagan Hike 9

Hike 9- Dark Hallow Falls Shenandoah National Park Virginia

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4/5/18 Dark Hallow Falls

1.4 miles / 584 foot elevation gain / 1 hour on trail / out & back / no dogs

I was determined to do a waterfall hike in Shenandoah National Park. The one I wanted to do would lead us to 6 waterfalls and was about 6 miles long. My boys outright refused to hike 6 miles so we compromised and did the 1.4 mile hike at Dark Hallow Falls. I originally wasn't planning on doing this hike because dogs are not allowed to use this trail. I asked the park ranger why dogs weren't allowed on this trail. She told me because it is one of the most popular hikes and some people are afraid of dogs and they like to have some trails dog free. She went on to tell me that some other trails didn't allow dogs because of the wildlife. She also said they don't allow dogs on hikes with rock scrambles. She laughed and said they do a lot of carry outs on those hikes for people and dogs. Thankfully my dogs were exhausted from their earlier hike that day and didn't mind sitting this one out.

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We parked at Dark Hallow Falls parking lot at mile 50.7. This hike starts out downhill and at 0.6 mile there is an overlook of the 70-foot Dark Hallow Falls. We continued another 0.7 miles to the base of the falls. It is a beautiful waterfall! This was by far the most crowded hike we did. We saw people of all ages on this hike from infants in carriers to seniors. We saw a hiker stop at the base of the falls to wash his feet and set up a camp stove and was cooking his mac & cheese.

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At this point we turned around and headed back to the parking lot. The hike was very pleasant and I enjoyed all the small falls along the side of the trail. We definitely needed our trekking poles on this hike for some muddy spots. I actually tripped, rolled my right ankle and crashed my left knee into a rock. My family laughed at me and for that I took over a trekking pole!

This trail is good for all levels of hikers because there are so many places to stop and take a break. We saw an older man on the way down and he told us he was enjoyed a resting rock. He was sitting on a large boulder watching the water babbling along and hikers passing. I told him I would probably be in the same spot when we were heading back up the trail.  My youngest couldn't wait to find the rock on our way back up to rest on!

This was the last hike we did in Shenandoah National Park. I look forward to coming back here when my boys are a little bit older and can handle some longer hikes. There are over 500 miles of hiking trails here! We only got a small taste of what the park had to offer. Thank you Shenandoah for the wonderful memories. We'll be back!!!


52 Hike Challenge- Fagan Hike 8

Hike 8- Mary's Rock via Appalachian Trail (Southern Approach) Virginia.

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4/5/18 Mary's Rock via Appalachian Trail (Southern Approach)

2.5  miles / 741 foot gain in elevation / out & back / 2 hours on the trail

The weather on our second day in Shenandoah National Park was much nicer than our first day. The wind had died down and the sun was shining. We still needed our hats and coats, especially at the top of the mountain, but it was perfect hiking weather.  I gave my family the option of doing the 3.4 mile hike to Mary's Rock by the northern approach or the 2.5 mile hike by going the southern approach. They all voted for the 2.5 mile trail. Little did they know that by choosing the shorter hike I would make them do a second hike that day!

We parked at Spring Meadow Parking lot at mile 33.5. The trail head is across the street from the parking lot. The beginning part of this hike is through the mountain laurel and even though it wasn't in bloom I can only imagine how pretty it would be. We came across the ruins of a old hiker cabin that burnt down in 1946. Then we continued on to Mary's Rock.

Mary's Rock is composed of Pedlar granodiorite and has an elevation of 3,514 feet. The panoramic views are breathtaking. The legend of this site is a young woman named Mary Thornton once made this hike along to the rocky summit. When she returned she carried a bear cub under each arm.

I kept my eyes peeled for some bears, but sadly we didn't see any. Or maybe it is a good thing we didn't see any. We did however spend some time enjoying the views. My youngest son had no interest it getting close to the edge of the rocks and instead sat a safe distance from the cliffs and he held onto the dogs as we scrambled over the rocks and took pictures.

I am very grateful we didn't do this hike on the day before. It had been so windy the day before and I know if we made it to the top we wouldn't have been able to stand up and enjoy the views without fear of getting blown off the edge!

52 Hike Challenge- Fagan Hike 7

Hike 7- Backrock Summit via Trayfoot Mountain and Appalachian Trail

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4/4/18 Backrock Summit via Trayfoot Mountain and Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park Virginia

1.1 miles / elevation gain 187 feet / loop / 2 hours on trail

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As we entered the Thornton Gap Entrance Station on our first day at Shenandoah National Park we were told there was a high wind advisory and to be on the look out for falling trees on our hikes. When we had gotten up that morning we notice the high winds at our campground and I had already started making alternate hiking plans. I had planned on doing a hike that would take us to the highest peak in Shenandoah, but with the wind I was a afraid we would get blown off the mountain. Now with the threat of trees falling on us we went with Plan B. So instead of a long hike we drove Skyline Drive and enjoyed the scenic views and overlooks.

We entered the park at mile post 30 and drove south to the Byrd Visitor Center by Big Meadow at mile marker 51. At the visitor center we watched a nice video about Shenandoah National Park and I bought a Shenandoah collector's patch to add to my camera bag. We talked to one of the park rangers and got some additional maps for the park's hiking trails. I came with a Falcon Guide "Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park" and I had already planned most of our hikes using that guide and AllTrails, but I always enjoy talking to the rangers to get any additional tips for hiking trails.

We got back in our truck and continued driving south to mile marker 84.8. There we parked at the Blackrock Parking Lot. We decided to hike to Blackrock Summit since it was only a 1 mile loop and it looked like it would have good views despite the wind. This trail was short and sweet and the views were fantastic!!! We always enjoy a good rock scramble and climbing up the rocks to get a panoramic view was so much fun. When the winds kicked up we had to brace ourselves so we didn't get knocked over!

I would highly recommend this hike to anyone. It was easy to get to Blackrock Summit and if you wanted to make this a longer hike there is a trail that connects to it, The Furnace Mountain Trail. Also there is the Blackrock Spur trail (you can see it in the map in the picture above).

It was also really nice to enter from Thornton Gap and get to see a lot of Skyline Drive heading to this hike especially since it was our first time visiting this National Park. The mountain views really change along the drive and I'm glad we got to see so much of it.

After the hike we headed back north on Skyline Drive and to the campground. I made notes on my map of where we should stop for lunch on the next day. We also stopped at quite a few overlooks and ate our lunch at The Point Overlook, which is at 3235 foot elevation. I was hoping to see some bears, but we didn't. We did talked to a Thru Hiker on the Blackrock Summit Trail and he said there was a bear two miles back from that trail that ran across the road. We kept our eyes peeled but we didn't see it ourselves.

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52 Hike Challenge- Fagan Hike 6

Hike 6- Thurston Griggs to Appalachian Trial to Black Rock, Maryland

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Thurston Griggs to Appalachian Trail to Black Rock

3.3 miles / 928 foot elevation gain / out & back

We hiked on the Appalachian trail!!!!! The Thurston Griggs Trail is no joke. I almost didn't do this hike because it had rained and snowed the night before. When I planned this hike I wasn't thinking about snow since it was April! But mother nature decided she wasn't done with winter. I am so glad decided to go and didn't let a little bad weather stop us.

The hike is an intense uphill climb. We were walking through streams and over rocks. There was flowing water along the side of the path and I loved listening to the water rushing down the mountain. Once we connected with the Appalachian Trail (AT) the path leveled off quite a bit compared to the first part. Most of the ground was covered in snow, but the path was nice and clear. Once we reached Black Rock the views were amazing.

We had the place to ourselves. We never saw another hiker. I had read that Black Rock can get crowded and I'm glad to say we got to enjoy the views for as long as our courage would let us. It is scary being so far up!

I made a video of our camping trip at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Hagerstown Maryland. In the video is a clip of the hike. 

52 Hike Challenge- Fagan Hikes 1 to 5

In February 2018 I signed up for the 52 Hike Challenge.



I love hiking and I saw a friend posting on IG about hikes she was doing for the 52 Hike Challenge. I was looking for something to do with my family during the off-camping season and I looked up "52 Hike Challenge". Before I knew it I was reading some of the most inspiring posts and signing myself up for the challenge. I love it so much! Thanks to the resources on the 52 Hike Challenge website I have located so many new hikes I never knew about. I am now planning camping trips around what trails we will hike.

I signed up for this challenge thinking I would do it on my own and if my family could join me that would be great. So far they have been on every hike! We started off small and we did some local hikes and got ourselves used to the prep we needed for a hike. We learned what clothes worked and what didn't work. We learned we never had enough clothes to keep us warm at first. We have learned how to pack our backpacks with water, snacks, dry socks, hats, gloves, extra clothing, flash lights and over fun nick knacks to have on the trail. Oh and we learned how to break trekking poles. Thankfully we have better ones now.

Most importantly I have learned how to use the AllTrails APP and I can stay on the trail! Something I was not so good at in the past on our hikes. Sometimes one mile hikes turned into 8 miles. Oops. We are all much better trail readers now.

I wanted to write this little intro to let you know about the hikes we are doing and why. Here are our first hikes we did. Most of them were short due to work schedules and weather conditions. But we have really stepped it up recently.

Hike 1- Sea Girt Beach

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2/10/18 Sea Girt Beach, New Jersey

We walked for one mile and we did some metal detecting on the beach, but we didn't find anything. We learned from this hike we have to dress warmer!

Hike 2- Monmouth Battlefield State Park


2/18/18 Monmouth Battle Field State Park, NJ (click for AllTrails map)

We hiked the connector trail. It had snowed the day before and the ground was muddy and snowy in parts, but otherwise the trail was great. We enjoyed the visitor center and learning a bit of history. This was my first hike with my new Keen boots and I loved them!

Hike 3- Arrow Acres Farm


2/24/18 We hiked at my parents farm in Wall, New Jersey. This is the farm I grew up on. I took my kids back through the woods and we did some metal detecting. We enjoyed the pond and visiting the alpacas.

Hike 4- Belmar / Lake Como St Patrick's Day Parade


3/4/18 We hiked in a parade! We were asked by my husbands aunt to march in the 2018 Belmar / Lake Como St Patrick's Day Parade. We counted this 1.8 mile march as our hike for the week and we enjoyed having all the company with us as we walked! It was an honor to march with the Deputy Grand Marshal (aka Aunt Patty) and the 2011 Grand Marshal (aka Uncle Bob).

Hike 5- Wells Mills Park, NJ


4/2/18- Wells Mills Park Estlow Green Trail 3.4 miles / 124 ft elevation / 2 hours / loop

I included a link above to the Green Trail, but we really did the Yellow Trail which runs pretty much the same path as the Green, but there wasn't an AllTrails link to it. If you go to the visitor center they have a map of the trails at this park.

My father-in-law joined us for this hike! He also marched in the parade with us the week before so I guess I can say he hiked with us two times!

This trail was very nice and easy to hike. It was very well marked. It wasn't very challenging so my youngest son decided to whine most of the time. I find hikes that are more challenging keep him from complaining about how long we have been walking. I think he also likes the in and out hikes instead of loop trails.


Like I said we have really been enjoying this challenge. If you want to know more about the 52 Hike Challenge you can check it out here.