Friday June 12, 2015 Previous Post:
Big Meadows Campground Rapidan Camp or Hoover’s Summer White House
Shenandoah National Park
David will return from Charlottesville this afternoon so this morning I take a shorter hike. I’m curious to see where the Story of the Forest Nature Trail goes. It begins just down from the Campground check in booth off of the bike trail. I’m expecting a walk numbered for an accompanying pamphlet which I don’t have.
What I get is just a much lovelier way to walk the mile to the Visitor Center than using the bike path along the roads.
The trail through the forest dead ends in a grassy area and I see from the information on the cement marker that the VC and the Dark Hollow Falls Trail are to the left. The campground is to the right. I didn’t know that I could pick up the trail in the campground rather than having to climb the hill up to the check in station and then take it back down. I’ll for sure go that way on the way back.
Looking left, that’s the campground straight ahead.
But I go right and the trail shrinks and heads back into the woods.
More ferns. In some cases they are thick as far as I can see. They must love this habitat.
At one point I’m walking through an old orchard. I wonder what the fruit tastes like now after years of being neglected and unpruned. Actually I have noticed many fruit trees in the campground as well and wonder if all of this area was some mountain family’s orchard.
The path is lined with a variety of trees as is typical in this diverse eastern woodland. My favorites are the oaks. This one is a red. You can tell by the points on its leaves.
I’m pretty surprised to come upon this sign board entitled “Getting to know the air you breathe”. Behind it is an air quality monitoring station that for 30 years has been providing valuable information about trends in air quality over time.. It collects data on weather, visibility, ozone levels and pollutants in the air. The board tells me that scientists across the nation use the data to advise protection agencies and lawmakers about regulations that will help reduce pollution and protect the air we breathe. The data shows that when strong regulations are in place the quality of air improves which means cleaner water, better views, healthier people, fewer lung diseases. Air pollution regulations are a good role for our government to play in my opinion.
Soon I come to a trio of my favorite trees. I can’t tell if they have sprung up from a the base of a tree that was cut down or if they just grew this way.
I can’t seem to get my arms around all 3. You can tell it is a white oak from it’s rounded leaves.
The metal bands on the next post on the trail inform me that that I’ve come 6/10th of a mile from the campground and that the Visitor Center is another 1/2 mile to my right. It also says Dark Hallow Falls is only a mile away. I intend to see Dark Hollow Falls on a longer hike perhaps tomorrow but a 2 mile round trip for a sneak peak would be fun. That would make my total about 4 miles. I can easily be back before David arrives.
I carry on across the bridge and pass a rock bridge to my right which is the path to the Visitor’s Center.
The trail to Dark Hollow and it’s trailhead parking lot are just across the Skyline Drive.
Quite a few cars though the parking lot is not full. But then it’s only a little after 9 in the morning. I find that the trails are empty between 6 and 9. The real crowds are in the afternoon.
But then I read the sign carefully…..short but VERY STEEP and ROCKY. Return climb CHALLENGING. Not just rocky but SLIPPERY rocks. Shoes with gripping soles. They say like hiking boots and sneakers. I have to say that my sneakers, which I’m wearing do not have gripping soles. Plus I don’t have my hiking pole which it seems I would want with all these warnings. Guess I’ll just wait for tomorrow when I’m better prepared. I do really appreciate this information at the trail head. I hope everyone always reads the trail head signs.
So back I go over the stone bridge to the Visitor’s Center.
There I find the CCC Statue which is at most parks created totally or in part by the CCC.
I also find a Ranger program in progress. He’s talking about snakes and has a long skin from a black rat snake. He’s really excellent at providing important educational information and entertaining the wide age range of listeners in his audience.
I’ve really only hiked down here to see what the trail was like. I’ve been to the VC several times already though I haven’t yet read all the exhibits or seen the film. I’m waiting for it to rain.
I do go check out the books again of course and find another one for the holiday gift list.
I look through several books on the cultural history of the park and the use of eminent domain to remove people from their homes. I know a lot about this since I have lived in the area for over 30 years and in Virginia most of my life. I know people whose grandparents were removed and their homes burned. The ill feelings have not all disappeared.
I find two new to me very interesting looking books and decide since I really do like to read about an area while I’m there that’s I’ll take them home with me. These are things I’d be very unlikely to find in a library.
On the return trip I read the signs just outside the Visitor’s Center and am surprised to find the distance listed in km first and miles in parenthesis. Pretty unusual around here.
I walk back the way I came, up hill of course and hear a familiar bird singing. I stop to look for him and spot him on a tree branch. I actually catch him in mid song…..drink your teeeeeeeee.
Despite the up hill climb, the hike back seems shorter than the way down. Perhaps that’s because I only have to climb up about three quarters of the way and then I can walk straight into the campground. One of these mornings I think I’ll take this trail down to the Big Meadow at dawn. Stay tuned…………..