Monday, April 12, 2010

Thompson Wildlife Refuge - 6.5 miles of wildflowers

We decided to take it easy this weekend as I came down with a minor cold on Friday.  G. R. Thompson Wildlife Management Area (WMA) northeast of Front Royal, Virginia is not known for its views, challenging terrain, or pretty waterfalls.  What it lacks in those areas, it makes up for in spectacular spring wildflowers.  We were unsure of what we would find blooming because the earliest spring flowers have faded and the big show (the peak of the trilliums, showy orchis, and lady slippers) that Thompson WMA is known for is still a few weeks away. 

We started out at the northeast end of the WMA, at the parking area below the lake.  We hiked across the dam in the bright sun, passing a few people out fishing with their kids.  On the west side of the dam, we turned right to follow the Lake Trail up an old roadbed.  A blooming dogwood marked the junction.  As we climbed, redbud trees, old fruit trees, and fragrant bushes lined the trail. 

We arrived at the junction with an unnamed trail leading off to the right after 0.6 miles.  This is an easy junction to miss because there is a blowdown just a few feet beyond the junction sort of obscuring the trail.  Based on the number of blowdowns, I am not sure if this section of trail is maintained or not, but it is easy enough to follow.  The wildflowers started appearing on this trail.  Anemonella thalictroides (Rue Anemone), a myriad of violets, and the occasional Arisaema atrorubens (Jack-in-the-Pulpit) lined the trail.

After just under a mile, we turned left onto the Appalachian Trail and followed it for the next two miles.  This is where the wildflowers really come out.  We were pleasantly surprised to see a few Trillium grandiflora blooming.  It is still pretty early for them.  After we crossed the Lake Trail, we immediately found Dicentra cucularia (Dutchman's Breeches), followed by Erythronium americanum (Trout Lily).  We made our way south on the Appalachian Trail until we reached a crossing with a gravel road.  After taking a few more pictures of flowers, we returned the way we came, turning right and heading down the Lake Trail directly to the dam.

On a sad note, we took our dog along this time because it was going to be a short hike on easy terrain.  She is 13, but last year, she was still able to hike 10 + miles per day.  Three years ago, she was still carrying her own food and water for hikes.  She hiked all over Oregon, Virginia, and Maryland with us.  We used to joke that she felt it was her responsibility in the woods to lead us safely back to the car.  Unfortunately, she had quite a bit of trouble this time.  That means her hiking days are likely over, save for shorter walks in Rock Creek Park.  It is very hard to admit that she has gotten too old to join us anymore, but it has been coming for a while. She's earned her retirement. 

Pictures (click to enlarge):
A fruit tree along the Lake Trail

Redbud trees lining the Lake Trail.

Dicentra cucllaria (Dutchman's Breeches)

Anemonella thalictroides (Rue Anemone)

Erythronium americanum (Trout Lily)

Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)

Trillium grandiflora (Giant Trillium)

Dogwood near the dam.

Our dog when she was younger and could carry her own pack.  This picture was taken at Dolly Sods in 2006.

1 comment:

  1. Hey eml, I'm looking for a spot to do a few nights primitive solo camping. Unfortunately, due to work, I have to go in July...I've done WMAs before, but never Thompson -- think I'd enjoy it there? Other ideas?