Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Solo Hike in Massanutten: Little Crease and the Tuscarora Trail

Michael was out of town and all of our other hiking friends were busy, so I decided to do a solo hike in Massanutten in the George Washington National Forest near Front Royal, VA.  If you haven't hiked out there, Massanutten is often jokingly referred to as an old Indian word meaning "land of many rocks."  That is definitely true, but I like it because there are often interesting plants and occasional views from the top of the knife-edge ridges. I chose an 11 mile loop on the east ridge, which would skirt the summit of Little Crease Mouintain.  My plan required a 2 mile road walk at the beginning to close the loop.  I parked at the Tuscarora Trailhead on Virginia Route 613 around 12:30 and headed down the road.  I never like walking on country roads that I'm unfamiliar with.  Territorial yard dogs scare me and tight turns can be dangerous if a car comes around them quickly.  Fortunately, I dealt with neither of those and was soon enough at the start of the Sherman Trail.

The Sherman Trail immediately began a three-mile unabated climb.  Unfortunately, I was mostly sheltered from the breeze, so it was a stifling start to the hike.  I arrived on the ridge to a welcome breeze from the west.  From there, I turned south on the Tuscarora Trail, which follows the top of the ridge for a little over a mile.  About half a mile from the Sherman Trail, I started finding ripe blueberries!  At first there were only one or two, but then a came into some sunny spots and they were everywhere.  The only downside:  My hiking pace suffered because of the sweet blueberry goodness.  I got a couple of nice views to the east before descending into a small valley.  I passed Little Crease Shelter and climbed an old roadbed over Massanutten Mountain.  I made good time descending the last two miles back to the parking area.

I didn't see a single other person on my entire hike (except for a couple of cars on the road).  I did see a lot of interesting plants.  It was a very good day.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Yucca filamentosa (Adam's Needle, Yucca).  If you enlarge this picture, you'll see Yucca Moths in the flower.  Yucca Moths and Y. filamentosa cannot survive without each other.  The moths pollinate the flowers and lay a few eggs in them.  The larvae of the moth feed on the seeds produced as a result of being pollinated.  The moths lay only a few eggs in the flower so that the larvae do not eat too many seeds.  More details here.
 An interesting little cricket (grasshopper?) on the flowers of Heuchera americana (Alum-Root).  The insect is about 1/4 inch long.
Anemone virginiana (Thimbleweed)
Chimaphila maculata (Striped Wintergreen).  As the name suggests, the leaves of C. maculata stay green all year long.
A spider in an elaborate web along the trail.
Triodanis perfoliata (Venus's Looking Glass) along the Sherman Trail.
Ripe blueberries!  These did not last very long.
The black raspberries weren't quite ready for prime time yet. 
 Looking east towards Shenandoah National Park.
 Look closely.  There is an Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporos undulata) hiding against the tree bark.
 I startled this little Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina), making it retreat into its shell.
 Scutellaria incana (Downy Skullcap) on the Tuscarora Trail.
If anyone knows what these ferns are, I would love to know.  They are about three feet tall and were growing in a dense colony.


  1. Hello SSW! I discovered your blog when I googled pennywort and then I kept reading as I realized that we've hiked a few of the same trails. Thank you for your lovely descriptions!