Monday, October 22, 2012

Leaves: A Beautiful Hike of Kennedy Peak

Sunday was a perfect fall day for hiking:  crisp, dry, and clear.  We decided to try a new hike in the Massanutten area of the George Washington National Forest:  Kennedy Peak.  Massanutten is the overlooked little sister to Shenandoah National Park (which is just fine with me).  It is made up of the two steep ridges to the west of Shenandoah.  There are a few hikes close to Front Royal that see some traffic, particularly Signal Knob and the Elizabeth Furnace area is popular with both mountain bikers and climbers, but even those don't see a fraction of the number of people that somewhere like Old Rag does, let alone Skyline Drive.  The hikes are quiet and every bit as interesting and scenic as those in Mansanutten's better known neighbor to the east.

Kennedy Peak is no exception to that.  We started off at a parking lot just below Edith Gap.  The fall colors were definitely peaking.  Everywhere the sun hit, yellow and red leaves glowed against the sky.  The hike started on the Massanutten Trail, with a well-switchbacked climb up to the gap and then followed the ridgeline north a couple of miles to the Kennedy Peak Trail.  We didn't really make good time because there were so many pretty trees to look at and to photograph.  We did startle several several Pileated Woodpeckers along the way.  The little tower on top of Kennedy Peak made a perfect stop for lunch as turkey vultures soared above us, riding thermals over the mountains.  From there we returned to the Massanutten Trail and hiked another mile north to the Stanley Trail, where we began to work our way back to the car.  At one point we stopped briefly to take more pictures and a raptor began to fly back and forth shrieking.  Since it was pretty high above us, I don't know if it was because of us, but it was fascinating to watch.  

At the end of a fabulous day, we had walked 9.2 miles and seen a total of four other hikers.  

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 Bright red maple leaves.
 The Massanutten trailhead at Edith Gap
 A yellow maple leaf.
 A large spider on the Kennedy Peak Trail.  I think it is a Wolf Spider.  It was about 3 inches across.
 Michael taking a break after lunch on the tower on top of Kennedy Peak.
 Symphyotrichum sp. (Aster).
 Looking northeast towards Shenandoah and Front Royal
An interesting moth that appeared to be laying eggs.  If anyone knows the species, let me know and I'll post it.  Thanks to Old Rag Patrols for figuring out that this is a Buck Moth.
 Walking north on the Massanutten Trail.
 Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel) - the very last flower to bloom in the fall and a sure sign of the coming winter.
 Looking back toward Kennedy Peak on the Stanley Trail.
More beautiful foliage.


  1. Beautiful pictures! Thanks for posting...wish I had been able to go with you. Soon...

  2. Awesom pictures! My guess is that it might be a Hera Buckmoth but I am no expert.

  3. OOPS not a Hera Buck Moth(only out west) but turns out there are many species of Buck Moths many living in the East and all noted for laying a sheaf/cuff of eggs just like the one in your picture.

    Here is a link for another type of Buck Moth. So I am pretty sure it is a Buck Moth of some kind. But again I am not expert. Below is a link to another type of Buck Moth which looks more like the one in your picture. While googling for various Buck Moth pictures I saw egg cuffs that were many different colors but at least one was a blue green color very close to the color of eggs in your photo.