Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bear Church Rock and Staunton River

A few weeks ago, we took a break from training for this year's bike vacation to get out for a hike. We did a loop in Shenandoah National Park that was mostly new to both of us. We started at Bootens Gap in the Central District of the park. We followed the Appalachian Trail uphill for about half a mile before turning east on the Laurel Prong Trail. We passed lots of late summer flowers. After a sharp climb up Cat Knob, the trail gently descends the the back of the mountain for a few miles to Bear Church Rock where there is a great view of the valley and Old Rag peeks out from behind a ridge.

After Bear Church Rock, the trail dives off of the mountain in a steep set of switchbacks. We took a short detour to see Jones Mountain Cabin, which was built in 1855 and is now maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. We then began to work our way back uphill towards the car on the Staunton River Trail. We passed a few pretty little waterfalls along the way. The Fork Mountain Fire Road was lined with more late summer flowers and butterflies. All said and done, we hiked 12 miles and saw exactly three other people on trail.

 Lillium michauxii (Turk's Cap Lily)
 The Jones Mountain Trail.
 Helianthus divaricatus (Woodland Sunflower)
 Impatiens pallida (Yellow Jewelweed)
 A snakeskin in Mountain Laurel on a rock where we stopped to have lunch
 The view from Bear Church Rock. Old Rag is just visible in the center of the photo.
 Tiny little fungi along the Jones Mountain Trail
 A tunnel through the Mountain Laurel near Jones Cabin
 Jones Cabin. You can actually rent this cabin from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
 Campanulastrum americanum (Tall Bellflower)
 Small waterfalls along the Staunton River
 A tree that grew around a log which later rotted away. It isn't particularly common to see these in Shenandoah.
Helianthus annuus (Common sunflower)

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