Sunday, May 1, 2016

White Blazing, Raven Rocks, WV

After getting back from Virginia Beach on Saturday evening, it felt almost like our vacation was over, which, in fact, it was nearly. Nonetheless, we wanted to do something on Sunday to try to keep the illusion of vacation alive, so we decided to hike the AT from Snicker's Gap, VA to Raven Rocks, WV and back, a short hike, but one with a good bit of elevation gain.

We've Seen a Lot of White Blazes Recently
For convenience, we parked up in the saddle in the Snicker's Gap parking area where all the raptor watchers gather for fall migration, rather than down the hill at the AT trailhead. We walked back down Route 7 to where the AT crosses it, adding a good half mile to our total walk for the day. All along the edge of the road and woods, garlic mustard, a European invasive, is in full bloom everywhere you look. It has no natural predators (even deer don't like it, and deer like pretty much anything) it's plenty edible as a potherb and it makes decent pesto, but I don't know too many people who gather it to eat. Still and even though it competes with native plants, it's here to stay and in big rafts, it is a colorful addition to the understory.

Garlic Mustard, an Invasive
Chickweed is a much maligned common weed in our yards and gardens, but it has a really sweet bloom, especially the 10-rayed Star Chickweed that grows exclusively in shaded rich soils. Chickweed is another edible, used for salad greens and in Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, often in egg dishes such as quiches, one such being called Chickweed Pie. I find that beyond tasting green, it is also somewhat dirty tasting, and so is not a favorite of mine. I would say that there is a good reason why there is no commercial market for chickweed.

Chickweed

Star Chickweed
We were fortunate to find several azaleas in bloom with two radically different blooms. Back when I was ignorant, I thought I could identify these as Pinxter Flower, but now that I have looked into it more, I'm sure that I'm at least partially wrong. There are at least five different species of pink-blooming azaleas in our area. Oh, and never mind that azaleas hybridize at the drop of a hat. So, generic Rhododendron species they are in my book. There are taxonomic charts available to walk through, but my focus is on hiking and shooting pictures.

Wild Azalea

Totally Different Wild Azalea

Annie, Intrepid Explorer

An Old Survey Marker

White Phlox
I've seen a lot of Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants in bloom this spring (sadly, none of the striking purple ones) but rarely in enough light to photograph.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Blooming
From Snicker's Gap, only 10 miles as the crow flies from Harper's Ferry, the AT heads roughly north in Clarke County VA and briefly cuts across the very bottom of Jefferson County WV for just over a mile before heading back into Loudoun County VA before generally following (staying within a few yards of) the VA-WV border until crossing the Shenandoah River at Harper's Ferry. It is in the middle of this tiny jag across Jefferson County that Raven Rocks is located. The rocks give a fine view south and west into the Shenandoah Valley (Clarke County).

Obligatory State Line Sign Photo

View From Raven Rocks Looking Over Shenandoah Valley
Before we set out for our hike, we decided that we wanted to do a white bean (cannellini) salad for dinner with tomatoes, artichokes, and shrimp, so we dropped by the neighborhood grocery to pick up some canned beans and artichokes before heading for the mountains, knowing that later being hot and sweaty, we would not want to see the inside of a grocery store.

White Beans with Tomatoes, Artichokes, and Shrimp
After a relatively short hike of just over 6 miles, but with 1350 feet of elevation gain, we were hungry. Back at home after a delightful shower, I sautéed some shrimp, threw together this salad, and we devoured our bowls of beans.

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