Signal Knob is at the far northern end of the western arm of Massanutten Mountain and is where WVPT maintains its transmitter. Just south of Signal Knob stands the 300-foot higher Meneka Peak. We had planned to skirt around the shoulder of Meneka Peak in our loop over Signal Knob, but Ann read that the whole back side of the loop on the Massanutten Trail before it intersects the Tuscarora Trail (our way back to the car) is on fire road and hiking fire road has never been my idea of a good time. She found a reference that suggested that we forego the fire road and back track from Signal Knob to the Meneka Peak Trail and walk the ridgeline south to join the Tuscarora Trail and from there head back down the mountain to the car. So that was our plan and it proved a good one.
I am finding that these long hikes are requiring me to eat a substantial breakfast. The whole idea of jamming breakfast in my face first thing in the morning, while a really good idea when we're heading out for a big day on the trail, is not my thing. I'm not really a breakfast guy in that I need to be up for at least two hours before I can countenance the idea of eating. On a normal day, I'm up around six and breakfast will be around nine. Up at 6:45, breakfast at 7:15, just sucks. Your mileage may vary.
|Trail Head at Signal Knob Parking|
The parking lot was ringed with all kinds of wildflowers just begging to be photographed in the warm morning sunlight. We saw many of the usual roadside suspects: Queen Anne's Lace, Fleabane, Common Mullein (not photographed), Moth Mullein, Chicory, and one of the Knapweeds. There are so many kinds of Knapweed that I am not even going to begin to try to guess which one this is.
|Queen Anne's Lace|
|Yellow False Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) Detail|
|Parts of the Trail Were Draped by Yellow False Indigo|
|Narrow-leaved White-topped Aster, Sericocarpus linifolius|
|Looking Southeast, Eastern Arm Massanutten Mountain|
|There are Rocky Sections|
|Yellow False Foxglove, Aureolaria flava|
|Still Some Mountain Laurel at Elevation|
|Lots of Calling Scarlet Tanagers on Signal Knob|
|View North from the WVPT Transmitter|
|View of Strasburg from the Signal Knob Overlook|
|Ann Eating Lunch While I was Looking Around|
Seeing creatures like this and having the time to stop and appreciate them is one of the reasons I hike. When I was a kid, it was about being the fastest to the peak or the one with the longest distance. Ann and I talked about this along the trail and agree that we are in it for the journey. Or at least that is how we rationalize being nearly the slowest group on any trail. In any case, I think about the thousands of miles that I hiked as a kid and all the things I missed in my youthful haste.
|Zebra Swallowtail: Awesome Twin Tails Intact|
Up on the ridgeline, the trees thin out and hickories dominate. The more open spaces let us watch many Turkey Vultures cruising the hillside, sometimes just mere feet above our heads. These patches of sun also brought us a lot of wildflowers in bloom including Crown Vetch, Knotweeds, New Jersey Tea, Hawkweed, Venus' Looking Glass, and St. John's Wort.
|One of the Knotweeds|
|New Jersey Tea|
|Venus' Looking Glass|
|A Hypericum, St. John's Wort|
|Massanutten and Blue Ridge Mountains from Meneka Peak|
|Stepping Stones in a Sea of Virginia Creeper|
Finally back in the parking lot, we had to make the longish trudge the length of the parking lot in the blazing sun to the car where we had ice cold beers waiting on us in a small cooler. On our way to Christina's last week after our hike to grab a cold one, Ann and I looked at each other and said, "Next week we should bring beer in a cooler." Always good to be on the same wavelength.
The plan was to go sit in or by Passage Creek which runs through the middle of Fort Valley and cool off while enjoying our beer, but the Signal Knob parking lot is about a hundred yards off the creek at this point and not very accessible. So, we drove back north up Fort Valley Road to one of the parking areas on the side of the road where the creek was visible and accessible via a path.
Making our way down the path to the creek and along the creek to the rocks where we would ultimately sit and enjoy our brews, we spotted several wildflowers that we had not seen elsewhere on the hike. It makes sense as sunny riparian habitat is scarce up on the mountain! Here we saw Yarrow, Sundrops, Green and Gold, and Ox-Eye daisies in full glory.
|Green and Gold|
|Cooling Off in Passage Creek|