Thanks to my not paying attention while busy enjoying a conversation with Ann, what was planned to be a shorter hike of about 9 miles ended up being almost 12 (11.8) thanks to a wrong turn. I just don't make navigation mistakes, but I have to own this one. More on this later.
|The Payoff on North Mountain|
The North Mountain Trail is a very pleasant ridgewalk at first with great views to the east and then it opens up into more grassy areas and bald-like areas before reaching the purple-blazed Stack Rock Trail which you follow left and down the mountain to the intersection with the dirt road. Don't make the mistake I did and turn right on the dirt road thinking that you are on Laurel Run Road. Turn left and follow the dirt road back to your vehicle. Although it looks like you have to make a hard right turn at the northern end of the Laurel Run Spur Trail to get onto the yellow-blazed Laurel Run Road, no such turn exists. The two trails are the same dirt road and they meet just where you took the yellow-blazed trail slightly right and off into the woods.
After making the wrong turn on the blue-blazed road, we were busy chitchatting away, all the while I was thinking that the landmarks were unfamiliar. I ignored the warning in the pit of my stomach until we got to a place where the blue-blazed Laurel Run Spur Trail started to climb, after about 35 minutes of walking. The trail back to the car should not have climbed at all. After a 35-minute walk, we should have been close to the car. Dumb me. Don't be like me.
Heading up the mountain, the trail masqueraded as a creek or was it a creek masquerading as a trail? I could only avoid the water for so long until the inevitable happened: water in the shoes. Good thing my trail runners dry quickly. One other consequence of all this water was pretty unbearable humidity, especially in the sunnier areas. The trees trapped the evaporating rainwater and at times, it was like walking through a sauna. All this went away once we climbed the hill.
|Trail Masquerading as a Creek|
|Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes|
The Laurel Run Trail follows the creek of the same name up North Mountain, passing through a couple of fields managed for wildlife. I noticed in the yards leading up to the first field a few Goldstars and then once I got into the field, I found it carpeted in Goldstar blooms. There is something incredibly attractive about both the golden shade of yellow and the six-pointed blooms.
|First Wildlife Field|
|Field Covered in Common Goldstars, Hypoxis hirsuta|
|First of Many Pink Lady's-slippers, Cypripedium acaule|
|Group of Four Lady's-slippers|
|Second Wildlife Field; North Mountain|
|Azalea #1: Blooming Before Leaves|
|Azalea #2: Blooming with Leaves|
|Azalea #3: Looking Like Fuchsia|
|A Blueberry/Huckleberry, Vaccinium spp.|
|Pond Just Before Joining North Mountain Trail|
|North Mountain Trail on VA-WV Border|
|Wood Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia|
|Great Place to Take a Break|
|The Money Shot: Looking at Devils Hole Mountain|
|Coming Back From an Overlook|
|Eastern Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum|
|Queen of Her Domain|
|Parts of the Ridge are Wide and Grassy|
|A Bellwort, Uvularia spp.|
|Wild Pink, Silene caroliniana|
|Large, Almost Bald Areas Along the Mountain|
|Field Pennycress, Thlaspi arvense|
|Plaintain-leaved Pussytoes, Antennaria plantaginifolia|
|Dove's-foot Geranium, Geranium molle|
|Mats of Dwarf Cinquefoil, Potentilla canadensis|
|Early Saxifrage, Micranthes virginiensis|
|Single Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia, Blossom|
|About a Week Early for Mountain Laurel|
It was a beautiful day and what the hell, we had to make the most out of it, though I know Ann would have liked to have gotten off her hurt knee earlier. The roadsides were home to great swaths of glowing Golden Ragworts, equally golden buttercups, the odd Goat's Rue, and masses upon masses of blackberries. The berries in the Rubus genus are legion in Virginia, counting about 15 species, and while I can rule out a lot of them, it is hard for me to categorically identify what we saw alongside the road. That said, though, I think many of them were Rubus flagellaris, Common Dewberries.
|Roadside and Creekside Packera aurea|
|Mats of Roadside Blackberries Perhaps Rubus flagellaris|
|Tall Buttercup, Ranunculus acris|
|Post Game Location|
|Casey Jones Vanilla Porter|