Bonafide Farm

Day hike in Shenandoah

May 1st, 2012 § 1

On Sunday afternoon I decided to take advantage of the last day of the national parks system’s free entry week. I loaded up the dog and within 20 minutes of leaving the house we were on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains breezing by the ranger station into Shenandoah National Park. Five minutes after that we were in one of the most beautiful forests I’ve seen—and that includes many of the major national parks out West—Glacier, Grand Teton, Olympic, Redwoods—and more.


I think that what made is so beautiful was really lucky timing, though I am sure the park has its beauty in all seasons. On this trip the trees were just barely leafed out, yet the undergrowth was blooming with wildflowers. Tiny streams ran everywhere, including alongside the trail. The scrub hadn’t grown up yet, so I could see straight through the forest all around and it was like being in a magical glade. It was about 65 degrees, and the sun made dappled patterns across the ground. The wide trail was covered in wild grass. It was like hiking on a shag rug.


I am pretty sure this is a wild elderberry. I saw food everywhere I looked, thanks to last year’s herbalism class. Fiddleheads and ramps and nettles. For the first time I understood the appeal of wildcrafting, though I didn’t pick any plants myself, and understood how one could survive on wild foods.




On this short hike I also saw more bear sign than ever in my life, and that includes a few months spent in an Alaskan forest! There were fresh scrapings on trees, and many huge piles of scat in the middle of the trail. I also saw a lot of dead tree stumps that had been torn open as the hungry bears searched for their spring breakfasts.


Needless to say, all the smells were intoxicating to my trail companion!

We ended up hiking basically straight down the mountain and then turned around and slogged back up. Tucker was so cute on the walk up—every time I stopped to rest or take a picture, he’d pause a few steps ahead of me on the trail and turn around and keep an eye on me until I got moving again. With all the bears in the area, I was grateful for his watchful attention. How lovely it would have been to have just kept on walking—in a few more steps we could have picked up the Appalachian Trail and gotten to Maine in time for lobster season!

§ One Response to “Day hike in Shenandoah”

  • Hiking on a field of grass sounds lovely — all our trails up here are rocks and mud, or if you’re too close to Boston, pavement. Blah.

    But I also love the herding dog’s instinct to check back and make sure you’re safe. My Lily does that, and though I’m sure she wouldn’t be much help against a bear, it’s comforting knowing someone has my back.

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