Shenandoah National Park: Nicholson Hollow Trail Part 3

Continued from Part 2

The hike was a steady uphill, with an ascent of 4,600ft (measuring how much we climbed up and down), and the total climb starting at 800ft at the bottom, reaching 2,000ft at Corbin Cabin.

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, Downy Rattlesnake Orchid, or Goodyera bubescens, is a member of the Orchid family (Orchidaceae) and blooms May to September. It is one of the most widely-distributed orchids in North America, reaching 31 states, mostly in the eastern and central U.S., but also stretching up to Canada. The name comes from how the mottled leave resemble a snake’s skin.

Indian Tobacco

Indian Tobacco

Indian Tobacco, or Lobelia inflata, is a member of the Bellflower family (Campanulaceae) and blooms June to October. It grows in open woods and along roadsides throughout eastern North America. Native Americans smoked the dried leaves like tobacco to treat asthma. However, be warned! It’s root is poisonous and Lobelia is considered a potentially toxic herb, depending on the dosage. If you are ever interested in using it for medicinal purposes, please consult a doctor.

Finally, we reached Corbin Cabin. In front of the sturdy wooden structure is a small meadow filled with Wild Basil and Gallant Soldier wildflowers.

Wild Basil

Wild Basil

Wild Basil, or Clinopodium vulgare, is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae) and blooms June to September. You can find it along roadsides, and in pastures and thickets. Likely native to North America (there is a chance it was introduced from Europe, where it is prevalent in southern regions), it grows mostly in the northeastern and central U.S.

Wild Basil

The dried leaves can be used as a seasoning, although they are milder than the basil you find in stores.

The butterflies in the meadow loved these flowers.

They are quite common throughout Shenandoah National Park – you can find Wild Basil by most trails.

Gallant Soldier

Gallant Soldiers

Gallant Soldiers, Quickweed, or Galinsoga parviflora, is a member of the Aster family (Asterceae) and blooms May to October. It differs from the similar Shaggy Soldier in that it is paler green and is less hairy. Introduced from South America, it now grows throughout North America as well. It is considered a weed and grows fast.

Gallant Soldiers

This is what they look like from a distance. There were a lot of them.

***

This all sounds so idyllic and pretty, but we had a bit of a surprise at the meadow. We found a venomous snake!

Northern Copperhead

Northern Copperhead

The Northern Copperhead snake, or Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen, is a venomous snake that can be found throughout Virginia. It is a type of pit-viper.

This one was curled up by some rocks and almost completely camouflaged with the leafy dirt ground. As you can imagine, we were surprised to find it. In all our wanderings around Shenandoah National Park, we had only come across a snake once before, and that one was not venomous. Actually, a group of hikers asked me to take a picture of them, and I did so, standing right near these rocks. However, we only discovered the snake later as we were leaving the clearing. The lesson…make sure you are aware of your surroundings, including on the forest floor!

The way back was almost completely downhill and went much faster. Before long, we were back at the Old Rag parking lot. Old Rag is a very popular trail for hikers in Shenandoah National Park, but this trail, Nicholson Hollow, is also worth visiting. Although there are no mountain views, walking by the river for several hours is pleasant. It also seems to be a good place to go if you want to camp in the area.

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