We then turned right onto Whiteoak Fire Road. This path looks about the same twisting and turning uphill for a while. We’ve been to it multiple times because it is such a useful connector trail. Every time we’ve been on this path it has rained. Our luck remained! It did drizzle for a little.
Woodland Sunflower, or Helianthus strumosus, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms August to September. A native wildflower, it grows throughout eastern North America. This flower favors woods, thickets, and clearings.
In Shenandoah, you can find Woodland Sunflowers near parking areas, meadows, along Skyline Drive, and in open, sunny areas in the forest.
Tall Bellflower, or Campanulastrum americanum, is a member of the Bellflower family (Campanulaceae) and blooms June to August. It enjoys rich moist thickets and woods. It is native and grows in eastern and central North America, but not east of New York state.
There were many of these growing along the Whiteoak Fire Road. I’ve seen them before on Snead Farm loop trail as well.
Hog Peanut, or Amphicarpaea bracteata, is a member of the Pea family (Fabaceae) and blooms August to September. A native plant, it grows throughout eastern and central North America.
The genus name Amphicarpaea means “fruit of both kinds.” The seeds of the upper fruit are inedible, but those from the underground fruit are edible when boiled. Hogs eat the underground fruit.
White Baneberry, Doll’s Eyes, or Actaea pachypoda, is a member of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and blooms May to June in rich woods and thickets. Here you see the white berries, but it also blossoms into a flower. Another native plant, it grows throughout eastern and central North America.
We walked along the Big Meadows Horse Trail and then crossed Skyline Drive at the Lower Hawksbill parking lot.
The AT is quite rocky in this area going north to Skyland and we saw Appalachian Bellflowers in several areas. Along the way we saw some rocks with columnar jointing – signs of ancient lava flows. The best place to see columnar jointing in Shenandoah National Park is at Compton Peak.
You can climb to a couple overlook viewpoints from the AT in this section. This is the view from Timber Hollow Overlook. There was a lovely meadow looking out to Shenandoah Valley with many Woodland Sunflowers, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Knapweed.
The day was getting very hot (in the 90s) as we made our way through the forest back to Skyland. Along the way we found a nice viewpoint and sat down to rest and bask in the breeze. We discovered that the AT comes out behind the Skyland horse stables – that’s why we couldn’t find it earlier!
It was an enjoyable loop trail with a variety of nature to observe – waterfalls, forest, wildflowers, mushrooms, ancient lava flows, and several viewpoints of Shenandoah Valley from the AT.