This weekend we went hiking on one of our favorite loop trails in Shenandoah National Park. The loop is 9.4 miles. We have done this hike three times – last August, in February, and now in September.
The hike starts from the Buck Ridge Trailhead parking lot just outside Sperryville, VA. You walk down a connector trail for 0.2 miles that passes over Thornton River. At this time of year the water flows are relatively low. When we hiked here back in February the water was not only high, but the stones were also icy. The conditions looked so bad at the time that we tried to find another place to cross the river, but that didn’t work out. We ended up crossing at the usual point.
Before the river crossing is a small meadow with lots of wildflowers. At this time of year we saw Fall Phlox, Bouncing Bet, and Woodland Sunflowers.
Bouncing Bet, Soapwort, or Saponaria officinalis, is a member of the Pink family (Caryophyllaceae) and blooms from June to September. Introduced from Europe, it can be found throughout North America. This flower favors roadsides and disturbed areas. Soapwort’s crushed foliage can create a soapy froth when agitated in water because the plant contains saponin. “Bouncing Bet” is an old-fashioned nickname for a washerwoman.
Fall Phlox, Garden Phlox, or Phlox paniculata, is a member of the Phlox family (Polemoniaceae) and blooms July to October. It can be found in the eastern and central United States in open woods and thickets. They bloom white to pink, or lavender. I loved this one that was purple with a pink circle rimming the inside.
Soon after crossing the river you come to a cement post. The first time we hiked here we met a group of Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) volunteers doing maintenance work near the post and they recommended hiking up Buck Ridge first and coming down Buck Hollow due to their respective inclines/declines. Each time we’ve hiked here, we’ve followed their advice.
Turning right onto Buck Ridge Trail, you soon meet a steep incline.
The strenuous climb lasts for about 20 minutes. The upside (besides a good workout) – the forest in this area is beautiful! The trees are tall, evenly sized, and have a lot of open air between them.
The Ornate-stalked Bolete, or Reiboletus ornatipes, is a member of the Boletaceae family of fungi. It grows under hardwoods in eastern North America.