Continuing along Keyser Run Fire Road we saw some more sights.
Calico Aster, or Aster lateriflorus, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms August to October. A native wildflower, it grows throughout eastern and central North America. It favors fields and thickets. The name comes from the fact that the disk flowers in the center are first yellow and later turn purplish red, so that the flowers on one plant or even a single head can include both colors at the same time.
The fire road itself is not too interesting, but the forest scenery is nice and Keyser Run Fire Road does have one viewpoint.
The leaves just start to turn colors in Shenandoah at the end of September, and mid to late October is the best time to view fall foliage there.
Northern Red-bellied Snake
The Northern Red-bellied Snake, or Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata (yes, that is the scientific name, not a typo), is a harmless small woodland snake. Here you can see a baby one. It was very tiny and hanging out in the middle of the path. It’s good to watch where you step out in nature, not only for dangerous snakes, but to protect wildlife as well!
The Bolen Cemetery is located near the end of Keyser Run Fire Road and offers a poignant reminder of the people who used to live in the mountains that are now Shenandoah National Park.
The National Park Service writes:
“When the idea to create Shenandoah National Park crystallized in the late 1920s, people were living here. They were families with homes, livelihoods, churches, and schools. They planted their crops, raised their livestock, and planned their futures. By the time President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the park in 1936, most of these families were gone, moved out to the valley to the west and the foothills to the east. The Bolen family lived in the Keyser Run area for generations; many of their ancestors are buried in the family cemetery at the bottom of Keyser Run Fire Road. Bolen descendants maintain that cemetery still.”
Just after the cemetery, you turn left and go downhill for about 10 minutes to reach the parking lot. Now, can you see why this loop trail is one of my favorites in Shenandoah National Park? There is so much variety and beauty in this 9-mile hike.