In our attempt to go to all the trails available in Shenandoah National Park within 2-hour driving distance, we did a nearly 8-mile shuttle hike down Hull School Trail and Thornton River Lower Trail and back up to Skyline Drive. You start at the parking lot just beyond Beahms Gap.
The trail itself is somewhat wide and bland on its own, but the area does have some interesting history.
Beahms Gap (a gap is the lower area between two mountains) used to have a road that was used by farmers to transport goods across the mountain. Part of this road is now called Hull School Trail. The school was located at the intersection of Hull School and Thornton River trails, but you cannot see anything left today.
Here are some of the lovely spring wildflowers we encountered on Hull School Trail:
Gill-over-the-ground, Ground Ivy, Haymaids, Creeping Charlie or Glechoma hederacea, is a member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) and blooms March to July. A plant that is often considered to be a weed, it was introduced from Europe and now grows throughout North America, besides some desert areas in the southwest. It grows in moist, shaded, or sunny areas, as well as by roadsides and in lawns.
The name “Gill” comes from the French word guiller, “to ferment”, because the leaved used to be used to help ferment or flavor beer!
Yellow Corydalis, Yellow Fumitory, or Corydalis lutea/Pseudofumaria lutea, is a member of the Poppy Family (Papaveraceae) and blooms April to September. It is a non-native plant introduced from Europe. They seem to often be used in gardens.
Spicebush, Northern Spicebush, Wild Allspice, or Lindera benzoin, is a member of the Laurel Family (Lauraceae) and blooms dense clusters of little yellow flowers from March to April. Later, it bears shiny red berries. A native plant, it grows throughout eastern and central North America, favoring swamps and woods. Its leaves and twigs can make a tea and its dried powdered fruit can be used as a spice.
There were a lot of Spicebush plants all along Hull School Trail.
Thornton River Lower Trail was home to Thornton Hollow – an area where many families settled in the years before Shenandoah National Park was established. You can see the remnants of their stone houses and walls along the trail. The scenery – piles of stones on one side in the forest and a river on the other – reminded us of Nicholson Hollow Trail.
We found the following flowers along Thornton River Trail:
Rue Anemone, Windflower, or Thalictrum thalictroides, is a member of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaeae) and blooms March to May. A native plant, it grows throughout eastern and central North America.
At first I thought it could be a Wood Anemone, but it has a couple features that distinguish it as Rue Anemone. First is the rounded leaves. Wood Anemone have pointed leaves. Second is that Rue Anemone have 2 or 3 flowers as opposed to a single flower on a Wood Anemone.
Marsh Marigold, Cowslip, or Caltha palustris, is a member of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae) and blooms April to June. A native wildflower, it grows on the west coast and throughout northeastern America, as well as all throughout Canada. It favors marshes, wet meadows, and areas beside streams. They resemble a large buttercup. The leaves can only be eaten if they are repeatedly cooked.
Spring Beauty, or Claytonia virginica, is a member of the Purslane Family (Portulacaceae) and blooms March to May. It grows throughout eastern and central North America in moist woods, thickets, clearings, and lawns. Interestingly, this pretty little flower grows up from a tuber underground that’s like a small potato. Native Americans and colonists used the sweet, chestnut-flavored tubers for food.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from these new trails, and just thought it would be a matter of filling out our map of traversed trails. Well, I was proved wrong! I think no matter where you go in Shenandoah National Park there is always lovely nature to observe and history to learn about.