George Washington National Forest: Veach Gap Trail Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Near the top of the mountain we walked along a rocky ridge with sparser trees.

In one area the trees had clearly been struck by lightning. This stark tree stood out.

You can see that the lightning didn’t obliterate the tree, or burn it down, but went down the cracks in the bark. Perhaps it was conducted down this way because the water from the rain had concentrated in the cracks.

There were several trees like this. It was interesting to see and we took a bunch of pictures of it.

Broomsedge

Broomsedge, Broomstraw, Sedge Grass, Sage Grass, or Andropogon virginicus, is a member of the Grass family (Poaceae). A native plant, it grows mostly throughout the eastern and central United States in old fields, pastures, clearings, and along roadsides.

It looked distinctive, and I thought I could find it easily in my research, but this is not one of the grasses included in the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers Eastern Region that I usually use to identify flowers and plants. I found out what it was by asking on the Capital Naturalist Facebook page. Alonso Abugattas Jr., who runs the page, as well as other members, are always so helpful.

Shenandoah Valley

Looking East from the top of the ridge there are three viewpoints, including one at a large campsite, with a great vista of Page Valley. Shenandoah National Park (SNP) is in the distance. Almost directly across from this point is the start of the North District of SNP and Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. For the longest time I thought that this was called Shenandoah Valley. Actually, you can call it Shenandoah Valley, but Shenandoah Valley covers a larger geologic and cultural area, including several smaller valleys.

Shenandoah River

You can also see the snaking South Fork of the Shenandoah River from the viewpoint. The South Fork winds through Page Valley and the North Fork winding through Shenandoah Valley, with the two converging just above Front Royal, VA to form the Main Stem.  The Shenandoah River goes on to meet the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, WV. If you’re interested to learn about why the river has this distinctive meandering shape, I’d recommend reading this page from NASA.

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Veach Gap Trail was not too strenuous, but enough of a hike to get good exercise, and had gorgeous views at the top. On that warm fall day there were a lot of visitors, and I can see why. Even though there were many people, there are a few viewpoint spots at the top, providing enough space for plenty of people to enjoy the view. It’s a great option for anyone in the area looking for a good day hike.

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