George Washington National Forest: Veach Gap Trail Part 1

In late October we went hiking on Veach Gap Trail in George Washington National Forest. The shuttle hike to the summit with the beautiful views and two campsites is 3.5 miles each way, or 7 miles round. However, we went a bit beyond that point to fill a gap in our trail log, hiking about 8 miles.

There were a few wildflowers growing near the parking lot, but we didn’t see any more on the trail. Sadly, it’s now that time of year when wildflowers become rare.

Goldenrod

I think that this is Sweet Goldenrod, Anise-scented Goldenrod, or Solidago odora, a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae). It favors dry fields and open woods. A native wildflower, it grows in eastern and south-central North America. The crushed leaves of Sweet Goldenrod give off a anise scent. A tea can be brewed from its leaves and dried flowers.

I struggled identifying it, though. Sweet Goldenrods normally bloom July to September. It is also possible this is Canada Goldenrod / Tall Goldenrod, but those usually have serrated leaves. This one didn’t. Canada Goldenrods bloom August to November, so the timing would make more sense. Still, it’s possible that it’s just a late blooming Sweet Goldenrod. I’ve found on multiple occasions that my Audubon Society wildflower book can be slightly off on timing.

Frost Aster

Frost Aster, White Heath Aster, Hairy White Oldfield Aster, or Symphyotrichum pilosum, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms September to October. A native plant, it grows mostly throughout eastern and central North America.

What helped me identify it was the white color, leaves both long and small (and slightly hairy near the stem), and a hairy stem.

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It was a crisp autumn morning, and the freshly fallen leaves crunched under our feet as we made our way along the trail.

There were still colorful leaves on the trees, making for lovely fall scenery.

We came upon this plant on our path.

Eastern Bottlebrush Grass

Eastern Bottlebursh Grass, or Elymus hystrix, is a member of the Grass family (Poaceae). They flower June to August, and are normally green, but you can see they dry out to a beige color in fall. A native plant, Eastern Bottlebrush Grass grows throughout eastern and central North America.

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The trail itself is not tough, with an elevation gain of about 1,000 ft over 3.5 miles to the summit, much of which is a relatively flat ridge trail. About 1.5 miles in you pass by a campsite next to an almost dried-out stream. It might be a good place to camp after there’s been rain.

Closer to the summit, after passing through a valley, the trail became steeper.

Climbing up, we got a lovely autumnal view of Fort Valley and Massanutten Mountain.

Continue to Part 2

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