The book is “Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park“; it has merely 101 pages (mine is the second edition, published in 2002).
It’s taken me 10 years to finish it.
How so? Because I hiked it.
Actually, I did not set out to “finish the book”. In fact, I hiked many trails not listed in the book, and many hikes in the book I have taken more than once (for example, I have been to Mary’s Rock no fewer than 4 times, and White Oak Canyon 3 times). In all, I have hiked in Shenandoah National Park 39 times.
But enough with “been” counting.
My first hike was to Mary’s Rock, back on April 13, 2003, and that was when I stepped on the AT (Appalachian Trail) for the first time. This was the picture I took on that day of the AT sign post:
A storm front was coming today, but my spirit was unfazed. Indeed I was excited as I had not been to Shenandoah for over 2 months. All kinds of flowers were blooming at this time of the year, such as these Wild Columbine:
The nectar from the wildflowers provided high energy food for insects, and the beautiful Tiger Swallowtails were everywhere:
The ample moisture nourished all kinds of plants, including mushrooms and fungi. I saw many different types of fungi on the forest floor, many of which I could not identify. I just call these “tube fungi”. They are incredibly colorful and delicate, although I suspect they are probably highly poisonous.
And how can you talk about the Appalachians without mentioning the ever-active, colorful and melodious warblers? This Ovenbird and this Hooded Warbler were among the ones I saw today (the other frequently seen warbler is the American Redstart).
I took 3 short hikes today — Loft Mountain Loop, Ivy Creek and Powell Gap, totaling about 7 miles, thus rounding up the hikes in the little book. Of course, as I said, my goal has never been to “finish” the book; my goal was to enjoy nature and get some exercise at the same time. Having seen wildflowers, butterflies and warblers, and knocked my knee onto a rock, I guess I can say I’ve accomplished my mission.
In the late afternoon, the thunderclouds finally rolled in from the west and it started to rain. When the rain hit the sun-heated soil, fog rose from the wooded sea. Clouds, fog … there is a blue haze in the air. This is what gives the Blue Ridge Mountains its name, I suppose.