|Wildflower at Hog's Wallow overlook.|
On the last day of August Herb and I took David and his girl for a drive along Skyline Drive to celebrate the holiday weekend. Native wildflowers abound on Skyline, but we had not visited the park this late in summer before, and it was fun to see so many colorful wildflowers everywhere-- in banks along the road, and masses in the open spaces. We stopped at some of the many scenic overlooks to catalog the flowers as we watched a summer storm building up across the valley.
Reaching Hog's Wallow overlook (around 3,000 ft. elevation) we could see an expanse of wild sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) growing side by side with Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.) and black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta.), with boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and white and lavender asters at the shadier edges of the forest.
|Red clover and wild phlox with Goldenrod in back.|
At other overlooks we found wild phlox, red clover, queen anne's lace, knapweed (Centaurea), milkweed (Asclepsias syriaca) and tall goldenrod about to bloom. A stray monarch butterfly visited the milkweed and David managed to get a photo, but the butterfly spooked before I could get shot of it. We stopped at Hemlock Springs to see if any orchid seed pods could be spotted, an impossible task as the banks were overgrown with many other lovely flowers, some of which I had not seen before. Among these the most unusual was the Turtlehead (Chelonia glabra), forming dense mounds about 3 and a half foot high. Clumps of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) with boneset and Joe Pye weed completed the artistic arrangement.
|Turtlehead and jewelweed with boneset and Joe Pye weed in back.|
|Close up of Chelonia flowers.|
|Jewelweed, sunflowers and boneset.|
We drove south as far as Skyland, one of the two hotels in the park. The cool breezes at this elevation were a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of the valley, signalling the thunderstorm was rapidly approaching. .
|David and Lili at an overlook.|
After a short break we started our drive back and not a moment too soon--tiny drops of rain soon built up to a nice summer shower. The brunt of the storm, which passed over the ridge just to our north, seemed to miss us. After the rain passed we stopped at a couple of overlooks to take in the dramatic views to the east. We could hear the distant rumble of thunder and saw a few flashes of lightning. Plumes of cloud rose from the folds of the hills.
When we got home I was happy to see our rain gauge showed that we'd received a half inch here in Front Royal--thank you, Mother Nature, for watering my garden!