Friends told me that the Virginia Bluebells were at peak bloom along the Bluebell Trail in Shenandoah River State Park. I had to go see for myself.
The weather was perfect. Sunny skies and warm temperatures dominated the day. Both had been recent rarities in the Shenandoah Valley.
So, off I went, down what the Confederates called the Middle Road, to Timberville. From there, I took U.S. 211 east through New Market, up and across the Massanutten Mountain Range, and around the quaint town of Luray to U.S. 340.
A dozen miles later, I entered the park to find the empty entrance station. Due to staffing shortages, it’s an honor system to enter. You grab an envelope, place $10 in it, and deposit the fee into the slot. Hang the receipt from your rearview mirror, and you’re good to go.
And what a splendid day it was. First, I stopped at Cullers Overlook for a fantastic view of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, snaking its way north. Only a few more miles, and it converges with its twin, the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, at Front Royal. The majestic and historic Shenandoah River flows north to meet the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
As glorious as that view was, I didn’t linger long. I wanted to see the Bluebells. It was all downhill from there to the trailhead a half-mile away.
With camera and binoculars in hand, I eagerly set out on the mile-long trail. A swarm of insects greeted me only a few steps onto the earthen path. I had forgotten to pack the bug spray, so I raised my tolerance level and soldiered on.
Soon I began to pass folks who had a head start on me. They assured me that I couldn’t miss the lovely flowers as they headed to their vehicles. They were right.
Once the trail straightened out, patches large and small of Virginia Bluebells spread across the forest floor like a blue and green carpet. They even lined the riverbank much of the time.
I had an ample selection of flower photo ops. Since I also enjoy birds, calls from high above told me that warblers and other songbirds were foraging for insects among the emerging leaves.
The hungry little birds moved fast and furious, fueling up for their continued flight north. To my surprise, my attention focused on more obvious winged creatures.
Several butterflies flitted all around the trees and flowers in irregular patterns. I soon learned to stay still and let the beautiful insects come to me. Several were puddling on the path wear they found damp spots. They extracted nutrients from the moistened soil. A few stayed in place long enough for me to get a few decent shots.
Of course, I kept passing other hikers, and a few bikers who surprised me from behind. The butterflies flew but often returned within camera range.
I didn’t see as many birds as I had hoped, but I counted the trip a success. Communing intimately with nature tends to fill you with joy and appreciation. By the time I left, my cup overflowed
© Bruce Stambaugh 2022
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