All week, I had big plans for this past Friday. I was going to go solo backpacking, just for one night, in a part of Shenandoah National Park that I had never hiked in. That always feels a little adventurous! But after my hike last Saturday to Corbin Cabin on the Nicholson Hollow Trail, the back of my left knee hurt quite a bit. And all week, it never relented, so while I was going through my trip preparation and mapping out a route, I started having this nagging doubt about actually being up to doing the trip. And by Wednesday, I knew that it was not a good idea. But I still had Friday off, and it still looked like a gorgeous day. So I decided to try a much shorter, flatter hike without carrying a 35 pound pack.
I choose Cumberland Marsh Natural Area. which is less than an hours drive for me. Maybe I would see some wildlife: a box turtle, a turkey, a deer. Well none of those, but I found plenty of deer flies right from the start. They swarmed all over me. I killed two that bit me before I had hiked 100 feet and 1,000 more showed up for their funeral. Dozens of dragonflies swarmed around me, I assume eating deer flies. After less than a half mile of walking, I entered the forest and the deerflies were mostly gone. I got to see them again on the hike out. I must have killed 30 or so and been bitten at least 20 times. And in the woods I got bitten by a deer tick, which are tiny and carry Lyme disease. I also had 3-4 of the bigger dog ticks crawling up my pants leg. Ticks are like my least favorite animal. So while I enjoyed the hike, and the knee pain was okay, I would go back to Dutch Gap before I would hike back here. It has wider and less shrubby trails, better views, and more wildlife.
I walked about 4.3 miles, enjoyed a gorgeous fall-like spring day, and communed with nature for a couple of hours. I could have done without the ticks and the flies, though. Here are a few photos.
My route, starting and ending at the pink arrow, and going counterclockwise for the loop section. The natural area is on the southern bank of the Pamunkey River.
View across the wetlands from a boardwalk at the start of the hike. The scent of honeysuckle was intoxicating!
I think that this is an iris of some kind.
Forested trail, and ferns along the trail.
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