Saturday, August 31, 2013

Walking Stuart's Hill Trail

While in Manassas this past week we drove by the Bull Run National Battlefield park headquarters off route 29 and I remembered that I wanted to try a new trail for a walk sometime while visiting. It was middle of the heat time so we went on home and rested and got refreshed with some cold water and a brief nap. Then I hopped back in the car and drove to the head of the Stuart's Signal Hill Trail for a hike. Camera in my bag and a bottle of ice water and I was ready for an adventure. I grew up around the monuments and markers of the battles of Manassas one and two but this is located in an entirely new section of the park. First look at the parking lot and there were only 3 vehicles there so not many visitors in this area. Turns out it was the day after the anniversary of the day that was so important to this trail 1863 Aug. 28th they sent signals from the hill top to Stonewall Jackson from General Lee. I wasn't very interested in the battles but the nature that is preserved because of it is a delight. This summer the rains have been many and the heat has been unusually low which has allowed some very green grasses to sprout in what is normally a dry dusty forest floor. It was so refreshing to see. The sky was magnificent as I walked out of the woods through a field of shoulder high grasses. There I caught sight of the first wild turkey I have seen in the area. It was way at the other side of the field on the trail cut out of the tall grass. I had just seen two turkey vultures in a field by the road on my way to this trail and wondered at first if it was a vulture. It didn't fly away it ran into the grass after I got one fuzzy photograph. I had to come home to see it blown up if it was really a turkey. Then when I got to the end of the field I found a small turkey feather laying on the trail where I had seen the bird! Clearly a molting turkey was what I saw... and there were other turkey feathers along the same stretch of the trail. Then back into the woods and on to a stream where there were white tail deer. They took off before I got my camera up and ready. Then a ground hog on another stretch of field and several birds including a hawk. Wild flowers I have never seen before and some I like that were in full bloom that we all know like thistle. Three mile walk and done in about hour and fifteen minutes stopping along the way to catch these photographs. It is an easy trail to walk and has a few hills and lots of red cedar forest and open fields to visit, also several ruins of plantation homes that were part of the battle and it's aftermath. I enjoyed this walk for the green and the seeming health of the woodlands. Other trails have massive damage to the old trees from a storm or two that passed years ago and that for me is always distressing to see. I will be going on this walk again.
So here are my pictures of the Stuart's Hill Walking Trail.

view across Brawner house from signal hill

Stuart's Signal Hill trail has several options. 

entering the woods from the top of signal hill. 

Turkey on the trail. 

Turkey on the trail across the field. (blown up)
Looking back across the field from the turkey's location...
a striped beige moth posed for a portrait in the tall grass field
wildflower in the field grass I have never seen

this wildflower was about a foot tall and the flowers the size of a quarter 

lovely lichen on a stressed red cedar 

Sun lighting the way into another forest

small foot bridges cross several streams on the trail

mushrooms growing on the dirt trail in the forest 

here you can see where the moisture has sprouted green grass in the forest 

dry creek bed must have seen water recently to grow that grass

my favorite tiny ferns are common in the woods
it was here that I saw the little brown furry ground hog eating grass on the trial
When I got to the end of the trail at the Lewis house site I could hear the traffic from Route 66, a six lane highway that passes by this part of the fields, in the distance. I also saw a second turkey at the trails end which took off running. I pointed my camera but it was a lot closer to me than the previous turkey before it noticed I was there. Maybe that traffic noise gave me cover to get so close. Both the turkey's seemed to be alone which made me wonder if they were nesting this late in the summer. They lay their eggs in loose nests built in tall grass which was plentiful in this part of the park.
signs of former farm in the field 


heading back the sun through the trees was beautiful

notice how clear the trails are?

golden grasses shown on the way back 
If you go to the park be sure to stop in the main visitor's center on Sudley Road to pay for a park visitor's pass and get your trail map. This trail is a several miles from the main visitors center & the Stonewall Jackson Statue. It's closer to Gainesville than Manassas. Like my Mom says it's great to see so much of the farm land is still there when you travel around the area after years of 50 years of development, bigger roads, more houses, people, endless shopping centers, gas stations, trucks and cars, etc... Nature is still there. Take some time to enjoy it any chance you can and help keep our parks open to all and in good repair. We all need open grassy fields and green forests.

1 comment:

Linda F. said...

Great pictures as usual Frederick. I don't envy you the weather you did it in though. Hoping for autumn soon and what pictures you will take then!