North River Gorge by Sarah, Jamie & diana

The North River Gorge is an absolutely beautiful corner of the George Washington National Forest. Starting at Wild Oak Parking Lot near Stokesville, we hiked a mile on the Wild Oak Trail to the swinging bridge across the North River where the 4 1/2-mile North River Gorge Trail begins. Activities that take place along this trail include: hiking, horseback riding, and camping. From the green leaves of summer, to the colorful fall foliage, the North River Gorge is breathtaking during all seasons.

The river is eligible to be designated as a National Scenic River and is part of the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Proposal, which covers 90,000 acres of the Shenandoah Mountain. We partnered with Friends of Shenandoah Mountain to work towards the goal of preserving the North River Gorge. (http://www.friendsofshenandoahmountain.org)

One of the signs along the Wild Oak Trial pointing us in the right direction. *Photo credits: Sarah Longenecker

The Wild Oak Trail is marked with both white paint on trees and purple blaze tags. There are also several signs set up along the path to point you in the right direction. Its hard to get physically lost along the trail, but it's ever so easy to let your mind get lost in the wonder of this place!

A tree marked with white paint. *Photo credit: Sarah Longenecker
Map of the North River Area, including the North River Campground and Lookout Mountain!
Some hikers enjoying the serenity of the Wild Oak Trail. *Photo credits: Diana Mendoza (top left) & Sarah Longenecker (bottom left and right).
The late September view of the trail down to the river. *Photo credits: Diana Mendoza
The beautiful colors of the fall foliage along the trail down to the river. *Photo credits: Jamie Sumnick (top right & bottom left) & Sarah Longenecker (top left and middle & bottom right).

As we were hiking, we came across many different fall colors and various species of ferns growing in the forest. In late September, the forest is lush with greenery and some plants are even starting to change colors! When we returned in mid-October, a rainbow of foliage greeted us, and we were delighted!

Christmas Fern (left), Ostrich Fern (top right), Intermediate Wood Fern (bottom right). *Photo credits: Jamie Sumnick (left) & Sarah Longenecker (top and bottom right)
Different species of fungi growing along the hiking trail, including the Chicken of the Woods (bottom left). *Photo credits: Jamie Sumnick (top left & right) & Diana Mendoza (bottom left).
We found this little snail hiding under a rock along the hiking path. *Photo credit: Jamie Sumnick
Exoskeleton of a Spotted Orbweaver Spider. *Photo credit: Sarah Longenecker

The Spotted Orbweaver Spider is considered a toxic spider, although the venom is not strong enough to be harmful to humans. These spiders can range greatly in color and size, though most are an orange and brown color. They have a distinct "orb"-like body and the shape of a cross on its belly. Orbweavers usually mate in the fall and the female usually attaches the eggs to the underside of a leaf. Both sexes will die shortly after mating, which explains why we found this exoskeleton of the orb weaver. (http://animals.mom.me/orb-weaver-spiders-4266.html)

Spring Peeper Frog & its habitat. *Photo credits: Sarah Longenecker

The Spring Peeper Frog enjoys living in wooded wetlands of eastern Canada and the United States. It's no wonder we found this guy in the George Washington National Forest on our way to the river! Though normally spring peepers are found on warm spring nights (as their name implies), these frogs can actually survive being frozen! This frog can produce its own "antifreeze", which protects the vital organs as 70% of the frog's body freezes. Once the body thaws, the frog goes through a period of healing and then gets on its way! (http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2016/03/21/facts-about-spring-peepers/)

Photo credits: Jamie Sumnick
The iconic swinging bridge over the North River. *Photo credits: Jamie Sumnick

*Video credit: Diana Mendoza

If you keep going over the bridge another half mile up Wild Oak Trail to a clifftop overlook, you will get to enjoy the splendor of Lookout Mountain!

Photo credit: Sarah Longenecker

The North River Gorge is a gorgeous place to go hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and camping. As an Eligible National Scenic River, and part of the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Proposal, we aim to help preserve this place so it will remain as beautiful and scenic as it is today.

For more information about Friends of Shenandoah Mountain and the Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area Proposal, visit the website below! http://www.friendsofshenandoahmountain.org

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