Wednesday September 2 and Thursday September 3, 2015 Most Recent Post:
Big Meadows Campground A Visit From a Friend I’ve Never Met
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
The clouds are on the mountain this morning when I go up to meet Sharon, (the friend I met for the first time yesterday-see link above) for a short hike up to the Black Rock Summit behind the lodge. They claim it is 2/10th of a mile but it is nowhere near that long. It is a good view out though and would be excellent for sunset.
The views are actually a bit better than they look in these pictures but it isn’t a crystal clear blue sky day yet. Still, we are here, we take pictures.
This one shows the roof of the Big Meadows Lodge and the mountains in the distance.
I sit here Sharon sits behind me while we spend some time chatting and just enjoying being the only folks out here.
In time, we walk down from the lodge to the Story of the Forest Trail which goes by the campground and then to the Visitor’s center. You can see the golden colors of fall beginning in both our pictures from the top of Black Rocks and here on the trail.
Looks like this swallowtail has had a rough summer.
First we see the excellent film on the CCC in Shenandoah. Then we walk through the wonderful exhibits and history of the visitor center and I find a special trail marker showing the mileage on the AT South to Springer(902) and North to Katahdin (1285) from Big Meadows. Finally we see the short film about the people whose lives were altered irrevocably to enable the park to be created. It’s called The Gift.
Outside the bees are buzzing in the native plants garden outside the restrooms.
We walk back to Winnona across the rock bridge and through the campground. On the way I spot a butterfly that looks a lot like an Orange Sulfur except the two largest markings on the wings are not quite the same. Otherwise the color and the wing edges are identical.
We spend the rest of the afternoon reading under the awning. It’s an easy comfortable friendship. It doesn’t require that we be interacting all the time.
David has gone to the Cancer Center today and hasn’t come back by the time we are hungry for some home made soup and bread. No pictures of the food of course and none of the really major thunderstorm with loud thunder and lightning so close you couldn’t count to one. The bolts in the sky were shockingly close. We really got dumped on. Looking outside the door, there is a lake on our patio. It’s the most powerful storm I’ve been in all summer.
Today is Sharon’s last day here. She wisely came on a Monday and wants to get back to Knoxville on Friday before the Labor Day group gets on the road. So she will leave early tomorrow morning.
To give her a taste of my AT quest we take two cars up for a one way trip to finish my last section of the AT in both the North and Central sections of the park.
Sharon says she wouldn’t want to thru hike the AT but would like to hike at least 5 miles in every state it goes through. I think she’s already done that in Virginia but these will be different miles. David joins us today.
Sharon may worry about meeting a bear on the trail but she has got bear karma. On the drive to the trail head we spot one rather thin black bear crossing the road. I’m driving and my camera is in the back seat of course. Then a little further on, too far ahead of us for pictures, we spot a mother bear and two cubs also crossing the road. I wonder if these are the only bears we’ll see all day. But I certainly shouldn’t complain, I’ve lost track of the total bear count for the summer. That idea makes me smile. And I do have bear karma Sharon with me today.
We haven’t walked a hundred yards on the trail when I spy this interesting lavenderish mushroom under a log.
Like most of the hikes in Shenandoah, the AT goes up and down but unlike other hikes it is not always down first. This time it is pretty steeply up to a view overlooking the overlook on the drive. Hope that makes sense.
We come to the first junction and Sharon carefully checks out the directions.
There are two or three westward views. David stops to take in the second of them. He takes a lovely panorama from here but somehow his camera doesn’t stitch it together correctly and it seems to have a big square of blue right in the middle of the clouds.
David took this picture which I thought was pretty cute though I can’t remember what Sharon was looking at. Perhaps she thought she saw a bear. She is definitely on the look out. She would really rather not see one so close.
I am seriously enamored of these orange shelf mushrooms which look almost like a ruffle running at the foot of the tree and up the back.
As is also common on the AT, it crosses the drive at least once every few miles. Today it will cross four times.
At this intersection we turn off of the AT to visit the Gravel Springs AT Hut. Sharon lives in Knoxville and frequently drives into Great Smoky Mountain National Park to hike where she sees the huts on the AT there which have been recently redone. I doubt our simple shelters can compare.
We’re almost down to the hut when we pass this fellow sunning on a rock by the water. Sharon walks right past him and is surprised when David, behind her, points him out. I think he’s a northern water snake.
We look over at the shelter and find that it is being used. That’s pretty unusual for us to find since usually we are stopping for lunch at mid day and thru hikers are long gone or not yet arrived. But these two who go by the trail names of Grouse and Robin are eating their lunch here too. They are South Bound from Maine.
They are filtering the spring water into their bottles and packing up to leave as we sit down for lunch.
On our way back up to the AT the water snake has not moved and I get a close up of his snaky face.
We cross the road again at Gravel Springs Gap, head down the Browntown Road/Trail and then turn up onto the AT heading North.
Yesterday I spied these fruits with the shape and feel of grapes and had no idea what they were. I asked my readers but only Heyduke suggested I show pictures of the leaves. David finds them today and takes pictures of them. Both times they have been in the trail and after looking around, we cannot find where they came from or their leaves. They certainly are interesting though.
Today’s hike is a little bit longer than Monday’s at 6.36 miles but Sharon will be moving on past that mileage when she gets back to her Smokies. It was wonderful to have her here. She makes an excellent hiking companion.
Thanks David for these pictures of us at the end of my final segment of the AT for both the Northern and Central Sections of the park. I have 4 more hikes to go. All of them are way down South in the park. Thanks Sharon for being willing to be part of the quest. Wish there had been bears though I know you are glad there weren’t.
Now I wasn’t kidding when I said she had bear karma. She didn’t attract them on the trail, probably because she doesn’t want to see them that close, but on our way back to Big Meadows, I turn off the drive to take her through Mathew’s Arm campground so she will have seen 3 of the 4 campgrounds in the park. We start up one of the loops and there he is walking right through a campsite. I stop the car, roll down my window and get my camera going.
The bear is to the left of the car. With the car between Sharon and the bear, she actually gets out and takes some pictures from the passenger side.
He doesn’t care a bit. He looks at us a little and then goes on about his business. I’m not sure what his business was. He actually looked pretty sleepy. He was yawning at one point. With bear boxes at each campsite and every cabin, there is pretty much never any food left around so I doubt he came expecting that. Perhaps he’s just wandering through.
I think these are the best pictures I have gotten of any of the bears we’ve seen.
Isn’t he glorious???
I know, too many bear pictures. But he was so fabulous.
He can’t decide what to think about us in that big red car I guess so he turns around to leave.
Just one more look back. We of course haven’t moved since we stopped to enjoy him.
And then he walks away. Boy he made my day. Thanks Sharon, your karma is still in tact.
One funny note. Most of you know that David gave up his blue hiking pole in favor of a longer stick we found in the park. He’s putting a finish on it and has a Shenandoah National Park medallion on it now. So you can imagine how unhappy he would be if he lost it.
Well he set it up on the kayak rack while he changed out of his hiking boots as we were leaving to come back. He forgot it, I never saw it, but it rode all the way back, including around Mathew’s Arm campground on the roof rack a total of over 35 miles.
Later this evening, after a shower and some dinner, we walk up to the lodge to say good bye to Sharon who is leaving early in the morning for home as are we to go down to Charlottesville for an 8am appointment with a second opinion cardiologist.
I want to take these pictures of her room which is right off the main lodge balcony.
She has room number 5. There is only one room beyond her. She says it has been very quiet and she likes her room very much. I’m so glad to hear that after Carrie’s experience when she and Matthew stayed at the lodge.
The only problem about which she says she doesn’t really care, is that the maid service is bizarre. Today they didn’t even make the bed. One day they made the bed and left the used towels hanging around even though they left new ones.
In any case she has a cute little fireplace and twin beds. The lodge was built in 1939 with stones from nearby Massanutten Mountain and has Native Chestnut wood paneling throughout. We swoon over the chestnut walls in her room.
No pictures of the final good bye hugs.
Besides it isn’t good bye, it’s see you later, ‘til next time!