Friday, November 20, 2009

Nearly Thanksgiving Sightings

Along with this plump turkey and the flock which followed her across the road, Saturday was fat with animal sightings. The first sighting of the day was not far from these tasty afternoon delights, they were three coyotes which hopped up on the wall as I watched from the car. It was my first coyote sighting in Shenadoah, they are mostly nocturnal and relatively uncommon; exciting! Then the hikers of the day and I watched a mother bear and three cubs foraging, followed shortly by a ruffled grouse which flew off as we walked by. A weeks worth of sightings packed into one day. Wow!

A Red Eft Newt having a bite to eat trail side near "the Portal" in the south district.

A cold dragonfly warming his bright eyes in the morning.

A two inch long skull which must have belonged to a muskrat with a nice safe home next to the stream and under some large overhanging rocks.

The ridge of a mini Seneca Rocks like formation off of Brown Mtn. and the Shenandoah valley to the west.

The best way to see this great park, at 50mpg its not a bad way to commute either.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gift of the Fog

Like sight, sounds are muted in the fog. Even when the water level is up and pounds off the tops of Shenandoah's cliff bands it seems to somehow land softer. With rain gear we prepare to shield ourselves but find that our warm bodies keep our cotton dry, and the waterproofs remain packed. Then the sun breaks through and all the branches glisten. Sounds are amplified and we hear the crunch of the mother bear and her cub foraging on the not to distant slopes. The fog has taken away our senses and given them back. Now, we can see into the valley, but we are grateful for the whole process.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy and Sad Thoughts

I found myself wandering a narrow park boundary road in the gloom of the rain.
As I passed a broken cliff I noticed something hanging from the upper and most vertical reaches, and the memories flooded back. It was a gym class style rope hanging just low enough that a deft jump to the leaf covered ledge would put one mid-cliff. From the ledge a dangerous down-climb/slide looked to be the path of least resistance. No doubt, this had been the plan enacted by the same brilliant child (along with unsuspecting friends) who had stolen the rope from, well, wherever the rope was stolen from.
It has been nearly twenty years since my first backwoods Rappahannock County climbing experience, which so quickly came rushing to the present. I was filled with joy and pleasure as I reminisced on the similarities laid out before me. How high that little cliff stood, and how tall I felt on top, will never fade.
Yes, it's amazing I made it this far.

A short distance ahead I parked the car and entered private property.
You can't see it from the road but If there were a trail it would be under a minute hike through a picturesque canyon before arriving at the base of the falls. Shorter, in fact, than any of the park's hikes to falls. This is not in the park, there is no trail, just no trespassing signs, no scenic view points, no benches for contemplation. In fact, there is no evidence humans spend any time at this thirty foot falls at all, except for the trash. This beautiful place has not been preserved, situated just outside park boundary it is what all park land would now be had it not been preserved, and it stinks. It stinks because of the two rotting deer carcasses thrown off the road above. It stinks because no one enjoys this place, and because the the stream is clogged with beer cans, buckets, tires, and a 16 quart carrying can for 100 proof liquor.
It stinks, and it makes me love the park that much more.

I believe I grow a bit every time I go into the woods.
Every time I learn something new and wonder about something I don't know. Growth happens from hurting, healing, and laughing through it all. I doubt the big old tree pictured below knew what it would become when its roots were ripped from the ground and it fell to the forest floor. Today, three trees grow straight up from what was the side of the original fallen tree.
Today I might have grown up two, maybe three bits.

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