Friday, June 19, 2009

Day Trippin' Part Two

"...With the smell of the woods, and the wind in the trees, they will forget the rush and strain of all the other long weeks of the year, and for a short time at least, the days will be good for their hearts and for their souls."
-President Franklin Roosevelt speaking about vacationers to the national parks in his
speech at Shenandoah National Park's dedication, July 3, 1936

The second part of our day trip was fabulous. We were greeted with dozens of Barn Swallows swooping high and low and zig zagging dangerously close to the road as we turned into the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park. You know it's a good sign when birds you hardly ever get a glance at in every day life are welcoming you. I was like a kid in a candy store. I spotted the nest of Barn Swallows as soon as we pulled up to the toll station. The ranger told us they nest there every year and perform their aerobatic maneuvers over cars and buses alike. I took a photo of some babies in the nest - these guys looked like they were ready to move out any day now.

From the moment we started driving down Skyline Drive I was mesmerized, enthralled and grateful. The scenery was majestic. Peaks and valleys, trees and flowers and wildlife at every turn. I pulled off at the very first observation area and the girls and I got out and filled our lungs with fresh clean air. Atop a tree in the distance sat a beautiful male Indigo Bunting. The prettiest blue you'd ever want to see. On occasion I will see an Indigo Bunting in the yard and it's a really exciting moment for me, but that usually happens once or if I am lucky, twice a year. He flew off before I could capture his beauty forever with my camera but take my word when I say he was breath taking.

The euphoria I was feeling as we drove down the meandering mountain road was so inspiring. God's earth when it is in this untouched state is amazing. It was a privilege to be there and it was highly spiritual. The girls felt it too and they sat with anticipation ready for whatever beauty was around the next bend.

We headed to Big Meadows where there was a restaurant and gas station. The field across from the restaurant was huge and open, only grasses, wild flowers and berries for acres. There were several families of deer that were in the field and the joy of seeing a brand new little fawn leaping about on awkward legs was entertaining. Ellie and Emma really loved seeing the babies. They were 'oooing and ahhhing' over their cuteness, which made me sigh in delight. They are loving this nature adventure. I am so glad they have inherited my love and appreciation for the environment.

After a hearty dinner we continued south down Skyline Drive on toward Charlottesville. We spotted more deer and a wild turkey and I was catching quick sightings of an array of birds I have never seen. Lifers, as true birders would say. I saw a Redstart and at least two birds from the Warbler family that I haven't ever seen before. I don't know which ones they were but trust me, they were new for me. I could have stood for hours seeking out birds with my binoculars but I know that's more of a solitary experience that the girls were not able to fully appreciate so I only took a few minutes here and there scanning for them. I have made a mental note that I need to go back with Steve and spend some real quality time hiking on a trail looking for birds. What a day that will be.

Along with the deer, turkey and birds we spotted a skunk that looked very strange to me. I am a New England girl born and raised and our skunks are black and white. You know, like Pepe Le Pew. This skunk was mostly black with just a hint of white. I have a blurry photo of him but take a gander at his weird markings.

The big thrill of the entire day for all of us was the big Black bear that was in the road as we came around a corner. We turned the bend and there he was lobbing across the road. He stopped to look at us and we all said something that none of us should probably say out loud. As I reached behind me for the camera he decided to continue on down into the woods. He was gone in a flash and we were too scared to get out to investigate. I know they are more afraid of us then we are of them but still, he was a big boy (or girl). Wow. That was so exciting and the first time any of us saw a bear in his natural habitat.
The drive was long due to all our stoppings along the way but 5 hours later we made it to the end of the park. We headed to Grandma's house to drop off Emma for a few days. It was late and well after midnight before Ellie and I arrived home but it was a day trip for the record books and one we will recall with fondness for many years.

My sweet girls enjoying the beauty of nature.