Escape the City, Summer Heat and Bad News: Visit Shenandoah


A rainbow after an afternoon storm over the Big Meadows Campground in Shenandoah National Park: Glynn Wilson

The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson

SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, Va. – It’s cool in the mountains this Sunday morning at first light.

The birds are singing and the does and fawns are starting to move around.

A few drops of water are still dripping down on the canopy from the trees, remnants of last night’s summer rain showers.

The through hikers taking a break from the Appalachian Trail are still snoring gently in their hanging hammocks in the trees across the way, like bats in a cave.

No one else is moving around as we ease out of the camper van with the first cup of coffee and get a morning fire going with what’s left of the cedar, waste from the new restroom roof in the old section of Big Meadows Campground.

The news hounds are beginning to chatter away on public radio, talking about all the big news of the week out of Washington, D.C.

The conservatives are all up in arms again, raising the Confederate flag apparently unsympathetic to church shootings in South Carolina and surprised to the point of shock that the majority Republican Supreme Court would uphold the legality of Obamacare and same sex marriage.

Ted Cruz of Texas is trying to fire up what’s left of the right-wing white male base to get behind his hopeless run for president.

But the viral video of the week was President Barack Obama singing a stanza of Amazing Grace a cappella at a memorial service for the black reverend gunned down by the racist nut in South Carolina. How can the so-called Christians on the political right dismiss that?

Will we never learn to live and let live, to treat each other with respect?

I suppose without an Internet connection, a radio or TV all that would be easy to ignore camping in the woods. But that’s no way to live. Even on hiatus from urban life, the ability to communicate is critical.

Yet in the absence of anyone paying me the big bucks to cover all that big news in person, I can concentrate on my study of the wildlife and way of life in Shenandoah.

After watching and photographing the great peregrine falcons this past week, I finally got two key shots I’ve been trying to get for the past six weeks. Driving slow along Skyline Drive, I saw two black bears and managed to get some shots of one in good sunlight.

A black bear along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia: Glynn Wilson

A black bear along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia: Glynn Wilson

Then, one night this week, one of the barred owls that has been hunting mice right behind my campsite every night decided to show himself. I was not able to photograph its face, but this is what it looked like from behind.

A barred own hunting mice in the Big Meadows Campground: Glynn Wilson

A barred own hunting mice in the Big Meadows Campground: Glynn Wilson

I am still collecting photographs of the smaller birds in the mountains for a photo essay I will call the birds of Shenandoah.

I am planning to go out in the park for a couple of days with the science rangers who are studying the invasive species making a negative impact on the ecosystem here.

At some point later in the summer I will make it back into the nation’s capital for more big political news when the opportunity arises.

But for now it is time to put on another pot of coffee, take Jefferson for a walk, and then cook a big Sunday breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese, cheese grits, sausage and an English muffin with blackberry jam.

If you have never visited Shenandoah, you really should get out of the city and the summer heat and drive up into the mountains and camp for a night or two. You will be glad you did. A national park is a truly special place.

© 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.