When we reached the park and stopped to pay our fee we were told that this was National Park Week and that entrance fees had been wavered. This was a great week for families to get out and enjoy our National Parks. You can go here to see all the parks listed in the United States and here to see where they are located on a map.
There were several of these birds flying in and out from under the roof of the park's entrance. You may recognize them as Barn Swallows. I think I have that right but please correct me if I am wrong. They make their nests out of mud and straw and I could see several of them but I didn't get a photo of those. Click here if you want to learn more about them.
As we were driving along we came across a bit of a traffic jam. If you read my last post here you'll know that people had spotted a young black bear up in the treetops.
Shenandoah National Park is recorded as having one of the highest per capita black bear populations in the United States. Estimates range from 300 to 500 black bears living in this particular park. Black bears are the largest of over 50 species of mammals in the park, the smallest mammals being shrews. You can find out more if you click here.
This is the roof of the visitors' center at Big Meadows. We were ready for lunch and they have a small restaurant inside, also a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs and postcards. There is also a small general store in the back where campers can come for supplies. The restaurant is definitely not fancy but very satisfactory, and we always end up here - the food is pretty good and the staff are friendly. Gregg took the photo of the roof because he liked how it shined in the sunlight. There is also a museum in a separate building in the same parking lot.
We took turns taking photos and I asked Gregg if he would take this one of the family with the dogs.....
and he also took this one of the bright red fire hydrant.
We were thinking about giving our hike across the meadow a miss. We doubted that there would be any deer at this time of the day and were both feeling a bit tired. Heading for the car I looked up and across the street I could see two spots on the hill and knew that they were our deer. We say 'our deer' because this is one of the main reasons we come to Big Meadows as we love walking around them, and they don't seem to mind people too much and continue grazing as we enjoy their company.
the lady walking her dogs, and on the other side there was a little boy having a great time playing in a huge puddle of water with his mom taking photos as dad looked on. I took a few photos of them which I will be posting later, it was a very cute scene.
By this time we had turned around and were heading back across the road near the sign that we have been taking pictures of for years.
I also asked him to take a picture of this tree near the picnic area. It will be full of leaves soon.
I didn't get out of the car but took shots from the passenger window. He was more wary of us than the others and we didn't hang around long. We also saw another deer actually in the road but when he saw our car approaching he hopped over a wall, and I was glad he was out of harm's way. Because of the winding roads you cannot go very fast, which is just as well.
Two and a half hours later we found our bear still in the tree tops and still creating a bit of a stir as cars were stopping and causing a traffic jam. A Park Ranger had turned up and he was asking them to move along. Fortunately we had driven down the hill to one of the overlooks and walked back up. We wanted another chance to look at the bear. As I said before, it has taken us 35 years to see our first one here, and who knows if we will ever get another chance.
I still can't get over how lucky we were to spend some time with our friend but eventually we tore ourselves away......
I took the next photo when we had reached our car. Where you can see 'onlookers' that is where we had been standing a few minutes before. This shows you that we were all a pretty safe distance and also how high the bear had climbed, about 50 feet off the ground.
By this time we were back down off the mountain. There weren't many flowers blooming up there but down below the Dogwood trees were georgeous....
as was this cherry blossom tree. Actually, I'm not sure if it was a cherry blossom. The ones around us are already shedding their petals but I think out here maybe the lower temperature makes them bloom a little bit later.
On the way home we were looking for an ice-cream store but because it was Easter Sunday everywhere was closed. Fortunately when we eventually ended up at our local Baskin and Robbins it was open and we treated ourselves to a milkshake. While enjoying it I took a picture of the clouds in their parking lot.
The last gift of the day was the American Robin who landed on the rail of our deck out back and gave me one last photo before we put the camera away.