Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On our way to Big Meadows

These photos are from Sunday afternoon making our way to the Thornton Gap entrance of Skyline Drive and ending up at Big Meadows. As I mentioned in my previous post it is a trip we have been taking for 35 years, in between the times we lived in different parts of the States while Gregg was in the Navy. We started married life in Alexandria, Virginia and I remember that first drive up to the Shenandoah's very well. It was so beautiful, still is very beautiful and it's a place we never get tired of visiting. This little dog was obviously enjoying his ride.

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.

He caused great excitement.

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.

They looked up on our approach but continued eating.....

and I started taking photos.

There weren't too many other people around but we saw the kite flyers and .........

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.

Gregg is definitely enjoyed this unexpected walk, we both are.

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.

Safe enough for Gregg to stop in the middle of the road for another photo.

I also asked him to take a picture of this tree near the picnic area. It will be full of leaves soon.

A few miles down the road we came across this deer munching on the side of the road.

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.


  1. Denise, What an interesting road trip. I'm not sure about the swallow ID. That was a cool photo shoot of the Black Bear!

  2. Such amazing photos, Denise. But you know what? My favorite was of Gregg. That is a gorgeous photo of him and worth framing.

  3. I love the animals! Any and all kind. Mayyyybee except for alligators/crocodiles. They kind of give me the creeps. Just a bit too close to dinosaurs.

  4. What a fabulous day out! (and I didn't have to do any driving!)
    Jane x

  5. Wonderful variety of wildlife and fabulous photographs-looked the perfect day out !

  6. Whew! What a long, ambitious post, Denise! Loved the photos.

  7. I enjoyed reading your account of your trip and your photos of all the wildlife you came across.thanks for your visit and comment. Have a great rest of the week.

  8. Lovely shots of the Deer Denise, you would have called those birds "Swallows" when you lived in England.

  9. Smashing! Almost like being on the walk with you.

  10. Goodness, I feel as though I came along with you! What a lovely national park. Your deer shots are wonderful - ours are always too far away to be really clear.

  11. It's so much fun to get away and take photos! We enjoyed "free week" at national parks and monuments too, even though we have a senior pass for most of the fees.

  12. Very nice post today. Enjoyed the read and the pictures.

  13. Wow Denise, what a fabulous day there!
    I'm enchanted by your beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing!
    My favorite one is the deer!

  14. What a nice way to spend easter Sunday. The bear must have been exciting and the deer are so cute. Thanks for taking me on your unexpected walk.

  15. Oh the robin is majestic too.

  16. this is one of the places I plan to visit and experience someday, thankfully through you, I get to enjoy its inspiring beauty and wilderness.

  17. Enjoyed this road trip, Denise, especially since we will be heading to NC in the next couple of weeks to visit Bryson City and ride the Great Smokey Railway. Maybe we will get to drive part of Skyline Drive as well.

  18. Great photos, I love Shenandoah. it is one of my favorite day trips. Or sometimes we stay in a cabin. The bear sighting is cool. Wonderful photos, Denise.

  19. I enjoyed reading about your road trip and seeing the pictures of the various wildlife that you saw along the way. As I commented in your previous post, we hope to travel on Skyline Drive in July. We're thinking of renting a cabin for one night.

  20. Vilken resa! Bilderna på rådjur, björn.... Er resa blev sannerligen ett riktigt äventyr! Önskar dig en trevlig fortsätning på söndagen! Zinnia