First of all I want to thank Debbie from "It's All About Purple" (link here), for telling me about her tripod. It sounded so neat I decided to buy one and last Friday we used it for the first time. A big thank you from both of us Debbie. Gregg likes it very much as it is so easy and lightweight. We will be taking it with us everywhere.
This is the same photo but I cropped it this time.....
and this is the view behind us of the Shenandoah Valley.
The weather was perfect as it was the first day we woke up to a bit of a chill in the air. It warmed up to the low 70's and stayed that way all the time we were out, with very little humidity. We left late for us, around noon, but our destination was only a little over an hour away. We were heading to Big Meadow, one of our favorite walking spots.
We stopped at one of the first look-outs because a small group of people were pointing and staring into the trees. We thought it might be deer but when we asked they told us that there was a bear in the woods. Of course we stopped and joined them. We could see that it was indeed a bear with a lot of undergrowth and trees in the way, and our photographs didn't come out. But we had that lovely memory of a bear sighting.
In 38 years of coming to Skyline Drive we never saw any sign of a bear, even though we kept hearing stories from people who had. Imagine our surprise when in the last couple of years we have had at least two sightings. On Friday we were to see three more. They were very active and we realized later why we hadn't seen our usual deer. They had most likely skedaddled because of the bears We also noticed that everywhere was so lush and green, and they were having the Blackberry Festival this past weekend, and we came across a lot of berries on the meadow. The bears were having their own blackberry festival. I am not sure if the ones below are blackberries but I bet they make great bear food. Those other posts I blogged about can be found here and here if you missed them.
After a while we continued our car ride and reached Big Meadows. There is a lodge nearby where we have stayed before and intend to stay again. We want to wake up early and see the sun rise over the meadow, and get some neat photos in that golden hour of light. We don't do enough of that. Today the sun was almost overhead but no matter what time of day we get here, it is always worth the effort.
We took our usual trail but the further along we walked, it went from dry to soggy and I wished I had put on a pair of sturdy, water-proof walking shoes. My feet were already soaking wet. Normally there is no problem but judging by my soggy socks they've had a lot of rain recently. Gregg took a short cut through the long grass looking for dryer ground and eyes downward, as I am always worried about where I put my feet on uneven ground and had already almost come a cropper, I saw a long, green, slithery tail slide only a few inches from my feet. I yelled so loud that if any bears had been nearby, they would have taken for the hills.
Gregg thought I had seen a deer but I told him that was not a 'hey I have seen a sweet little bambi' kind of a yell, that was a scream as in "a huge green blankety-blank snake almost slithered over my feet' kind of a scream. And you thought I had a great respect for snakes right? Well I do and my fascination for them is endless but I get a little startled when I see a flash of one moving at a high rate of speed right next to my feet, especially when I am bending down and totally focused on pretty little wildflowers. Did I tell you how big it was? It was huge!
I ran up that incline and was next to Gregg in two seconds flat. It's amazing how fast you can move when you feel the need, and I managed to get up there without falling on my nether regions, amazingly. So there you go and darn, I didn't get a photo. The poor thing was too busy trying to get away from me and I was too busy trying to get away from it. Not only sightings of bears have been a rare event, but we have never seen a snake on Big Meadows in all the times we have been here.
Needless to say I won't be trudging around in long, wet soggy grass for a while, and as we made our way up the nice dry trail to our car, we were still taking photos of pretty wildflowers.
I am using the new camera Gregg gave me for my birthday. We need a lot of practice with the manual setting. So far I haven't been too happy with my results, especially when taking photos of white flowers. The details get totally washed out and the bright sunlight probably didn't help. I have a lot to learn but I had no idea there was a tiny spider on this yellow flower, until I downloaded the photo and looked at it on my computer screen later that night. I like those kind of surprises, these kind of surprises don't make me scream like a banshee.
Once we were in our car again we hadn't gone that far when wouldn't you know it, there were two or three cars stopped in the middle of the road coming and going, with arms out of windows pointing into the trees. There was no way around them and people behind us didn't seem to mind when we stopped. In my side-mirror I saw they had also started pointing into the trees. Eureka, there was another bear! The photo below is a little fuzzy but I will be sharing others in my Camera Critter post on Saturday. This one is a teaser I guess you could say. Even though the bear is out of focus I loved how the photo turned out, but that's just me.
After all the excitement and after my attack of the vapors because of green slithery things, I felt I needed a consolatory treat. As we drove through Sperryville we had an ice-cream at a kiosk we have driven by a hundred times. We ate our ice-cream in the car as there were only a couple of tables and they were taken. Not too far from home we got caught up in a traffic jam at the train crossing in Gainesville, and we were beginning to think we would be there forever. The police had blocked two roads off and the goods train was going nowhere and neither was the traffic. After a while we turned around with a lot of other like-minded people, backtracked a ways until we reached the freeway, and it wasn't too long after that we rolled into our driveway. It had been quite an afternoon.