Sunday, July 10, 2011

Do Bears Sit in the Woods?

     Caroline and Lori and I are hiking our way across Highland. Our first hike was last week and started at the summit of Shenandoah Mountain in the George Washington National Forest. The morning was cool and foggy and we had two choices for hiking. There was a faint trail running north, marked by the occasional yellow diamond and there was a forest service road heading south. Since it was foggy, we decided to hike the road.
     The first half mile was a gentle incline. Within three minutes I was sweating enough to fog my glasses. I peered helplessly through the condensation wishing for windshield wipers as Lori and Caroline pointed out deer sign and salamanders. The trail followed the ridge top, climbing and descending several times, but the fog was too thick to see the views. Before our walk, we had had a serious discussion about what to do if we met up with a bear, so we were a bit jumpy. The heavy fog made it worse. It closed around us like a heavy, wet blanket and we couldn’t see very far into the woods.  About two miles up the trail, we almost stepped in a large pile of very fresh poop. We circled it suspiciously.  What does bear poop look like anyway?  The gray woods began to look even more ominous. We continued downhill, jumping at every drip and crackle. Surely a hungry bear was lurking behind that tree or that rock waiting to pounce. We made it another quarter mile before we gave into our fears and turned around.
     We were moving at a fair trot when we passed the poop and crested the ridge. No bear in sight. The sun popped out and we realized how foolish we’d been, but we decided to call it a day and head back to the car. On our way out, we planted a letterbox in a small camping area.
     This week, we hiked trail number two in the Wildlife Management Area just south of McDowell . This trail is also a gravel road maintained by the Game Commission. It is gated in several places but open to hikers year round. We planted our letterbox near a campsite about a mile in and then climbed steadily for two miles. We turned around when we reached the ridge top. In contrast to our first hike, the morning was sunny and bright. Streamers of light dappled the forest floor and birds sang from the trees. The trail followed a pristine stream which we forded twice by hopping across rocks. Deer lifted their tails and scudded across the path in several places and we must have seen thirty orange salamanders on the road. We didn’t even worry about bear. Next week we’ll take hike number three. Hopefully it will be sunny and bright. Fog makes us fearful. I think there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.


  1. Good for you! But I'm wondering...who took the group pictures?? Glad you're having some old-fashioned fun this summer and enjoying the great outdoors. I've been working, mostly. You'll have to come see the progress at the farmhouse.

  2. Bears. *shudder*

    Wonderful glad you had fun with friends!