A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Road Trip to Virginia Day 2 - Skyline Drive (Big Meadows - It's really about the deer!)

We had been on the road most of the day, but there was at least one stop we wanted to make on Skyline Drive and we heard it was worth the effort to get there.  After leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway, we jetted west to another highway and made our way north with more speed than we could attain on the byways.  We made the jog back in to the mountains about a third of the way into the path and headed north to our scenic stop of choice and recommendation - Big Meadows.  Our dear friends, the Ackers, shared with us what a cool place it was, telling us that there were tons and tons of deer in the field all the time and what a great stop it would be to take the family.  We had to check it out!

Just after paying our park entry fee and getting on with our drive, we encountered our second bear for the day.  It was lumbering slowly across the road when a motorcyclist got impatient, passed a car on the shoulder and startled the bear.
It ran into the woods (much to our disappointment and frustration with that impatient motorist), but then came back down the hill to walk parallel with the road, right next to the car.  You want to see an excited 6 year old?  Let her get within 6 feet of a black bear outside the zoo....  We all tried very hard to be somewhat still and quiet while we shook and excitedly tried to capture it on "film."

The young female wandered off quickly, but she spawned lots of great conversation and learning about bears and animal interactions with people.  I just love life moments that allow us to teach Lexi and impart life lessons.  As we wound our way through the mountains, sometimes seeing valleys on both sides of the road (we truly were on the ridge of the mountain), we began seeing deer and the landscape changed.

All at once, the road opened up and a HUGE meadow lay before us. It was absolutely breathtaking.  To be clear, I mean that literally.  I stood outside the car in absolute awe of the beauty of the meadow.  Every direction, everywhere, there were deer quietly meandering around, munching away.  I stood for a long time looking a a group of deer.  One or two would disappear into the field as they laid down, while others would pop up and come into view.

The field was comprised of milkweed, clover, and lots of other gorgeous little green delights for their enjoyment.  The field is periodically burned for maintenance to keep it from reverting to forest land.  Thankfully, we were there when it was lush with growth and teeming with wildlife.

What made this place even more unique was the fact that there were people out in the meadow with the deer.  They were just not bothered by the presence of humans moving around the field with them.  
To the credit of those taking pictures, everyone moved quietly and slowly enough to minimize disturbance, but it was so remarkable being able to stand within feet of the majestic creatures.

There was a doe with her fawn grazing not far from where we parked, so I made way out toward them to make my attempt and mingling with the "herd."

With the evening sun kissing their coats, I waited patiently for them to move out into the sunlight so I could get a few shots.  I had never been so close to a fawn that wasn't behind a protective fence.

Of course, even though these deer are quite used to humans, I kept a respectful distance so as not to upset the doe or spook them in to moving on.

After spending a ton of time standing about 30 feet from the pair, I moved back toward the car to take in the meadow as a whole once again.  I can't stress enough how the time of day lent an additional spark to the beauty of the scene.

I can't thank our friends enough for encouraging us to make a point of stopping here.  There is a lodge on site that Shane and I really hope to get back to for a little vacation.  We popped in briefly to check it out and scout out prices.  It's definitely within driving distance and worth the effort to get away for a few days.

One last look at Big Meadows before we drove away...

As we headed north to where we would be leaving our scenic drive, we encountered quite a few more deer.  This doe had a staring contest with Lexi for some time.  She seemed almost as fascinated with our little one as we were with her.  She stood along side the road for the longest time, unshaken by our presence.

Shane took the camera for a bit and captured this gorgeous shot.

This pretty creature was standing on the other side of a wall alongside the road as the sun set.  There was fly with a very strong hold on herface.  I could even see the spots where he had already made a meal on her snout where there were little spots of blood.  We were that close.
It was super neat to see the details of her face so clearly.  We could see each eyelash and the little dips in her shiny nose.
One more overlook caught my attention as we put an end to a spectacular day in the mountains, Jewell Hollow.  I knew I had to stop as this name is special to my Mom.  We decided a couple pictures framed from this location might be a nice way to say thank you for her taking care of our animals while we were away.  

Here are a couple more shots from what proved to be our last real stop of the day:

Oh, look who showed up while we were getting a couple sunset pictures.  Surprise! Another deer!
This tunnel was a fitting end as we drove into the darkness and headed for Shane's mom's house.  We had spent the whole day in the car and were ready for a nice visit and a good night's sleep.  It felt like ages since we had seen her, so we we very excited to get to her place and spend some time.

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