Shenandoah National Park: Where the Wildlife Simply Does Not Care

View from the Entrance to a Hiking Trail

Meleah and I’s stay in Shenandoah National Park consisted of overcast skies, intermittent showers and plentiful periods of sunny weather. Sunny days are commonly known to be pretty, and in Shenandoah they undoubtedly were. Nonetheless, when the sky was cloudy, an intermingling of darker and lighter grays, Shenandoah glowed a lush and vigorous green. It was a bit chilly at night. Still, I was perfectly comfortable snuggled down in a sleeping bag, with a sweater, and flannel jammy pants. When it did rain it was usually during the evening or early morning so we had ample time to hike and explore. The park had so much to offer. It has a variety of camping arrangements as well as numerous trails all throughout the park, many of which lead by or to waterfalls. WATERFALLS!

One of the trails we went on called Dark Hollows ended at a waterfall. It was a fantastic walk right alongside a stream with pools to splash about in and many a large and sometimes slippery rock to climb. While hiking, I would sporadically hop off the trail and take advantage of these rocks as seats and write for awhile. I feel that should I ever write a novel these would be the ideal place to do it. The waterfall at the end was not exceptionally large, but it was definitely gorgeous. It was fun too! There were a lot of great spots to climb among the rocks, pools to wade in and I found a tree up among the rocks that had grown in a shape perfectly fitted for my butt. All of which I took full advantage of, but I didn’t get to play in the waterfall itself because Meleah wouldn’t let me ride in her car if I wa

s soaked. The downside to the hike was that it was one of the more popular ones. It wasn’t so bad while on the trail, but people gathered, talked, and took pictures by the waterfall. Luckily, the waterfall drowned out the noise, so I was able to chill on my tree, writing in my notebook and enjoying the waterfall.

Our Ranger Guide

We also went on a ranger guided hike about the park from a geological standpoint. It was really cool. Our ranger was an older guy who had abandoned his career working with computers in some windowless office for the far more enjoyable work as a ranger in the great and wondrous outdoors. He had a huge backpack full of laminated pictures and rocks. Along the trail we’d stop and he would give small presentations. We learned about different tectonic movements that had contributed to the formation of the park, ages of rocks, and different geological formations in the park among other things. On this entertaining, informative adventure we saw a bear! And a daring one at that. Upon sighting it our ranger began calling out “Hey bear,” ensuring it knew we were there. It was a bold little bastard though and charged us. Our ranger immediately began clapping and yelling, which caused the bear to quickly change directions. It ran off a few yards, and began foraging about, generally acting as though nothing had ever happened. We continued on.

We learned soon after that bear sightings had been exceptionally high around the time we were there. This plagued me a bit later that night. One of the only place to get cell service was at the amphitheater, which was quite a ways from our camp site, but still within walking distance. Meleah usually went there a couple times daily. She is a better planner than I. I only called anyone once during our stay there, and it was after dark. I had gotten the strong urge to contact the outside world, so I grabbed a flashlight and went on a walk to the amphitheater. It wasn’t so bad, until I left the camping areas, then I got a little nervous. I walked calmly, but I couldn’t help but think about the black bear we’d run into earlier that day and the fact that there were so many in Shenandoah. Luckily, I stumbled into some fellow campers. It was a middle-aged man pushing a stroller with three small boys in tow. Bear spray is one thing, but I’m pretty sure the best protection against wild animals is children—loud, rambunctious, flashlight wielding children.

Bears were definitely not the only animal showing their face around Shenandoah. When driving in Shenandoah one should be exceptionally careful, because deer are absolutely everywhere and they’re not very skittish. Deer walk through the campsites, they’re along the roads, and once while walking about at night I went right past a group of them sleeping near the shower buildings. They really do not care about your existence as a human being. At one point I watched a woman heading for the restroom stop because a deer had appeared and was walking past her, nibbling at the grass on its way. It was so close she could have reached out and touched it. This would have been a bit stupid, because it is a wild animal. She just held still and watched though.

If I had the chance to go back to Shenandoah National Park I would do it in a heartbeat. It was truly an experience I will not forget.