November 12 – Animal Totems
3.6 miles Hawksbill Gap to Skyland
As we drove into Shenandoah Park, the outside temperature dropped a few degrees to 38. Skies were crystal clear. My son was my hiking partner for the day. First wildlife sighting was a hawk circling over Skyline Drive. Quite beautiful—hello, Hawk! Second wildlife sighting was a deer bounding across the road a few cars ahead of us. She made it safely to the other side. Hello, Deer! Once parked at Hawksbill Gap, out of the car and hiking boots on, I chose to wear gloves and a headband around the ears and a winter jacket over a lightweight fleece. Note to journal: all good choices.
Few leaves remained on trees along this section of the AT. As in previous hikes, the leaves lay as a blanket across the rocky trail, forcing us to concentrate on footing most of the way. We hummed along and stopped to enjoy our first icicle of the season hanging from a rock formation.
About halfway through the hike, where the trail had nice little ups and downs through wooded areas with massive rock formations, my son stopped walking and said, “Bear.” I must have been far away in my own world, because I was caught off guard.
“A bear? Where?”
“Over there. A mother and her cub. A mother by herself is not a problem. But with her cub …”
I saw them. They looked to be running and playing, bouncing around. Then she stood still. She looked at us. She looked away. She looked at us and looked away.
“Let’s back up the trail a little,” my son said.
That was good thinking. Okay.
“Do you have your whistle, Mom?”
“Ah, yes, right here.” It has been hanging from the top strap of my backpack for the last two months, but this was the first time I needed it.
“Should I blow it?”
I blew it and rested and blew it and rested. The bear continued to watch us. Two other hikers stopped with us. They were equally captivated and happy to take cover under the whistle. I noted that the trail ahead curved away from the bear family. A peaceful feeling came over me, when I realized another animal totem was showing itself. I talked out loud to her and told her she was safe. I felt safe. We walked on and she disappeared with her cub over a ridge behind where they had played.
We walked on thinking that was pretty cool and after another half-mile stopped in our tracks again as a wild turkey crossed the trail, fleeing from our footsteps. Another totem! Ah! So much wildlife in one day—more than I have seen since we left Colorado three years ago. What a great thrill to be so close to W-I-L-D-L-I-F-E!
Mother Bear and Cub
Undulating Ridges and Valley View