Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Snow Camping at Big Meadows
After a 30 mile backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail with some friends last week, this weekend my wife and I camped at Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park. Unlike out west or New England, Virginia doesn’t normally pick up snow until late December or January/February. As such, it was a complete surprise to both of us when the forecast mentioned there was definitely going to be precipitation which meant snow as Virginia was experiencing an unusual cold snap. The result was non-stop snow all weekend which resulted in about 6” and effectively shut down the roads on Skyline Drive. The snow and ice also scared away most people who had reservations during mid-October, the peak leaf-peeping season, which meant those who decided to brave the conditions had a wonderful time to see the park during a really great time with limited population. Worth mentioning is how well the Park Service did to treat and clear the roads later in the weekend as well as the great service provided by Aramark whose employees are familiar with finding a way to work even in difficult conditions.
The video shows a deer within a few feet of our tent which woke me up on Sunday morning. Outside of camera range were six others which surrounded our camp. This experience is part of the magic of Big Meadows as deer sightings within camp, and usually within a few feet of someone with a camera, are very typical. It’s a great place to go for anyone who wants to get closer to nature and a quick way to ensure children find immediate enjoyment. Other than deer, I’ve seen black beer, turkey, bobcat, coyotes, foxes, possum, rabbits, frogs, hawks, owls, and other wildlife just about every time I visit.
If you want a quick escape and one which is guaranteed to bring an immediate smile to your face, try Big Meadows. You’ll not only enjoy the wildlife, but you’ll learn about the history of the Park, the history of the Indians and mountain folk who were essentially kicked out when the land was dedicated as a National Park, the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Park who literally broke their backs to build the Park, and the unique nature of the meadow itself which boasts and endless supply of amazing plants and flowers which have a history of their own.