At Big Meadow (38 31’ 42”N 78 26’ 14”W), we paid the $20, pitched camp, brewed up and then took a short walk along the legendary Appalachian Trail. It was a non-descript forest path for the stretch that we walked, but it runs for more than 2000 miles from Georgia in the south to Maine in the north and was brought to the attention of the non-hiking public by Bill Bryson in his 1997 book, ‘A Walk in the Woods.’ White-tailed Deer were seen in the gloom along The Trail as well as White-breasted Nuthatch, Wood Thrush and Northern Cardinal.
An evening ranger walk from the visitors' centre at Big Meadow was not what we had expected, but was interesting in its own quirky way. More importantly, Northern Bobwhites were calling from the meadow which gave us (well, me) a focus for the next morning.
There are stories about AM and what an important part tea plays in her morning regimen, but she agreed to have a walk out across the meadow to find the bobwhite before breakfast. I shall put our stroke of luck down to AM’s self-sacrificing attitude, because I don’t usually deserve such good fortune.
There were plenty of deer around the campsite as well as Eastern Chipmunk and a Grey Catbird that came onto our pitch to serenade AM.
We de-camped and began our journey home, stopping occasionally at lookout points and finding Indigo Bunting, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Common Yellowthroat. The bunting proved elusive and would not sit still long enough for me to get a good focus. I had missed a few of them on the first day as they fed from thistles with American Goldfinches at the pull-ins. I would have given some good stuff for that picture.
At the Elk Wallow picnic area, we took our last walk into the woods and added Pileated Woodpecker to our list after reaching as far as the AT again. We had warmed to Russ on the outbound journey and dropped in to the service area to see him again. He told us that 3 or 4 bear sightings in a day was about the norm, but let’s not forget that this was also the man who had us wearing fabric conditioning sheets to ward off the insects, so it was hard to know how much credence to give him.
Whether you use Bounce sheets or proper repellent, you will need something if you visit the mountains in July. We used liberal amounts of repellent as well as the fabric conditioning sheets and were still pestered by tiny flying insects. Bites though, were mercifully very few.
We rounded off the trip with a final (fourth, so below par for 2 days according to Russ) bear sighting as the weather began to close in and we headed for the park gate to drive the 60 miles back along Route 66 to Tyson’s Corner.
Here is a tip for anyone hiring a car from IAD, Washington Dulles Airport; have some quarters to hand. Toll roads from the airport demand exact change. The toll on Route 267 East is 75 cents and you pay twice, so will need 6 quarters. I felt very foolish blocking the toll gate and having to walk back along the line begging for change. Twice.
Birds seen; 28
Turkey Vulture 9, Northern Bobwhite 1, Mourning Dove 4, Chimney Swift 6, Ruby-throated Hummingbird 4, Red-bellied Woodpecker 2, Pileated Woodpecker 2, Eastern Phoebe 2, Barn Swallow 32, Cedar Waxwing 10, Brown Thrasher 4, American Robin 14, Wood Thrush 1, Tufted Titmouse 19, White-breasted Nuthatch 4, Blue Jay 4, American Crow 21, Common Raven 4, House Sparrow 12, American Goldfinch 40, Black and white Warbler 2, Worm-eating Warbler 1, Common Yellowthroat 1, Eastern Towhee 17, Chipping Sparrow 65, Northern Cardinal 4, Indigo Bunting 7, Brown-headed Cowbird.
Black Bear 4, Eastern Chipmunk 6, White-tailed Deer, Grey Squirrel 25.
Other posts from this destination can be found at the links below;
Visit the dedicated USA and Canada page for other posts from the region.