Monday, March 4, 2013

Shenandoah National Park

This photo, from the park's website, shows a deer (you're welcome) near Skyline Drive, but the real stars of Shenandoah National Park are the black bears. The bear population in the park is officially estimated at somewhere between 300 and 500, and the chances of seeing a bear on any given visit are very good. Every hiker I've talked to that has hiked the 100+ miles of the AT that runs the length of the park has at least one good bear story, and pictures to go with it!

Unfortunately, one of the reasons that you see so many bears in Shenandoah is because people feed them. Everybody knows that you shouldn't feed bears, or any wild animal for that matter, but the urge to do it, when the opportunity presents itself, is almost irresistible. Even some long-distance hikers, who really should know better, have succumbed to the temptation of giving begging bears handouts.

Shenandoah is another jewel of a national park: very accessible, very scenic (especially in the fall with the leaves changing colors), and, again, brimming with bear. The history of the park is a little controversial: it was pretty much all privately-owned farmland and home to some 400 families that were "relocated" in the late 20's and early 30's to make way for the Civil Conservation Corps to come in, build the Skyline Drive, and eliminate any sign of human habitation in the pursuit of creating a "natural" environment.

Even the Skyline Drive, at the start of its construction, had lots of detractors who claimed it was a travesty to lay a blacktop road through the middle of a park designed to preserve nature. It's a fair point, but...the road is a pretty ride in the fall, and the bears (and deer) don't really seem to mind.

Here's a little video of a Shenandoah bear family:  Shenandoah Bears


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