Thursday, March 20, 2014

AT Project in VA: Shenandoah NP - Oh Deer

Appalachian Trail Project in VA - Shenandoah National Park – 10/28/13 – Beagle Gap to Turk Gap – 6.6 Miles

Shaking off the previous day’s muddled ending, Jim and I got back on track today, driving in the early morning light on Skyline Drive.  No traffic, passing through sideways sunbeams on the twisting two-lane, keeping an eye out for the day’s starting point while catching glimpses of the valleys at overlooks right and left  – BAM!  Didn’t see it until it was too late.

Our car collided with a deer crossing the road from left to right.  Jim kept his cool, didn’t swerve, firmly hit the brakes, but there was no avoiding the young buck as he struck the driver’s side front quarter panel.  When we stopped and looked back, we saw him lying near the edge of the road, rib cage heaving rapidly, still alive but obviously mortally wounded.

Then, in the trees on the right side of the road, I saw a female deer standing and looking, too. 

As we got out of our car, a big Park Service garbage truck came along and stopped.  The driver contacted NPS headquarters, pulled the still-breathing deer off of the roadway, and kindly distracted us with chatter as we waited for the rangers.  When they arrived, he waved goodbye and drove off.

Anyone who has had a car accident knows how long the paperwork takes and it’s no different with the NPS.  While the female officer took photos of our car’s damage, the male officer walked back to check on the injured deer.  He hemmed and hawed, not wanting to say it, until finally I said, “Aren’t you going to shoot him?”  He said, well, yes, he was going to dispatch the animal but didn’t want to be so blunt in case it would upset us.  Knowing that it was suffering upset us more.  The officer put in his earplugs, I got inside my car with the windows rolled up and my fingers in my ears, and still the shot was sudden and booming. 

Meanwhile, the female deer wouldn’t leave.  Twice she circled around through the woods and reappeared.  The officer chased her across the road but she came back to the edge with her silent gaze.  I’m sure she went to see her (companion? son?) lying in the weeds after we all left. 

Gee, who feels like hiking now? 

But what else was there to do with an entire day?  After some debate, we settled on a shorter hike for me (bike ride for Jim) and finding a nice late lunch at Big Meadows Lodge.  I started at Beagle Gap and hiked northbound to tag up with Turk Gap where I began yesterday. 

At Beagle Gap

It was a lovely morning after all, hiking through open meadows up Little Calf Mountain.  A short side trail to the summit gives this view.  Next was Calf Mountain, a little taller but less impressive because the summit is covered with trees.

However, near the top of Calf Mountain the trail passes several majestic grandfatherly (and grandmotherly) trees, giving the impression of an old homesite (haven’t confirmed this, though).  If trees could talk, what would this one say?
Do burls feel like bunions?

Still distracted by the fateful deer encounter, six miles went by without much notice and I was glad to get off the trail.  I met Jim at Turk Gap and we drove (carefully) north on Skyline Drive to check out the Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center and its impressive interactive exhibit about the establishment and development of Shenandoah National Park.  We did find a late lunch at the bar at Big Meadows Lodge and an adult beverage was most welcome. 

[Postscript:  My car was driveable for the rest of the trip (couldn't open the passenger front door) but it ended up in the shop for a while, nearly totaled but ultimately repaired.)

"Trees are the Earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven."  ~Rabindranath Tagore

1 comment:

Linda W. said...

So sorry about your hitting a deer! I hit one once several years ago. Luckily no damage to my car (I don't know how it came away unharmed) and the deer popped up and ran into the forest. Still a very traumatic event.