posted: October 25th, 2010 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: For the past few days we’ve been quite content to sit on camp chairs and watch as our solar collectors do their job – converting radiant energy into electrical energy. In fact, at times it has required a considerable effort to rise and return to the interior of our Airstream to conduct the business we have yet to complete.
Part of the problem is that we have been so active physically, and gearing down to desk work requires a substantial mental effort. So much more enjoyable to sit outside and soak up the rays and contemplate the efficiency of our solar panels.
But all that is coming to an end no matter what we may want. In one more week, Loft Campground will close for the season and already several of the seasonal rangers we’ve meet are drawing their last check of the year. Nights are getting cold and here at an elevation nearing 3,500 feet, we’ve seen some frost. Time to say bye, bye.
But all that aside, we simply have to move on and most likely would have except for the fact that all campgrounds we’ve called our booked solid, meaning we must wait until after the weekend. In other words, people are passionate about fall color and love to camp in these forests dominated by oak and hickory, all bolstered in other places by hosts of eastern species such locust, sassafras, birch and poplar.
That leaves little alternative other than to watch the sun soak our batteries – and think about what we’ve seen and enjoyed as we’ve watched summer transition to fall.
CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGES. L to R: Summit Blacktop; sumac berries at southern end of park now ripe; rocks mountain folks piled, possibly to clear are for garden space; sassafras leaves and trail to Cathedral Rocks
Foremost have been the friends and family members who have camped with us for days on end, most notably Adam and Sue, Rich and his family — and one week ago, my nephew, his wife and their 16-month old baby, Eaden. What fun we’ve had with everyone. Joel (my nephew) and Becca are determined that their child will grow up loving the out-of-doors and they think nothing of strapping their baby on their backs and carrying him along some of the park’s most challenging trails.
TRAILS WE’VE HIKED
During the several days they camped with us, we hiked trails to Blackrock Summit, and Calvary Rocks, and we hiked the Frazier Discovery Trail, all satisfying our interests in geological history. With the exception of the mammoth boulders found on Old Rag, scientists have designated most of the rocks we’ve recently seen as Greenstone, another form of granite but created by different processes that were separated by the passing of half-a-billion years. Such a figure is much easier to say than to imagine – and is certainly difficult to come to grips with. But the world’s best scientists provide their evidence, and I for one believe in the generation of scientists whose imaginations have helped create and develop our many “miracle” drugs.
As Janie and I sat outside our camper watching our solar collectors, we recalled that we have made many, many hikes and just the other day recalled that we hiked to an abandoned pasture near the park’s southern end. Apple trees planted by an earlier group of occupants still grow, but near the fringe of the pasture lush sumac berries presented a wonderful photographic challenge, essentially met using two strobes to provide even lighting on that sunny day so full of dark shadows.
Yet another day we recalled a couple we’d met along a section of the Appalachian Trail leading, in this case, from Powell Gap toward the Simmons Gap Ranger Station. They said they’d gotten married just a few days ago and that they had decided to honeymoon on the trail.
Most AT hikers assume trail names and they were no exception, calling themselves Pago Pago and she, Noggin’ Knocker.
A little further along the same trail we came to piles of rocks, and we recalled that thousands had once occupied these old worn down mountains. As we sat in the sun, we again recalled these mountain people, coming to believe the rocks may have been moved to allow garden space. Were these families happy and prosperous?
Like most populations, some found success, but some didn’t. Many, however, certainly weren’t happy when authorities told them they’d have to move to make way for the creation of a national park. According to a campground host, in the 1930’s some of these mountain people were actually handcuffed and carted off.
BYE BYE SHENANDOAH
But that’s the park’s dark side, and right now, that’s not what I’m seeing as we glance around from our job watching solar panels do their job.
All around we see leaves turning red, yellow and orange, and we are regretting that it is now time to leave. But we’ve gathered all the materials needed to update our books (see below) and the sun is no longer putting out the same amount of sun it did when we first arrived.
Tomorrow we’re departing for Washington DC to visit an aunt, and then we’re heading for several days to Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia. Then we’re heading back home to Montana, hopefully arriving before snows set in and all functional solar energy wanes from winter skies now manifest with their reduced durations.
Bye, bye, Shenandoah. We’ll miss you!