Sun. Aug 26, 2012- WV-VA:
In the middle of the night I had been awoken by a giant *KABLAM* sound of a car crash outside, our hotel was just off the highway. After that there was a tour bus in the parking lot for what seemed like forever, just sitting there with the loud engine idling. In a sleepy state I was not in the mood for the awful breakfast that was on offer, all I had was coffee. We had forgotten to charge the GPS, so we plugged it in and headed out to Walmart just down the street so I could stock up on American goods, namely Swiss Miss hot chocolate. We also found birthday cake Oreos!! We rejoiced and found out that they are not in fact that good. We went to Hardee’s so I could finally have breakfast, only Hardee’s had a breakfast menu! I wanted a cheeseburger! What was with the breakfast options in West Virginia?! It was not good given that our afternoon plans consisted of going hiking. Wendy’s next door was not even open. I gave up and we got into the car and headed to Virginia. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum had a billboard on the side of the road; it featured a promotional discount code, too weird. We had a gorgeous drive through the Appalachian Mountains, I was happy to finally have my cheeseburger/Hardee’s fix, with curly fries on the side. All was well. There was even a sign that thanked us for visiting West Virginia as we left, and soon after a Welcome to Virginia sign.
Things took a sour turn soon enough when our old friend the GPS decided to take us down an unpaved tiny narrow dirt road to a dead end. Rather than backing out however, Brent decided to do a three point turn, one that nearly ended with us stuck in a ditch. And of course we had an audience watching the entire thing unfold. From then on we changed the route so that all unpaved roads were avoided. Eventually we made our way to the Shenandoah National Park for a 25 mile drive along the mountain ridges to the Skyland Resort. Along the way we stopped at every scenic overlook, well those that were open anyways (some were under construction). Only problem was that it was overcast, so half the time all we were looking at was grey. We also saw some wonderful nature: a dead millipede being eaten by ants, a smooshed butterfly in the road, a living centipede crawling about and yellow butterflies that refused to sit still long enough to be photographed.
We were actually staying in a small tiny cottage built in the 1930s, thus it had no TV and no internet, no free soaps either (they were in dispensers) yet there was free Starbucks coffee?! At the check-in office there was a binder where people could log the wildlife they had seen, looking through there were a few reports of a black bear but we just laughed it off as a joke, especially given one of them was just outside the office. We were at a resort after all. We went out for a hike along the Appalachian Trail and climbed Stony Mountain. Now when I say climbed, I mean a nice short leisurely hike; because after all we were already near the top (the resort was located near the highest peak). Even still we got to the top in half the time that the information board had suggested it would take, it took very little effort for a gorgeous view. We did not see much wildlife (except for a bird posing for me at the peak and a hawk soaring) along the hike, but we did see a ton of different mushrooms! Some were the white and red stereotypical ones, some were purple and magical looking and some looked like anemones.
On our way to the lodge for dinner I heard some rustling behind us in the forest, so I turned to look and could not believe what I saw. It was a black bear!! (This is written in my notebook in all capital letters). The bear was so insanely cute, bumbling about in the bushes looking for food. I wanted to run up to it and cuddle up to its big soft belly. It was not scared of us at all; it did not care at all that we were there, posing for photos near it. It had to have been used to people given how close to the cabins it was. In the office we excitedly wrote it down in the binder.
Dinner was delicious; we split the pork flank and Virginia rainbow trout. I had wanted Virginia ham, having read about it, alas it was not on the menu. I could not resist ordering dessert because they had on offer Shenandoah Valley blackberry ice cream! And it came in a pie option!! With a graham cracker crust and meringue top!! It was huge, too big for even two people to eat, but so delicious. I can understand why that black bear was just tearing through those bushes looking for berries. Brent also had a Dominion stout beer, being Dominion-geeks and all, it was awesome (the name of the beer, not the taste). Back at the lodge, it was not even 8pm and there was nothing to do but sit and read, while Brent made do with an internet-less computer (all it is good for is playing Hearts and Spider Solitaire). We were going to try going to the main lodge at 10pm to watch Breaking Bad, but we deemed it too dark outside to go, more reading instead. In my book there was mention of this elusive “Virginia ham”, that just made me want it all the more, that, and Virginia peanuts. Also: in the one day we had eaten an entire box of Smores Pop Tarts somehow.
Video of our encounter with the black bear in Shenandoah Valley National Park: