Deer dispel complaints; MY FAVORITE PLACE
Last year for Memorial Day weekend, I rented a room in a lodge at Big Meadows, one of the most popular areas along Skyline Drive. I wanted a weekend away from the city and a chance for our family to enjoy the serene beauty of nature. I especially wanted our two boys - Max, age 2, and Jackson, age 6 - to enjoy the mountains as much as I do.
In years past, I have hiked and camped many times along Skyline
Drive between Thornton Gap and Big Meadows, including the Appalachian Trail. Once while I was hiking alone, down White Oak Canyon, a great horned owl flew directly across my path. It landed in a pine tree, its back toward me, then turned its huge head with the hornlike tufts of feathers to look right at me. It was a moment of eerie beauty I've always treasured.
As soon as we checked into the lodge, we went on the small back deck facing some cabins. In the grassy area between the cabins and our lodge, a deer grazed. We decided to take a hike down to the wayside, a combination store, diner and gas station by the main road. The mile-long hike followed the road that connected the lodges, cabins and camping area to Skyline Drive. It was a warm day. Barely halfway there, our two boys broke down.
"It's too hot."
"My feet hurt."
"My legs hurt."
"I'm thirsty ..."
"... hungry ..."
I was deluged by the usual laments any parent of young children is all too familiar with. A simple hike became a crisis. I was ready to head back - anything but death by a thousand complaints. My wife, Jennifer, pulled us together, urging us on, bribing our sons with the lure of a treat. She and I took turns carrying the 2-year-old, who was just a month shy of turning 3. Rushing into the wayside, we hit the bathrooms. Then, in the diner, the kids enjoyed the underappreciated pacifying power of ice cream.
The walk down had been uneventful minus the crisis in family morale. Before going back, we debated the path of our return, finally deciding on a trail that ran through the woods. I, of course, had voted to wimp out. The sun was near to setting. I didn't want to be stuck in the darkening woods when another torrent of complaints erupted. Hiking back, however, turned out to be both scenic and a pleasant surprise. Where we had seen many people on the roadside trail, no one seemed to be opting for a walk in the woods so late in the day.
Suddenly we saw several deer. Then more and more. They seemed to just appear between the trees. Soon we were in the middle of about a dozen deer, which, like us, were just taking a casual stroll. Some of them were just a few feet from us. The kids were in awe; Jennifer and I were in awe. It was a wonderful moment.
Chester R. Frazier lives in Baltimore.
We had read that one of the world's most exquisite waterfalls - Havasu Falls - cascaded into swimmable pools in a little-traveled offshoot of the Grand Canyon, so in March of 1994 we made the trip. The falls are 2.5 miles downstream from a remote Native American village, which we reached by helicopter. From there, we were to go on horse-back with our two young sons. We scrambled up onto waiting horses, carrying our backpacks with lunches and bathing suits, and followed our guide along the deserted trail.
Barbara Miletic, Catonsville Boston
"...because I can explore it in a weekend. From South Station through the Public Gardens, past Copley Square and down Boylston Street into the Back Bay where I can see a Red Sox game or a 'Pops' concert - no two weekends are ever the same."
The Inn at Buckeystown
Sandra M. Schmidt,
"A perfect local inn for an escape. Low key and kind, the innkeepers provide total privacy or friendly interaction. The tempo and immaculate surroundings made us feel we had stepped back in time."
Cape May, N.J.
Dorothy A. Machione,
"Restores the mind, body and spirit, because it places one in an atmosphere suggesting another era. Pretty Victorian homes, good restaurants, fun places to browse and the ocean make this a great place to get away from it all!"
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! Pub date: 5/24/98