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Shenandoah

The Great Foss Narration:

 

We got a late start on Wednesday because MacBeth got stuck in traffic. As soon as the Derhams got to our house, we left, heading west for a great adventure at Shenandoah National Park .  We got on Skyline Drive at Front Royal and started our audio tour. The day was cool and cloudy and sometimes we couldnít see at all because we were driving in a cloud.

We traveled all the way to milepost 41 to the Limberlost Trail. This trail was named for the Gene Stratton Porter novel, The Girl of the Limberlost. It is an easy trail because it has crushed green gravel for wheelchair accessibility. The trees were mixed; some were still green and some had already changed to fall colors. We had a picnic lunch as soon as we got there and Christian got stung by a wasp. He didnít even cry but his neck did swell up and it sure did hurt.

On the trail, Christian and Trip saw a chipmunk. We saw a salamander in the creek and we caught it to look at it for a few minutes. Then we let it go because you are only allowed to keep what you are going to eat. Nobody wanted to eat salamander. There was lichen on the trees. One log had lots of lichen and right next to it were a bunch of trees in full fall color. Michael sketched that. All the trees were huge, old hemlocks

After we left Limberlost, we went to Big Meadows. At Big Meadows, there is a campground, a lodge, a store and cabins. We checked into our cabin and got all our stuff out of the car. Then we went to find the Derhams campsite. When we got there, they were already all set up. We helped start a fire to make dinner. We gathered wood and milkweed. Milkweed is a great fire starter. We also burned all the remnants of the Derhamís Happy Meal dinner from the day before. We gathered all the coals and put them on one side of the fire pit. MacBeth stoked the fire. We boiled broth for chicken soup. MacBeth had already cooked the chicken and

the broth came in a box. She added some vegetables, including Tripís garden turnips. We put potatoes in foil right on the coals. Mom forgot the butter so when the potatoes were done, we added them to the soup. While we were cooking the soup, five deer were just off our campsite. When we went towards them, they didnít run away. Instead, they came to visit. We think they thought we would feed them. We didnít because the deer can die much sooner if they eat people food. Annika began to keep track of how many deer we saw on the trip. We got up to twenty eight before the tripís end.

Libby found a humongous fungus! It was elephant ear fungus.

We were starving and the soup was delicious. Annika added half a bottle of salt to hers. It was not delicious. While we ate soup, the steak was cooking. MacBeth put a batch of cookie dough in a tin pan and put it in a tin lobster pot with a lid on the fire and the cookies baked. All this time, Michael kept the fire going. We roasted marshmallows and ate steak at the same time. And we had warm fire-roasted cookies. Everything was delicious!

It was pretty cold by then, but Libby warmed her hands enough to play some violin. She was awesome.

Before dark, we had to be really careful to clean up all our food and utensils so the bears wouldnít come into our campsite. The bears at Shenandoah are black bears. Usually, the teenage bears go after the food because they donít know any better. If you see a bear, you should not make eye contact. Wave your arms over your head a yell at the bear (or pray real loudly). Black bears are not nearly as ferocious as grizzlies. There are no grizzlies in Shenandoah and we wanted to see a black bear but not up too close. 

When it was dark, after Stephen had eaten for about two hours, he got cranky.

Mom said it was time to go to our cabin. The boys begged to stay in the tent and MacBeth said that was just fine. Michael and Christian had warm L.L. Bean sleeping bags. Patrick says he was very cold in a go-to-grandmaís sleeping bag. Everybody slept in his clothes (which smelled like smoke).

Just as we were going to sleep, we heard and saw an animal rubbing against the side of the tent. MacBeth went to investigate and the mysterious visitor turned out to be a dog named "Buddy." Whew! We had thought maybe it was a bear! We went to sleep all huddled together and we thought those hot water bottles were a very good idea. It was very dark out there. Mom and Mary Beth and Stephen slept all warm and snug in the cabin. Mom said something about not wanting to leave us alone in a tent while she hiked to the bathroom three times a night. Wimps!

When we woke up, we all trundled into the Volvo and went to the cabin. We all took warm showers. Mom checked out of the cabin and we returned to the campsite to start breakfast. We tried to start the fire without a match but we gave up when we decided we were too hungry for that nonsense. The menu called for bacon and eggs cooked in a brown lunchbag. First you take two strips of bacon and line the bottom of the bag. Then you poke a stick through the bag at the top and hold it over the fire until the bacon fat coats the bag bottom. The trick is to hold it close enough to melt the bacon but not so close that the bag catches fire. Tripís bag caught fire immediately. Michael was not far behind Trip. Patrick was extremely careful and patient and sat there for close to an hour, melting his bacon. Then he put an egg on top and cooked that. He says it was good but next time heíd just as soon use a frying pan.

Michael and Trip, when they discovered there were no more bags, got inventive. They cooked their bacon in the bottom of tin cans. Then they added eggs and cooked those on top. It was greasy but good. In the meantime, Mom lined pans with more bacon and put sliced leftover potatoes on top. We cooked this in MacBethís lobster pot oven.

Right next to our campsite, we discovered an apple tree. Mom had just mixed pancake batter which quickly became cobbler topping. She sliced apples from the tree, put them in a pan, poured maple syrup and apple pie spice (MacBeth thought everythingóeven pie spice) on top and then put the pancake batter on top. This baked in that lobster pot oven until it was just perfect apple cobbler. It tasted great with MacBethís hot chocolate. Martha Stewart would be proud of those two moms. At last, we finished our two hour breakfast adventure.

It was time to go to Dark Hollow Falls for a hike.  From the time we started, we could see a valley as we hiked along the trail. The valley was created by the small stream that would eventually become the eighty foot waterfall. The trees were already in their fall colors and were very pretty. Halfway through the hike, there was a small stream that pooled a little and we could see a bunch of small trout, about six inches long. We stayed there for a while and climbed on the rocks and Michael almost caught a trout. Instead of catching one, he got stuck between a rock and a log in the water. Libby and Christian had to help Michael turn himself right side around and get off the log. Paul was leading the pack the whole way down the trail. Near the falls, we saw a huge mountainside rock the size of the whole side of the house. All kinds of different algae and weird black fungus grew there. When we got to the falls, it was really amazing. Trip climbed up the rocks. He would have climbed all the way up the waterfall if MacBeth

 hadnít stopped him. Michael decided to start swinging from tree limbs. Then we hiked a little farther down the waterfall. We saw another small waterfall. When we were exploring that, Patrick saw more trout and fish and told everyone about it. Then we decided to turn around and go back up the trail.

Going up was much harder and we had to practically drag Paul. On the way up, some people told us to look for deer on the cliffside. We didnít find any. Some other people wanted to know if we were the group with two ladies camping alone with all those kids. Actually, it was only nine kids, ten including Nicholas, "camping" in Momís belly.

Trip and Christian found two caterpillars. One was a wooly bear caterpillar. The other was a black and white wooly caterpillar with black spikes.  They caught the caterpillars for Mary Beth, who loves caterpillars. In the car, Mary Beth took the caterpillar out of the jar and let it crawl all over her hands. It was really beautiful. She put it back into the jar. About three minutes later, she started screaming. Her hands were red and puffy and they hurt her. Michael took her to the bathroom to wash her hands and Mom and MacBeth went in search of Benadryl. Libby and Michael took the caterpillar, in the jar, to the park rangers. The ranger said it was a Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar and that some people are allergic to its hairs. Mary Beth was clearly one of those people. We gave her some medicine and went back to camp. She was pretty pitiful for a little while. Mom and MacBeth both wondered aloud exactly how far we were from a hospital.

We started the fire again and roasted hotdogs on a stick and ate salsa and chips for lunch. The hotdogs were much easier to cook than the bacon and eggs. Washing dishes was tricky because there was only cold water in the bathrooms and at the pumps. We had to heat the water on the fire. Still, it was better than doing dishes at home. Actually, everything was better than at home. I guess the trip counts as school, but it sure didnít feel that way. It felt better than a day at the best amusement park. We reluctantly left the Derhams to begin our journey home. Michael and Christian and Patrick begged to stay but MacBeth didnít have room in the car. Mom said next time, weíd bring our own big tent and camping gear and bring Dad. When we got home, Daddy was there. He said he had never seen Stephen look so dirty. He also said we all smelled like smoke. We went off to take warm baths and discovered we had no hot water. If thereís no hot water at home, whatís the point? We want to go back to Shenandoah next week!

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