After a few days of the hurly-burly of Manhattan I am especially looking forward to a few days of peace and quiet. I’m hoping for the weekend equivalent of this vista from one of the scenic overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the distances were vast and the expanse swallowed up all sound but for the wind murmuring among the hills below.
We all value our weekends, but often they are packed with engagements and events, dinner parties and commitments. We enjoy those weekends, to be sure, but it’s also nice to have the occasional weekend where there isn’t much on the calendar and the idle hours lie ahead like empty hills that stretch far way to the blue horizon.
Maybe we’ll go to a movie, or for a walk if the weather permits. Or maybe we’ll do nothing much except enjoy some conversation over a cup of coffee and the quiet pleasure of sitting comfortably side-by-side as we read our books.
Yesterday we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while early in the morning. At one of the many scenic overlook areas we stopped to take in Looking Glass Rock, a huge rock outcropping that thrusts up from the rolling, forested hills of the Pisgah National Forest that stretch forever into the far distance. It’s an amazingly beautiful place, and a camera lens just can’t fully capture it’s sweep and splendor — but the pictures are pretty nevertheless.
We’ve been trekking through areas of the Pisgah National Forest, enjoying some beautiful streams and waterfalls, cool air and chirping birds. So far, we haven’t seen one of the other natural wonders of this area — bears.
The Asheville area is black bear country, and the Pisgah National Forest is where they live. It’s one of those areas that is wilderness — in the sense that no houses are in sight — but it’s regularly visited by campers, hikers, anglers, birders, and tourist who drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bears often see humans, and are known to prowl suburban neighborhoods at night, rooting through garbage and looking for food. The bears are accustomed to people and have lost their fear of them. That’s not a good thing, because an emboldened bear is more likely to charge — and we don’t want that.
The trail heads here feature posted warnings about bears that seem ironically hilarious to me. Don’t approach a bear? Give a bear in the distance wide berth? Hey, thanks for those useful tips! But some people are idiots, and expect any bears they see to be like animals in a petting zoo. They’ll approach them and even try to feed them and take a selfie while doing so. I’m not sure that posting notices will penetrate the cluelessness of such people — but you’ve got to try something, I suppose.
On our hikes I’ve tried to stay alert for signs of bears. If I see one, I’ll gladly turn and head carefully in the opposite direction.