Shenandoah National Park and Big Meadows

​I just got back from Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park and thought I would share some photos.  This one is not about men’s issues, it is just for fun.

No one knows how the meadow came to be.  Most meadows result from glacier action but the Glaciers never made it to Virginia.  They have been able to find that humans inhabited the meadow as far back as 8000 years ago.​  The best guesses are that the Indians kept the meadow open by clearing and burning thus enabling a great area for hunting.  That’s one theory among many.  Anyway, here is a shot of the meadow.

It is an attractive landscape shot but the real beauty of the meadow doesn’t come until you get up close.  Here’s a shot of a Wild Rose.

I think this is a type of Groundsel. An early bloomer indeed.

The meadow is filled with indigenous wildflowers and the one that always catches my attention is the Milkweed.  It is an essential part of the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.  The Monarch lays its eggs on the Milkweed and when the egg hatches it eats a diet of mostly Milkweed leaves. 

The Milkweed got its name from the taste of its leaves which most describe as tasting/smelling like spoiled milk. In other words it tastes putrid! It turns out that this is an important defense for the Monarch.  It seems that birds which ordinarily will feast on larva and butterflies will avoid the Monarch since after eating only Milkweed they taste so bad!  LOL Great evolutionary defense! Here are a few older pictures from previous summers of Monarchs on Milkweed and the caterpillar.

Later in the summer….
This wasn’t a recent shot since the eggs-caterpillar don’t show up till mid to late summer.

The meadow changes just about every step you take with new and different vanities of plants. It has bogs and dry spots and a great variety of grasses like the one below. The tree by itself in the meadow is a Gray Birch and has the distinction of being the most southern tree of its species.

The meadow is criss crossed with deer trails. The Rangers swear they don’t create paths and that all the paths are all due to animal movements. You can’t miss seeing deer and rabbits but that is about all I have seen there other than birds and insects. The Rangers say they have seen Bobcats, Fox, Bear and others.

Another wildflower that attracts my attention is named Fly Poison.  Most parts of the plant are poisonous with the bulb being the most poisonous.  Native Americans are said to have used it to stop itching and also to kill unwanted crows.  It is an early spring plant and hungry farm animals have been known to ingest it and get an immediate reaction that impacts the lungs and stomach. I think it can be fatal but not usually.  The American settlers would grind up the bulb and mix it with honey and sugar, place it strategically, and it would then attract and kill flies.  I guess that’s where the name comes from.  lol

Milkweed in the foreground

The field you can see in this shot is just north of the meadow and was the home of a group of CCC workers. This one was called Fletcher Field.  These were men who were paid $25 a month for their labors in basically building the park in the depression era in the 1930’s  They busted ass in building roads and walls by hand and have left some beautiful work in their memory.  They were allowed to keep $5 of their monthly salary and send on the other $20 to feed their relatives and family.  Apparently there were 3 million men across the US who participated in this in various locations.

Fletcher Field

The CCC workers who used the adjacent field had a baseball team that played other nearby CCC teams.  They called themselves the Fletcher Indians because they claimed that each time they put a shovel into the ground out would come a Native American arrowhead! 

Here’s a shot of the park with a CCC built stone wall.

Ah the beauty of an 85 year old Man Made Stone Wall! Thank you CCC Men!

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