This is the story of Taco’s near-death experience.
Aug 27th • 2016
Don’t get me wrong, I love my current home in Northeast Florida. But the further north I go in the US, the more I consider a change in scenery might happen in my future.
I wouldn’t mind living near Linville Falls. Called the “Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians,” there are several beautiful trails to explore in the area. My only question is why does everything have to be the Grand Canyon of this or that? At this point, I’ve been to multiple natural sites that claim they’re the Grand Canyon of “insert-geographic-region-here.” Find a new marketing shtick people.
From Erwins View Overlook, you can get a wonderful view of the gorge and a view of the upper and lower falls. And the tree canopy is on point.
After exploring the large Linville Falls, we stopped by the smaller (more intimate?) Duggars Creek Falls. The water was icy and clear. Taco had mixed reactions to the water, to us in the water, and to the crawdads and bugs along the way.
That night we camped at Linville Falls Campground. It’s an adorable, privately-owned campground with sites for tents and RVs. There are also cabins scattered throughout. The site was clean, the facilities were awesome. I would have loved to stay longer.
However, Tuesday was spent on a long drive to Virginia. We had the benefit of staying in a condo just outside of Shenandoah National Park. The change in accommodations was a welcome relief to my youngest sister. She’s not a fan of camping. At all. Literally, the only reason she puts up with it is to be with her older sisters. Initiate guilt trip.
Wednesday was spent in the Shenandoah. And it was eventful, to say the least.
We set off on the Rose River Loop. It’s a beautiful trail with access to waterfalls and amazing tree canopies.
We’re not the type to stick to one trail though. At our first waterfall, we began an ascent along the slippery sides of the Dark Hollow Falls Trail. This detour took us up along many tiers of the fall, eventually dropping us at the trailhead and parking lot.
And here is where I have a story but no photographs. Following our exit from the Dark Hollow Falls Trail, my sisters and I took the Story of the Forest Nature Trail to the Byrd Visitor’s Center. After stopping for snacks and a quick look over at the gift shop, we set off for our car. Instead of walking along the main Skyline road, we headed down a horse trail that would deliver us just near Fishers Gap Overlook.
I’m pretty sure we were three-quarters of the way when Taco got loose and took off down the trail like a bat out of hell. At first, I assumed it was in pursuit of a deer. He’d done it before. But when my eyes followed him up the trail, I saw instead a small black bear cub.
It all happened really fast. As I screamed his name, the cub took off into the woods, Taco in hot pursuit. From the left, previously out of sight, emerged the mother black bear. And she was on a tear after Taco.
All three disappeared into the forest.
Needless to say, we were terrified that we had just witnessed the end of Taco. Unable to follow, we three retraced our steps (very quickly) back up the horse trail. Every few seconds, we would stop, check behind us, and yell Taco’s name.
It was probably only a couple of minutes, but it felt like an eternity when Taco appeared out of the bushes. I’ve never seen that dog move so fast. I actually didn’t know it was possible for him to run as he did.
Long story short, Taco is alive. And side note, I’ve never been so glad to have left Courage behind. She had been stressed at all the travel and I opted to let her sleep in the condo while we hiked. Thank the lord. I’m sure a larger dog would have changed the outcome to a less favorable one.
The whole group made it to the Byrd Visitor’s Center unscathed…and unwilling to walk back to our car. Enter the wonderful rangers of the National Park Service. We received a ride back to our vehicle courtesy of an amazing ranger. So thank you NPS. We owe you one.
Later that evening at the condo, I had a second (and uneventful) run-in with another black bear. I had walked out of the condo to my car and made note of what I thought was a gaudy black bear statue in front of the condos to my right.
It was another half-second before I remembered that earlier in the day, there had been no strange yard ornament in the spot. I whipped around and found myself staring eye-to-eye with a black bear on all fours. He was twenty or thirty feet away.
I guess it was a boring sight because the bear turned around and headed down the hill into the darkness and out of sight.
So…bears. They’re a thing.
The next day, we continued deeper into Virginia to Kilmarnock and another condo available for our use. At this point, it became more of a standard vacation with Chinese take-out and poolside hangouts. And there ends Sister Trip 2016. I’m not sure yet what our 2017 trip will entail…but I’ll probably record it here…after procrastinating yet again.