An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

October 28, 2010

Big Meadows

I will end my Shenandoah National Park posts where it officially began when dedicated by FDR in 1935 at Big Meadows. I had hoped our stay would begin here as well. We left Norfolk fairly early so that we could get to the first-come-first-serve campsites before the bulk of the expected Columbus Day weekend crowd. I really wanted to camp at Big Meadows, but when we got to the park the admitting ranger told us that only Loft Mt. campground, at the other end of the park, had any spaces left. We ended up with one of the last 10 spots remaining in the entire park. On Sunday we returned north just so I could see the meadows. I have been there before, but never with anyone who would abide with my desire to wander, though the often surly, soon to be 13-year old who I was travelling with did not want to go, to which I said "you are welcome to go back to the car or sulk on that rock, but I'll be through when I'm through".

Big Meadows (6)

Even as a kid, I was fascinated with meadows and played in them on the fringes of our neighborhood before they fell victim to sprawl. This type of landscape is not natural here, rather it is more of a transition form, usually filling the gap between what was once agriculture and a return to what was before - the forest. Big Meadows is no exception. It is the last large open area in the park, a remnant of what much of the park looked like in 1935, a collection of homesites, fields and pastures cleared from the forest. While the rest of the park has been allowed to return to its former state, NPS keeps Big Meadows as it is by a once yearly mowing. While we were there it had transitioned to fall and was a 300 acre tapestry of color and texture.

Big Meadows (2)

Big Meadows (7)

Big Meadows (8)

Big Meadows (9)

Big Meadows (11)

Big Meadows (3)

Big Meadows (4)

Big Meadows (5)

Big Meadows

If you would like to see more of my Shenandoah N.P. pictures you can click here.


  1. Hi Les, All these meadows bring back memories of when I was a nine year old kid herding goats on the meadows. Great photos, thanks for sharing.

  2. Les, this is my hood (kinda sorta). I drove my Dad up there during my last visit to Virginia - he didn't want to walk around much, but we did sit at a picnic table and have a little snack. I always get a bit sad driving up there, seeing the apple trees (they were covered in apples in mid-September) - knowing that so many families were displaced because of the park. I know, these parks are magnificent and I wholly support them - but a great great... I forget how many great uncle of my father's mother was displaced, and his letters are part of the discourse in the book by Katrina Powell, titled the "The Anguish of Displacement: The Politics of Literacy in the Letters of Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park" (which I highly recommend if you love the Shenandoah Nat'l Park. It's a fascinating - and somewhat transformative view - of the people that made their livelihood on those mountain tops.

    Your images are beautiful - made me a bit homesick tonight.

  3. Amazing vastness of land and texture and color, Les, and you captured it so beautifully. Someday if we get back to your neck of the woods, this would be a definite stop. Thank you.

  4. So beautiful Les...and I'd be willing to bet that surly 13 yr old will be back to enjoy it someday.

  5. Is the low-growing shrub with the beautiful red color a low-growing blueberry?

  6. I love the colors and textures, especially in the second photo.

  7. There is so much going on in the meadows. I'm here asking, "what's that and that and that and...?" Beautiful.

  8. These meadows are like a piece of heaven on earth, breathtaking landscape. I'd love to sit there and meditate or to lay down and enjoy the skies and the surrounding flowers and plants. Awesome!

  9. Take that precious surly kid where he wants to go too him lots, more than he thinks he needs from you, take care, Gina

  10. It does remind of the old meadow/run down farm where we picked blackberries. I sure that is some subdivision with McMansions now.

  11. Beautiful place. Glad to know about it for a future visit.

  12. Wonderful diversity creating a living fall tapestry. Lovely! Thank you for sharing your visit Les. Gorgeous photos!! ;>)

  13. Les, I am so glad the park department kept the meadow~It's lovely and, indeed, what a tapestry! I love the final photo with the skeleton tree. gail

  14. Rene,
    We saw no goats, but there were plenty of deer and bear scat.

    I am sorry to have made you a bit homesick. One of the nice things about Big Meadows is that it gives people of all abilities a chance to see a piece of the wilderness.

    I hope you can make it soon. Its lovely year round but I'd say spring and fall are the best.

    I hope these little inoculations I give him will take root.

    It is some species of vaccinum, but I do not know which.

    There was a lot of both going on.

    I wish I could tell you what that and that was.

    Not "like" a piece of heaven, but "is" a piece of heaven.

    I try!

    I remember it well, I think that is what we called Willard's house near Hungry Rd. I also liked the field behind the boys home near Greenford before it was sprawled.

    Put it on you list.

    You are quite welcome.

    I like the skeleton tree as well. My new facebook profile was taken under it.