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Wilderness Weekend

SNP Wilderness Weekend

Shenandoah National Park Celebrates Wilderness!
September 8 – 9, 2018

Celebrate America’s wilderness heritage during Shenandoah National Park’s 18th annual Wilderness Weekend. One of the largest wilderness areas in the eastern United States, Shenandoah’s wilderness offers opportunities for solitude, scenic views, wildlife sightings, and glimpses into the past. Gaze into Shenandoah’s wilderness from Skyline Drive or experience wilderness on the trail.

Shenandoah’s wilderness was designated by Congress in October 1976. Forty percent of the park, almost 80,000 acres, is wilderness. Areas preserved as wilderness provide habitats for wildlife, sites for research, reservoirs for clean, free-flowing water, and sanctuaries for human recreation. Today more than 109 million acres of public land across the United States are protected in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Join us at one of the special programs listed below to learn more about wilderness in Shenandoah.

Zombie Taxidermy #2

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My first taxidermy order came from a State game warden after the zombie outbreak near Warm Springs. He had captured the zombie in a baited bear trap in the Sierra Mountains near the Pacific Coast Trail. The intact upper torso arrived yesterday afternoon in the locked metal box I sent him to ship it in.

In my underground work room I narrowly escaped being bitten when I opened the metal box. The damn thing nearly tore my arm off and bit into my chain-male glove before I could throw it to the work room floor. Afterwards, I cut off both arms and the torso before storing these putrid remains in the freezer.

I’ve taken several precautions to protect my neighbors in case I’m  bitten and become a zombie. The exterior door lock requires a hidden key, a 16 digit PIN, and fingerprint authentication. After three failed attempts to unlock the door its sealed and can’t be opened from the inside. This triggers a self-destruct mechanism that will incinerate everything in the work room. It’s the least I could do to protect my neighbors and limit my liability.

After screwing the Kevlar safety shield into the zombie’s skull I mounted it on the oak plaque. Throughout the procedure the damn thing violently shook its head back and forth and tried desperately to bite me. When I was done I immediately incinerated my bio-suit, chain-male gloves and face shield since they were covered with gore. Disinfecting the room took most of the night.

I packed the mounted head in dry ice before shipping it back to California. I enclosed an ominous sounding letter from my lawyer warning the buyer to never remove the Kevlar safety shield. It also included detailed instructions on how to safely mount his trophy on the wall.

 

Robo Hiker #4

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When I pulled into the parking lot I saw the Robo Hiker leaning against the wall outside the Wayside. It was raining heavily and he didn’t seem to notice the other visitors rushing inside to get out of the rain. I watched him for a couple of minutes before grabbing my rain coat and walking over to talk to him.

“You’re probably surprised that I’m hiking back to Springer Mountain. I can always fly up to Maine and then hike south from Katadhin. I heard the black flies aren’t as bad in the fall. I didn’t see you at the press conference in Harper’s Ferry, though I heard you were in town. How was your meeting with the ATC Director?”

“Let’s go into the restaurant or sit under the pavilion. I’m getting soaked.” I walked over to the pavilion next to the visitors center and he followed carrying his backpack. “So tell me about your new toys,” I asked.

He handed me one of the lightweight hiking poles. The sensors embedded in the wood were almost invisible to the naked eye. The MIT engineers hadn’t discussed these sensors with me or why they had to be in these hiking poles.  Before I could ask about them he sat down across from me and said, “When your funding runs out am I going to be recycled or reassigned to another research team?”

I wasn’t ready to discuss this so I motioned towards the hiking poles and asked about the MIT engineers. “They’ve pissed me off. They replaced one of the Japanese neuro-linguistic processor because someone complained that I sounded “too human”. Since it’s  not synchronized with my facial nerves it sometimes sounds like I have a mouth full of marbles. And the damn hiking poles are throwing me off-balance on the wet rocks. They’re making this much more complicated than it has to be.”

As the rain let up I picked up the hiking poles and walked towards my car. “I’ll send these back to MIT and insist they work all future enhancements through me. They won’t like it but I don’t give a shit. We’ll talk about your next assignment the next time we see each other.” As I drove away I saw the Robo Hiker go into the visitors center as the sun came out.

 

Robo Hiker #3

Leaving the Guide Dog Café I nearly spilled my iced coffee when a passerby bumped into me. Before I could call after her I saw the Robo Hiker standing outside an antiques store. A small group had gathered around him taking pictures and asking questions. “Are you really going to hike the entire AT in less than 2 months?” “Yes, I’ll summit Katahdin Mountain in a month from now and then fly to San Diego to begin hiking the Pacific Coast Trail.” I maneuvered around the small gathering and headed up the short hill to the ATC.

“What brings you to Harper’s Ferry?” the Robo Hiker asked when he came up beside me. He carried a package from the Post Office and was drinking a Monster energy drink. “I’m just here for the press conference.” As we approached the ATC headquarters there was a lull in conversations as the assembled group saw us approaching. A couple of his handlers from MIT escorted him into a nearby RV to get him ready for the press conference.

Inside, the ATC gift store and lobby were packed. I made my way to the “Hikers Only” area to finish my coffee and gather my thoughts. A young hiker finished rinsing out her coffee cup and turned towards me and said, “I wish they would get that damn thing off the trail. He almost  knocked me over when he passed me near the Blackburn Trail Center. It was like I wasn’t even there.” She walked away when another hiker came in.

Upstairs the Director welcomed me into his office and offered me another cup of coffee before we sat down. “This press conference will  be seen around the world and finally put ATC and Harper’s Ferry on the map. So, how do you think our synthetic friend will do?”

“He’ll surpass everyone’s expectations, They’ll be surprised by how articulate he is and laugh at his anecdotes and self-deprecating humor. He’ll provide insightful answers to their questions and thank his sponsors and hosts.  He’ll almost convince them he’s human and all this fuss is over nothing. It will be hard, but the reporters will have to remind themselves and their audiences that he’s just a well-programmed machine. And then they’ll move on to the next big story, and ……” Terri came in as I was finishing up and told the Director he had to take an important phone call. Terri apologized about interrupting our meeting and pointed me toward a desk near the window.

I took some great photos of the press conference from the second-floor office. The press conference went longer than expected. The reporters submitted  their stories and interviews back to their newsrooms before they pulled out of the parking lot. The Robo Hiker stayed out front posing for selfies and mingling with the small crowd. It wasn’t long before he was ushered back into the RV by the same two handlers.