Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Day 3: Luray Rescue Zoo, New Market, and Hone Quarry

We got started a little late, and visited the nearby outdoor adventure store, Wilderness Voyages. I wanted to get a walking stick monopod, but the ones they had were too pricey for me. The young lady working there was extremely helpful, and told us about one of her favorite local hiking areas, Hone Quarry Recreation Area in the westernmost area of George Washington National Forest. Being out west, it was likely to have very few visitors, unlike the Appalachian Trail, which runs parallel to Skyline Drive in this part of the state. She also told us how to get to Reddish Knob, the highest peak in the area. But that was for later.

We trucked on out to the Luray Rescue Zoo, which is right next to Luray Caverns. This of course raises the question "why didn't we just do that when we were there on Thursday?" but what the heck.

Now we've been to our share of private zoos, and many of them either disturb or disappoint in their treatment of their animals. We've seen small enclosures, strange combinations of animals sharing habitat, and some very stressed animals in some zoos. But when we walked in the door we were greeted by a sign proclaiming that Steve Irwin had visited the place. If Steve-o approved, than it had to be cool.

And cool it was. The touristy portion of the facility ended with the roadside dinosaur and alligator-jaws doorway. This is a serious conservation/education facility. One of the owners, Jennifer Westhoff, was tirelessly educating visitors from exhibit to exhibit; it seemed like you could hear her voice from every inch of the zoo. She was equally facile in discussing capuchins, tigers, and alligators.

The entrance area of the zoo was a complex of reptile exhibits, featuring the most impressive collection of venomous reptiles I have ever seen. The coolest was a young albino cobra who showed off for the camera:

The zoo complex is open but mostly shaded, with large, exciting enclosures for the animals. As a rescue zoo, they rehabilitate and house animals who had been illegally kept as exotic pets and other sob stories. They have a young female tiger, two Canadian lynx, and a bobcat, but a small orange female cat also wanders the grounds. She was very friendly. Many of the the animals had plaques indicating private sponsorship of the exhibit; the alligator snapping turtle is sponsored by Steve and Terri Irwin. They even have a petting zoo area, which gave me the opportunity to make friends with a sleepy but affectionate baby yak.

Here are a few pictures:

We stopped for lunch in historic New Market and ate at Wayne's Two Worlds Cafe and Emporium. It was 3:00 in the afternoon, so we were the only customers. Wayne served us up the best hamburgers either of us had ever eaten. They were huge, perfectly cooked, and spiced flawlessly. I would drive all the way out here from Richmond for lunch, I swear.

It was a pretty long drive out west to that particular part of Washington Forest, but it was instantly clear that the Wilderness girl had not steered us wrong. There was No. One. Else. on the Cliff Trail we hiked. It was about a half mile pretty much straight up, culminating in the amazing overlook we later discovered was called Lover's Leap.

But that wasn't even the climax. I was still feeling strong, so I urged us up the ridge a little bit, where we found a very well-built fire ring at a perfect campsite (which I desperately want to show Phil).

Just a bit farther up, at a small rocky peak, Karen amazed me by finding a geocache in a burnt-out tree stump! If you don't know what a geocache is, it's a waterproof container containing a notebook and souvenirs designed for people with portable GPS systems to locate as an adventure. It's extremely rare to find one without a GPS, you pretty much have to just stumble across it like she did. We took a small flower-shaped eraser and left a bottle of insect repellent.

We tried to drive farther out Route 257 to locate Reddish Knob, but when the road got down to one lane--literally one lane with a steep drop on one side, with turnabouts every quarter mile or so--we got a little nervous and turned around. I'm a little haunted by the thought that we were so close to the highest point in the area, but it was getting dark and it had been a long day.

Tomorrow we leave Harrisonburg for the long trip down to Mouth of Wilson. Plans are to see the Natural Bridge and stop at a few wineries on the way. Pictures and accounts to come, but probably not until we get back; the cabin at Rugby Creek doesn't have internet access.


  • At 8/19/2007 12:49 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    I've been to that zoo before. I loved it. When I went there, my parents didn't really feel like walking around so they stayed in the gift shop, and there were barely any other people there, so I basically got to walk around the zoo all by my lonesome

  • At 8/19/2007 12:54 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    I suppose that's the advantage of going to the zoo on a gloomy day.

  • At 8/20/2007 9:35 AM , Anonymous Philip Hamm said...

    Jim and I found a geocache at Signal Knob on the Eastern side of the GWNF. There was all kinds of neato stuff in there, somebody left a roach in there which we thought was hilarious. I left moleskin for the hikers.

  • At 8/25/2007 9:17 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    I'm just loving this geocaching idea. It makes me want to buy a GPS, no fooling.

  • At 8/27/2007 3:15 PM , Anonymous Philip hamm said...

    I don't know if you can use a budget GPS like a Tom Tom for geocaching. Hiking Upward is a great resource for geocaching and day hiking in the area. Jim and I have found some really cool trails there.


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