Any More Questions?

Here are a few questions that Park visitors often ask the rangers. They don't seem to fit elsewhere in the book.

Q: It's been raining ever since I got here. Can I get my money back?
A: No.

Q: How can I get a job as a Park Ranger?
A: For either permanent or seasonal employment, write to the National Park Service, Washington, D.C. Few jobs are available, and competition is lively.

Q: How can I get a job with the concessioner?
A: Write to ARAMARK Virginia Sky-line Co., Inc., P.O. Box 727, Luray, Virginia 22835.

Q.: Where is Walton's Mountain?
A: In the television series, the Walton family lives at the foot of Walton's Mountain, which is clearly in the Blue Ridge and somewhere near Charlottesville. The Mountain is fictitious, of course. The author's home is in Schuyler, Virginia, about 30 miles south of Charlottesville. Therefore Walton's Mountain, as conceived by the author, must be south of the Park, near Rockfish Gap.

Q: The tree trunks have gray-green stuff all over them. Are the trees sick?
A: The gray-green stuff is lichen, which does no harm. Lichens grow where the air is cool, clean, and damp, which explains why they are common at higher elevations in the Park.

Q: (In May.) Down in the Valley, the trees are covered with leaves. Up here they're bare. Are the trees sick?
A: The leaves will come. On the mountaintop, spring is three or four weeks later than it is in the Valley.

Q: (August to October.) Trees beside the Drive have bare branches covered with cobwebs. Is something killing the trees?
A: What you saw is the work of the fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea. It's not killing the trees. The webworms don't come until late in the growing season, when the tree has enough nutrients stored in its roots to last through the winter. A tree would have to be completely stripped for several years in a row to be seriously damaged.

Q: Why doesn't the Park spray the trees?
A: Park policy is to rely on natural controls—birds and frost, not chemicals—to keep webworms under control.

Q: But the webs are ugly.
A: Take a look when they're backlit by the afternoon sun.

Q: Has the gypsy moth reached Shenandoah?
A: Yes. The gypsy moth is here to stay, as a permanent resident of the Park. That's a fact of life, and we'll have to live with it. Some areas have been defoliated, especially in the North Section. From Hogback Overlook (Mile 20.9), for example, you can see large areas of brown on the ridges below. The favorite food of the gypsy moth caterpillar is oak leaves, and the Park has more oaks than any other kind of tree. Scientists expect that by the year 2000, half the oaks in Shenandoah will be dead. Then what? They will be replaced by clearings, and wildflowers, and birds and butterflies. And, eventually, by other trees that the caterpillars find less tasty. It's not the end of the world, believe me. If you want details, ask for the gypsy moth folder at one of the Visitor Centers. Be alert for potential hazards of standing dead trees. Dead trees or limbs could fall at any time causing possible injury.

Q: Where are the caverns?
A: There are a number of caverns in the Shenandoah Valley, but none in the Park. Caverns occur in limestone. There is no limestone in the Park, except at a few points near the boundary. The largest and most famous caverns in the area are at Luray, nine miles west of Panorama (Mile 31.5).

Q: I saw two hound dogs beside the Drive. Why doesn't the Park do something about that?
A: The Park is narrow, and dogs come in from the nearby farms. Rangers round them up as quickly as possible, put them in a pound at Big Meadows or Park Headquarters, and notify the owner.

Q: Why doesn't the Park re-introduce the bison, elk, and cougar?
A: Their populations would have to reach a certain level for the species to be self-sustaining. The Park isn't big enough for a self-sustaining number of bison, elk, or cougars. Even if it were, the animals would drift out onto surrounding farmland and cause problems.

Q: Where are the fire towers?
A: We have none. In the 1940's the Park had nearly a dozen fire towers, but they've all been taken down. Fires are detected by rangers patrolling the Drive, and by Fire Wardens outside the Park.

This was asked by a visitor at Big Meadows:

Q: Do you mind if I jump off Franklin Cliff?
A: You're speaking of hang-gliding. The Superintendent has authorized three launch sites. One is on Millers Head, near Skyland. The others are on Hogback Mountain and Dickey Hill, in the North Section. But the rules are strict. Write to Park Headquarters for information: Shenandoah National Park, 3655 US Highway 211 East, Luray, Virginia 22835.

So, now you're loaded with background information and receptive attitudes and fieldbooks. You're qualified to find maximum profit and enjoyment in your Park experience. Let's travel.

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© Copyright 1997 Antony Heatwole, All rights reserved