The Flora and Fauna of The Breaks Interstate Park
Crunch…crunch…crunch…snuffle snuffle. I really wanted to see a black bear in The Breaks Interstate Park, which straddles the border between Kentucky and Virginia, and this seemed like our chance. We were right next to the van, so we could jump in when it approached. Perfect. We waited, tense, for this stamping beast to appear. Finally it drew closer, and I realized that it could only have two legs. Was it a person, searching for the park’s famed (and harvest-prohibited) wild ginseng? Finally the beast came into view. Our bear/human was…a turkey.
The Breaks was a big surprise to us. West Virginia was a big surprise to us. Here in the middle of gorgeous, lush, rolling hills and valleys was a little Eden. There were lots of plants and trees in bloom: trilliums, ladyslippers, locusts, magnolias, dogwoods, jacarandas, and tons of other things I can’t identify. The rhododendrons were all queued up for a spectacular display (we found just one getting an early start — the rest won’t be ready for another few weeks). There’s a spectacular canyon — the “grand canyon of the south.” Juxtaposed against this natural beauty is the coal train line running through the valley and the open pit mine you can see from the overlook. Odd.
The campground was fabulous — sites placed thoughtfully throughout the woods, showers and laundry. Kind of a little paradise. Then we saw the spider. It was waiting for me outside the ladies’ room when I went to brush my teeth. It was the third biggest spider I’ve ever seen. Quick recap. #1 biggest spider I’ve ever seen: tarantula in Death Valley canyon that I managed to walk around. #2: wolf spider in my family’s attic. Now, #3: (probably) wolf spider, patiently awaiting me outside bathroom in Virginia and/or Kentucky. This spider’s body was at least 2 inches long (length corroborated by Paul), brown, hairy. Coiled up, ready to spring. Killing it never even crossed my mind. First, because I didn’t want to get close enough to kill it, and because it would be a crunchy mess. But mainly, I respected this gigantic spider. It terrified me, but it obviously is an elder in its community. It’s a senior spider (señor spider, maybe). I told myself it had to be the only one of its kind.
I managed to walk around the spider into the ladies’ room, and thankfully it was still in the same place when I emerged. The next day, it was gone. To what palace? Where does the king of the spiders live? I don’t really care, as long as it hasn’t taken a liking to my van palace.