By Melanie Fuechsel, Contact Ranger, Sky Meadows State Park
Even though the groundhog said that spring would come early this year, it is still winter here at Kentucky Coffeetree, scurries across snow packed earth and calls out to everyone here as if to say “I am still here.” Throughout the season, Sky Meadows is still graced with the presence of birds, animals and visitors, all running around in this years’ snow, what’s left of it anyway.
Although many birds leave on a great migration once the temperatures drop, the park’s branches are still laden with chirping Red-headed Woodpecker came up to visit Mt. Bleak House, taking a breather from its normal resting place along the Woodpecker Lane Trail.
On your way up from our Contact Station, you may catch a glimpse of the park’s newest resident along Gap Run Creek. It is small, brown, and furry with large front teeth. Reported to us first sometime in December and seen as recently as the third week of February, a capybara). Their colonies create one or more dams to provide still, deep water to protect against predators, and to float food and building material. The North American beaver population was once more than 60 million, but as of 1988 was reported as 6–12 million. This population decline is due to extensive hunting for fur, for glands used as medicine and perfume, and because their harvesting of trees and flooding of waterways interfered with other land uses. According to our naturalist, there haven’t been resident beavers at the park for years. Beavers tend to move from one location to another fairly quickly; but for now the Sky Meadows beaver seems to be sticking around.
When the snow is thick here at Sky Meadows, many of our visitors come prepared for some winter fun. Snowshoeing and sledding are common pastimes in the park. When conditions are right, you can even go cross-country skiing! Camping is always open for all of those who want to tough it out. You can reserve one of our primitive tent sites on-line or by calling our Reservation Center at 1-800-933-7275. As with nearly all of our Virginia State Park campsites, reservations are not site-specific; you can select your campsite when you check in at the park. If hiking is what you want, our trails give you a peaceful glimpse into nature, where one can see the tracks of deer and squirrels in the unbroken snow. Just don’t forget to watch you feet when hiking through shaded areas, where ice may have accumulated.
Every season brings a different view for visitors here at the park, and winter is no less beautiful and bountiful in its own way. Come join us for a relaxing hike through the meadows and forests. You may be surprised by what you find. We look forward to seeing you out here enjoying the snow soon. If you would like to find out about programs and special events happening at the park, please visit our events website.