The Shenandoah National Park was a perfect place for an end-of-the-year, personal retreat. The weather in the Virginia mountains was unseasonably warm. Sitting atop what became my favorite mountain offered a spectacular view of the Appalachian ridge and the valley below. Facing west, this perch became the spot I returned to every night for sunset. The daily trip was well worth it as the sky became a giant canvas of magnificent color. No one paints as beautifully as this, I often thought.
I took trips up the mountain at other times during the day as well. One day I was returning down the mountain path in the early afternoon when I literally walked into a herd of white-tailed deer. I froze, not wanting to scare off the beautiful creatures before I could get a good look at them. There were eight all together, and they looked up at me as if to ask what I had in mind. But they didn't run away. After checking me out, they simply went back to their feeding along the path. I was only 15 to 20 feet away and couldn't remember ever being so close to so many wild deer. At one point, a doe with big, brown eyes walked toward me and came within about eight feet of where I was standing. We just looked at each other. I smiled, and she stared for a few moments before going back to her grazing.
After a few minutes, the deer began to move deeper into the woods. The herd moved slowly, and I decided to try to follow. I expected they would soon run off but wanted to prolong the precious experience for just a little while longer.