The morning was chilly as we drove at a leisurely pace along the deserted Blue Ridge Parkway to Waynesville, a charming town at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains. With cloudlike mist curling out of the range’s deep valleys, we felt far removed from the troubles of the world. We pulled over at a scenic overlook to appreciate the hazy mountains and the bright pink and white seasonal flowers, but the fast-moving fog foiled our attempts at photography.
As we drove off, a black bear emerged unexpectedly out of the mist and sauntered across the road, seemingly unfazed by our presence. Though we had been warned about the unpredictable and aggressive behavior of black bears, we felt no fear as we watched the large animal amble past us on all fours. He looked calm in his element. As he climbed up the hill, he stopped and turned to stare back at us. His black eyes, long snout and rounded ears were easily discernible. We sensed an immediate connection and to the nature surrounding him.
Awestruck by our encounter, we felt grateful to have been granted a glimpse into his world, and as we continued on our way, John Muir’s words came to my mind: