A six-point buck and I are in a stare down. We’re twelve yards apart and I’m wondering why he hasn’t darted away like most deer do when they encounter humans. After half a minute, I give in and the buck wins the stare down. I head down the trail, while the buck keeps an eye on me.
I don’t ever recall losing a staring contest in the wild. Typically, animals bound off just seconds after eye contact. But perhaps this deer did not feel threatened by my presence. Or any other humans’ presence. On preserved land, where no hunting is allowed, deer are comfortable enough with humans to win stare downs.
The invitation to wander about these 900 acres of preserved land just south of Harpers Ferry came courtesy of The Leggett Foundation. In the late 90’s Bob Leggett bought this property and established the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship. Today the property is open to the public as a place to hike, enjoy nature, and participate in environmental learning programs. It also provides acreage for the operation of Mountain View Farm, which produces all-natural, sustainably grown produce, eggs and poultry.
My encounter with the six-point came just a few minutes into what would be a three hour tour of this land on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Laid out over this property is a labyrinth of trails - over nine miles in total. Nearly every 500 feet of trail distance leads to an intersection at which a decision was necessary. Should I turn left to explore Piney Run island or stay straight to view the historic cabin ruins? But with no other plans for this day, I had the freedom not to have to make a choice. I went in both directions. And so, I was able to experience much of what the trails over this land led to, all in complete solitude.
I suppose that’s exactly the experience that Bob Leggett envisioned as he contemplated the purchase of this property. Give people that spend most of their time indoors a chance to experience and develop appreciation for an exceptionally pure, beautiful, and natural environment.