Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute & The Shenandoah Valley

The Smithsonian has a Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA.  It is not open to the public but since Scott had some work to do there this week, the kids and I hitched a ride to the Shenandoah Valley for a day of exploration.  I am convinced that it is one of the loveliest places on the planet.  The trees were amazing.
Our first stop was a little diner, on the side of Highway 522, that is famous for its apple donuts, not to mention southern charm.  We scarfed down a dozen donuts in about 5 minutes.

After we dropped Scott off at the farm, the kids and I went to Skyline Caverns.  We discovered what I think is Harley's only fear, Spelunking. She was not a huge fan of the caverns especially when they turned off all the lights and told us if we stayed in such darkness for more than a week we would go blind and if we stayed in such darkness for 10 days we would go crazy. Let's just say she didn't need 10 days to go crazy only about 10 seconds.

One of my favorite things about Virginia is everywhere you drive you will find a historical plaque commemorating some significant event in Civil War History. I love Civil War History and one of my favorite characters was the female confederate spy Belle Boyd who owned a home in Front Royal, Virginia. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that just outside of Skyline Caverns she met up with Stonewall Jackson to trade secrets.
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is essentially a farm. Animals from the zoo in Washington D.C. are taken there to breed, receive medical treatment, be studied or because they cannot get along well with others, like Frog the pony who bit off the finger of a zoo patron last year.  The institute also provides the hay and/or feed that is given to the animals at the zoo. The institute was built on federal property that was formerly used by the army to train cavalry horses. There is still a horse cemetery where famous horses were laid to rest, including Kentucky Derby horses and famous war horses. On our behind-the-scenes tour we saw buffalo, wolves, crane, reindeer, elk, gazelles but those are not the only animals there. There are also red pandas and cheetahs. Unfortunately,  they were about to give birth and were therefore off limits. While the animals were pretty fantastic, you couldn't beat the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


1 comment:

G&G said...

What a great experience....perks of the job.