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Chapter 1 Excerpt
The Adventures of Bubba Jones (#2) : Time Traveling Through Shenandoah National Park (Ages 8 and up; $9.99; Beaufort Books; Available August 25th, 2016. ISBN: 9780825308314)
Chapter 1: Is This Shenandoah National Park?
Tree branches crunched and snapped from the weight of something big moving through the forest. The sound was growing louder with each passing second, and whatever was making it was moving right toward us. We crouched down close together around my sleeping sister to hide from view. No one said a word, for fear of giving away our location, but I could hear my heart beating rapidly.
The large unknown creature was so heavy it shook the ground with each step, which woke my sister. She sat up and looked around in confusion as she tried to figure out where she was. When she had dozed off, she was comfortably seated in the back seat of our Jeep as we traveled down the highway en route to Shenandoah National Park; now she was sitting in the middle of the woods with no vehicle in sight and an unknown beast approaching us. Turning to look at us, she saw that we were dressed in animal hides, like prehistoric people. She looked down at herself, and looked even more confused at seeing that she, too, was dressed in animal skin.
An unusually cool breeze blew through the forest, causing us to shiver. We huddled closer together for warmth. This did not feel like the same Shenandoah National Park, a place that draws over 1.2 million visitors annually, that Papa Lewis had described to us. Our grandfather, Papa Lewis, named after the famed Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition, had explored Shenandoah National Park on many adventures and had shared all of his exciting stories with us. Whenever he talked about Shenandoah, he had a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face that let us know how special the park was to him. After hearing him describe it, we couldn’t wait to explore it ourselves!
The sound of snapping twigs and branches grew louder. Whatever this beast was, it was getting closer to us. Small trees swayed nearby as this animal easily pushed through them. Whatever it is, it’s big, I thought to myself. Can it smell us? Does it know we’re here? A jolt of fear shot down my spine and a lump formed in my throat.
“Where are we?” Hug-a-Bug asked. Hug-a-Bug is my sister. Her real name is Jenny, but we call her Hug-a-Bug for her love of everything outdoors.
“We’re at Rockfish Gap, near the south entrance of Shenandoah National Park,” I whispered.
Hug-a-Bug knew from Papa Lewis that if we were at Rockfish Gap entering Shenandoah National Park, then we should be either hiking on the Appalachian Trail or driving on Skyline Drive. Papa Lewis had told us all about Skyline Drive, a road that rambles along the top of the mountain from Rockfish Gap, Virginia for a hundred and five miles, all the way up to Front Royal, Virginia. He had also described countless hikes along the Appalachian Trail, which follows alongside Skyline Drive through the entire length of Shenandoah National Park. I watched as my sister scanned the landscape for signs of the trail or the road. Finding neither, she looked even more confused. She looked down at her clothing again.
“What am I wearing?”
“It looks like a buffalo skin to me,” I replied casually, as if that was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Shhh! Stay quiet everyone! We don’t want to draw attention from whatever is making the noise,” Papa Lewis whispered as we remained huddled in a stand of trees.
Tree limbs cracked just inches from us. Dad, also known as Clark, after the famous Lewis and Clark duo, picked up a large rock to possibly throw at the unknown creature. Whatever was moving through the forest was literally almost right on top of us. We all sat still and quiet, wondering what next? You could have heard a pin drop. Suddenly, the tree branches shook above us and a massive head appeared. At first I thought it was an elephant, but then I noticed its tusks were thicker and longer than any I had ever seen before. Its ears were relatively small, not at all like an elephant’s. And it was furry!! If it took one more step, its enormous foot would crush us! Unable to take the waiting in silence any longer, Hug-a-Bug stood up and slowly backed away from the beast. Now, backing away slowly is recommended in black bear encounters if you get too close, but this creature was no black bear! Fortunately, however, Hug-a-Bug’s movement seemed to frighten the animal because it turned and thundered off into the forest. The sounds of snapping tree branches faded as the beast plowed through the trees and disappeared.
“Wh—what was that?” Hug-a-Bug asked, trembling with fear.
“That was a woolly mammoth, an ancient cousin of the elephant. Woolly mammoths and mastodons lived in this area until they became extinct about 10,000 years ago. They began to die off as the glaciers retreated at the end of the Ice Age and the climate warmed up. Right now there are still glaciers within a few hundred miles of the area, which explains the cooler temperatures. Woolly mammoth and mastodon bones have been found in the valleys near the present-day Shenandoah National Park. These huge creatures were herbivores and didn’t eat meat, so we were safe from being its next meal. But I’m guessing that some kind of carnivorous predator chased it up here from the valley, hoping for one huge slab of mammoth steak for dinner. Since it didn’t get the mammoth, it might come looking for other prey, and that includes us,” Papa Lewis explained in a hushed tone.
“I’m confused. Let me get this straight. Are you saying that we just came face to face with a woolly mammoth that went extinct 10,000 years ago? How could that …”
I cut my sister off in mid-sentence and blurted, “What sort of predator are you talking about?!”
“Well, based on the animal skin we’re wearing, the prehistoric Paleo-Indians are here and they might be trying to hunt that woolly mammoth for food. It could also be other predators like a mountain lion or…”
Before Papa Lewis could complete his explanation something flew by us with a whoosh followed by a thunk. Instinctively we dropped, flattening ourselves to the ground. About the same time we hit the ground, so did a primitive-looking spear. That explained the whoosh and the thunk—a spear had sailed by us, glanced off a tree, then fallen to the ground just a short distance from us.
“Quiet! No one move!” Papa Lewis hissed.
We heard voices coming from the brush, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. As we watched, holding our breath, the branches on a nearby bush shook, then were pushed aside as a figure emerged. Near as I could tell, he was some sort of Indian. He had coarse black hair and was clothed in animal skin. He was soon followed by three other men of similar appearance. They walked within a few feet of us, scanning the nearby trees and searching through the grass. It looked like they were trying to find the spear they threw. Time slowed to a snail’s pace as we lay motionless in the brush, hoping to go undetected. I scrunched my eyes shut in fear, and, while hearing the men talking again, realized the reason I couldn’t make out what they were saying was because they weren’t speaking English. A few more moments passed when I heard more rustling, followed by more talking. Opening one eye to see what was going on, I saw the hunters regroup and move on, apparently giving up the hunt for their spear. They followed the path of broken tree limbs and tracks left by the woolly mammoth, and soon disappeared from view.
“Man, that was close!” I breathed.
“Don’t they know hunting is not allowed in Shenandoah National park?” Hug-a-Bug demanded.
“I don’t think this is a national park yet,” Papa Lewis reminded her.
“I’m confused. If we’re not in a national park, then shouldn’t we be wearing orange during hunting season so the hunters know we’re not game?”
“Yes, normally orange is recommended, but, we’re in an unusual situation right now,” Papa Lewis explained.
We all stood up and Papa Lewis walked over to the spear that lay beneath the tree it had struck. He picked it up and examined it.
“Look what we have here,” Papa Lewis said holding out the spear in front of him and pointing at the tip. A long stone arrow was tied to the end of the stick. The arrow was about three inches long. It was slightly oval in shape and came to a sharp point at the very tip.
“This is a Clovis point. The first humans to live in this area, the nomadic Paleo Indians, used this to penetrate the thick skin of big animals. It looks like those men were hunting the woolly mammoth and when they saw movement through the trees, they mistook us for him! Archeologists have found these Clovis points in the area. Scientists have also found evidence that suggests that the Paleo Indians, the woolly mammoths, and the mastodons coexisted until the elephant-like creatures became extinct. The scientists suspect that the early Paleo Indians tried their best at hunting the last remaining woolly mammoths and mastodons, but they probably had better luck hunting buffalo, elk, and deer. I would say by what we just witnessed, their suspicions are correct,” Papa Lewis explained.
“You said the Paleo Indians were nomadic. What does nomadic mean?” Hug-a-Bug asked Papa Lewis.
“Nomadic means they traveled and didn’t stay in one place. They followed the wild animals that they hunted for food.” Papa Lewis answered.
“I hope they don’t hurt that wooly mammoth. It didn’t want to hurt anyone. It was actually afraid of us,” Hug-a- Bug said, “But anyway, enough of the history lesson, back to the present. What happened here? I fall asleep in our Jeep on the way to Shenandoah National Park, I wake up and almost get stepped on by a creature that went extinct 10,000 years ago, we almost get speared by prehistoric hunters, our Jeep is nowhere in sight, and I’m now wearing dead animal skin, and Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail have apparently not even been built yet. Bubba Jones, did you do what I think you did?!”
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