Sunrise, the Star, Roanoke Skyline and Wolves
It is at times quite easy to forget just what an incredible place Roanoke is. All too often we take for granted the great neighborhoods, the beautiful mountains that surround us, the cultural offerings which abound and any number of other unique things that make the Star City something special. Recently, on a morning journey to capture a sunrise photo of the Roanoke skyline, I had several reminders of what makes Roanoke special.
Sunrise and the Star
As is often the case, I arose well before sunrise. Often on such mornings I head out for a hike on one of the many trails located within or nearby. This morning, I set out to capture a sunrise photo of the Roanoke skyline. To do so I headed up to Mill Mountain and the Roanoke Star overlook. Upon arrival the lights of the City twinkled below with the dark shadows of the mountains barely visible in the background. Slowly the sun began to rise as the sky turned various shades of pink, orange and yellow with mountains in the background becoming more prominent. The Star itself was bathed in the glow of the early morning light, nearly as bright as when it is lit in the night.
From this prominent location, visited by thousands each year I was able to take in nearly all of the offerings the City has within this one view – the Roanoke River and its adjacent greenway; downtown, its offices, museums and parks; various neighborhoods, each with its unique offerings; Carilion and the Innovation Corridor and what they represent for our economic future and well-being; the mountains, McAfee’s Knob, Tinker, and Read, and of course the people, just beginning to wake and start their days. The location where I was standing - Mill Mountain, is itself home to the Star and its wonderful overlook, the Mill Mountain Zoo, the Roanoke Discovery Center, the Mill Mountain Wildflower Garden, over ten miles of hiking trails and of course a gateway to one of the most visited National Parks in the nation – the Blue Ridge Parkway.
With the sun risen and the pictures taken, I headed back to my vehicle to return home. Just before entering, I heard a loud gathering of voices – wolves. Their howling sounds reminded me of my hikes in the canyons of west Texas where the sunrise was regularly greeted by the many coyotes in the area. These wolves were of course the Red Wolves that call the Mill Mountain Zoo home. Once roaming throughout Virginia, the Red Wolves were declared extinct in the wild in 1980. Three percent of the global population of Red Wolves lives at the Zoo as part of a network of institutions working to ensure the sustainability of this endangered animal. With their howls accompanying my drive down the mountain I returned home.
Roanoke – what a special place!
-- Bob Cowell