Photo: Stacy Redmon, redrockphotonc.com
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a celebrated destination in fall, for the foliage, but North Carolina leaf-peepers beware: There’s a huge black bear in these hills. Well, sort of. The bear that stalks this forest of sugar maples and birches is actually a natural phenomenon known as the Shadow of the Bear, which occurs just outside the town of Cashiers, when the sun begins to set behind the jagged cliffs of the 4,930-foot Whiteside Mountain. The ursine-looking shadow is a treat that’s almost as rare as the sight of a real bear in the woods: It’s visible for about half an hour, starting around 5:30 p.m., on sunny evenings from mid-October to early November (and also during late February and early March, but with the leaves off the trees, that period isn’t nearly so scenic).
The best place to take a photo is the Rhodes Big View Overlook on U.S. Route 64, where North Carolina–based photographer Stacy Redmon snapped this shot. Be sure to get there before the bear goes into hibernation for the winter—or becomes something else entirely. “The shadow changes as the sun descends,” Redmon says. “The nose gets longer, and as it gets late it resembles a mouse or even an anteater.”