MOUNT ROGERS ON APPALACHIAN TRAIL
We decided to venture into the Old Dominion and visit the Grayson Highlands State Park and the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area. The hike looked on paper to be a moderate 8 mile out and back with our destination being the summit of Mt. Rogers, the highest peak in the State of Virginia. The trail featured many interesting features and proved to be one of the most challenging ventures of the summer.
We did not realize it at the time but the hike up to the Appalachian Trail marked the first of four summits we would have to climb on the way to Mt. Rogers. The elevation of each being in excess of 4500 feet....taller than Hawksbill....more like the elevation of the Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain. Notice the hat on the signpost. Seems that folks along the trail adorn the signposts with gear found lost along the trail.
Near the peak of this first summit, we began to hear laughter of children and as we looked up we saw venturous teenagers standing on the peaks of some very interesting rock formations.
Wild Ponies have been introduced to the upland meadows of Grayson Highland State Park to help reduce the risk of forest fire. It seems these herds of ponies keep much of the wild grass land under control and in the process become quite plump. They are supported by a non profit organization who keep them healthy and it is my understanding will occasionally offer some for sale to thin out the herd. Fortunately, there was no room in our SUV for I think Rene may have taken a couple home!
The largest group of ponies were found on the downhill side of the summit. Rene left the trail to go and greet them and I stayed on the trail to snap a few pictures but it did not take long before one of the prettiest ponies of the herd came over to me bringing with her a young colt.
The young pony came right over to me and a group of hikers and immediately began to sniff out a treat. Park rules prohibit the feeding of the ponies but the ponies can't read.
From the meadow on the other side of the first summit we got a glimpse of the hike before us. Again I was reminded that mountain math does not take into account the linear distances. 3.8 miles on that sign was the mileage as crows fly....not as a Fat Bald Hike Guy walks!
Look closely and you can see the "blue blazes" which mark the trail....incredibly this was one of the easiest summits of the day and was well worth it for the views it afforded.
From the summit of the Wilburn Ridge, you have a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains.
Looking back down the trail you can see the first peak we climbed......and looking the up the trail you can see the next peak...no that is not Mt Rogers! I am sure that Mt Rogers will be just over the ridge....yeah right!
We return to the "white blazed" Appalachian Trial and take a rocky path across this third peak to Rhododendron Gap....while we chose to bypass the summit of this peak, the trail up was quite rocky but provided some interesting views.
The temperature was in the mid 70's and overcast with nice cool breezes....I cannot imagine how difficult this hike would be in full sunlight with temperatures in the 80's
The views on the trail to Rhododendron Gap were some of the best of the hike....but the trail was one of the more challenging sections of the day.
Especially as the trail led into a cave!.....It was narrow and dark and the Fat Bald White Guy was not sure how wide it was!
The sign said that Mt Rogers was only two miles away! And one more ridge to climb to get there!
Looking back on the fourth summit we climbed....you can get and idea of the rugged nature of the hike.
Look carefully and you can see the faint outline of four hawks performing and aerial waltz.....mocking us foot tired earthbound creatures!
Out next stop was the Thomas Knob....there a shelter is built for the folks traveling the AT....and there was a spring fed creek where water could obtained....the view there was magnificent....the best of the day.
From Thomas Knob you can see the summit of Mt Rogers....just another mile away! We had been on the trail for four hours and it being past 4 pm....we decided that we did not want to risk being on the trail back after sundown so we made Thomas Knob our final destination. Truthfully, climbing four peaks over the most rocky trail imaginable, we felt that lounging on Thomas Knob was the best reward of the day.....so I went to the spring to refresh water supply and we headed back.
Looking back from the spring, you can see my hiking companion sunning herself on Thomas knob.
Hiking out we stopped many times to rest our tired feet....words cannot describe how rocky the trail is and how unpleasant the hike out was....it was like walking barefoot on a gravel driveway....you had to watch every step and every step was painful....but nevertheless we had many nice vistas to enjoy.
We also got to enjoy many examples of God's imaginative artistry in the form of flowers, flora and mushrooms.....stunningly beautiful!
Even on the most difficult hikes all you have to do is pause and you will see very special adornments of nature all along the trail....this hike was no exception.