These past three weeks have really rejuvenated us. It’s not that we’ve been down, maybe just out of our element. For far too long we have incessantly moved from city to city in the endless urban sprawl which is the Northeast. In our life before the GOMT we would do almost everything possible to avoid these crowded cities. Our hearts are and will always be in the mountains and open spaces of the country and forest. Thats why these last couple of weeks have been so spiritually elevating. Spending time in Shenandoah National Park, the mountains and hollows of West Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway surrounding Floyd Fest and now Grayson Highlands State Park is just what we needed!
Ask anyone who is familiar with Grayson Highlands State Park and they will immediately mention the adorable wild ponies. Yes the ponies are very unique, but in my opinion the true gem of this park and surrounding wilderness area is the 360 degree views atop the rugged bald meadows with colossal rounded boulders strewn about. The variety of terrain in this small area rivals some of the great landscapes in the west. Throw in the lush forested hills in every direction, the babbling brooks spilling down the shady hollows and of course the abundant blueberry and blackberry bushes and you have in my opinion one of the best hiking locations in all of the East.
The weather manifested itself all around us, but never encroached within striking distance. Dark menacing clouds and their hazy gray streaks of rain could be seen in the distance. But where we stood an unforgiving orange sphere relentlessly harassed us from its perch in a brilliant blue sky. We were in the eye of the storm and it seemed only logical that this eye would eventually close in on us, dampening our so far perfect day. Due to our knowledge and acceptance of this impending rain, we simply continued on anticipating the soggy second half of our hike. By some luck or fortune, or maybe good weather karma that we had built up from withstanding the rainy East coast summer, the rain showers never materialized!
In an attempt to beat the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms Becky and I got an early start on this 11.2 mile loop hike. Our path today weaves in and out of different jurisdictions all contained within the greater Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. After all is said and done it will have taken us through Grayson Highlands State Park, Lewis Fork Wilderness, xxxxxx National Forest, Little Wilson Creek Wilderness and back to Grayson Highlands State Park. With so many trails paralleling each other, crossing, interlacing and branching off it would be easy to go astray without a good map. Following the Rhododendron trail before connecting with the Appalachian Trail, we eventually exited the State Park by stepping over a small fence intended to keep the petite ponies within the boundary of the park. The aged wooden fence also had an unintended benefit of retaining most of the weekend warriors and families with their screaming children behind it’s border. From there the crowds thinned to only the hardy hikers willing to put forth the effort to explore the backcountry in a more serene untrammeled environment.