Hello Wanderers. How would you like to spend a few days wandering around the woods with some wild ponies! Sound like fun? Then read on...
Description (Taken from Mid-Atlantic Hikes and Aaron from NEOHBC):
The combined Grayson Highlands and Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area has to be the biggest crown jewel in the VA hiking crown. I can only say that no other hike in VA comes close to what this venue has to offer you. Combine the exposed balds of the Highlands, volcanic looking rock formations to play on, the constant changes in landscape, fields and tunnels of Catawba Rhododendrons blooming in mid-June, clusters of Mountain Laurel and Flame Azaleas at the lower elevations in May and June, Rhododendron maximum (white Rhodos) in bloom along the streams in July, vista after amazing vista .... then throw in the wild ponies like a cherry on top of a giant Banana Split and you have the Highlands!
Mount Rogers boasts among its many accolades wide sweeping vistas reminiscent of the western USA, diverse plant and animal life, the opportunity to scramble up huge volcanic boulders, amazing scenery, and of course, did I happen to mention, THE WILD PONIES; yes, many, many wild ponies. Most of the trail is on the Appalachian Trail. People say that this is the most beautiful section of the AT. The area contains some of the most spectacular scenery and rugged terrain in Virginia. Mount Rogers is the highest elevation in Virginia (5729 ft), and nearby Whitetop Mountain (5520 ft) is the second highest peak. The area is located in the Blue Ridge province, and contains a unique record of the Precambrian history of Virginia. It is the only place in Virginia that preserves evidence of ancient glaciation. In addition, massive rhyolite lava flows erupted there some 760 million years ago. It is located near the tri-state boundary (VA, TN, NC) in Grayson, Smyth, and Washington Counties near the town of Konnarock, VA.
If there is only one backpacking trip you do this year, this one should be it. I've hiked it before and it is one of my all time favorite hikes. I don't think you'll be disappointed!
Where: Mount Rogers, VA, start at the Grindstone Camping Area:
Coordinates (based on the U.S. Forest Service):
Latitude:[masked] Longitude : [masked]
Directions from Cleveland from I-77 S:
When: Thursday, July 10, 2014 - Sunday, July 13, 2014
We will discuss car pooling at the planning session, but basically, we will drive down starting mid-morning Thursday and arrive by early evening. My brother Tom wants to stop for dinner before we camp, we'll vote on that at the meeting. We will car camp at Grindstone on Thursday evening and I have already pre-paid and reserved 3 spots, which is good for 6 people per spot, total of 18 people. They have showers at the trailhead, so I plan on showing on Friday morning before the hike and having clean clothes in my car so when we return on Sunday, taking a shower before heading back home. Thursday night will be a relaxing car camp. The hike starts on Friday morning at 10:00 am.
Who: This trip is open to the entire MeetUp group; however, I am listing this as an intermediate trip. I am expecting you to be completely self-sufficient, including having your own water treatment system and cook system. There will be no community food offered on this trip. That being said, the overall trail can be difficult (more on that in a minute), but I do not want to discourage beginners, so those that are lacking gear will be handled on a case by case basis. You need to contact me if you are lacking all necessary gear, but I may have gear that you can borrow for the trip, including tents and sleeping pads, or I may allow you to piggy back off of me. Beginners are welcome, but be prepared for a challenging hike.
Difficulty level: Moderate to strenuous. This trail will be tougher than the others that have been posted through this MeetUp so far. There will be some tough elevation gains and losses, not to mention parts of the trail which are very rocky and tough on your feet. I would ask that if you want to participate on this hike, that you be in excellent physical condition. We will not be waiting long for those who cannot keep up with the group, so if you have concerns about this, please let me know.
Total miles: 23.5 + - About 8.5 - 10 miles on Friday, 10 - 11 miles on Saturday, and 3.5 trail miles + 1.5 road miles on Sunday.
Hiking pace: 2.0 MPH - Average hiking speed. If you are a beginner, you need to be able to keep up with the group. Contact me if you have concerns regarding this.
Weather: Average highs are in the high 70's to low 80's and average lows are in the high 50's. July has an average of 4.4 inches of rain, so precipitation is very possible, BE PREPARED. As I like to say, there is no such thing as bad weather while backpacking, just ill prepared backpackers. This hike WILL happen regardless of weather conditions, unless it's dangerous, like tornado warnings (which has happened there before, the car campsite had one several years ago and we still may see damage from it at the start of our hike).
Thursday, July 10, 2014 - Leave Cleveland area mid- morning. It is about a 6.5 - 7.5 hour drive to the campground. We will discuss the parameters of this at the planning session. However, we will all arrive at the Grindstone Camping Area, which is off of SR 603. I have pre-paid for 3 camping spots, each of which cost $31.00 per night and holds up to 6 people and 2 cars (I'd like to see if we can get everyone down in a maximum of 6 cars). They are sites 82, 83, and 84 on the map of Grindstone. I would ask that those that attend please divide this cost up and reimburse me. I will look into getting firewood down there so we can have a campfire that night. After Thursday, we will have to move our cars and parking your car there is $3.00 per day, so you'll need to prepay for the entire rest of the weekend, for a total of $9.00, which I would ask that you chip in if you car pooled with someone. Additional fees are here:
We will arrive whenever and camp for the night. Tom wants to have dinner beforehand, so we will vote on that at the planning meeting, but this will be a fun, relaxing evening. BYOB!
Friday, July 11, 2014 - Packs on ready to hike by 10 ish. There are showers at the trailhead, so I plan on getting up and taking one last shower for the next couple of days before starting to hike. We will begin the hike by starting on the Mount Rogers Trail and heading South. We start with an uphill switchback. The day on the Mt. Rogers Trail will have some moderate hills, but nothing too extreme. We will hike this trail for about 4 miles. When we hit the AT at Deep Gap, we will turn left (East) and continue towards Mount Rogers. We can all drop our packs and take a short day hike to summit Mount Rogers if you'd like. We will continue east on the AT and find a place to camp East of Knob Shelter by about a mile or two. There is a very large camping area and a mountain spring that I'd like to camp at. Camp fires here will probably not happen as this is a high use area and down wood may be hard to find, unless we all want to go scoping for it. Last time I was there, there were numerous friendly ponies that came into camp and allowed you to pet them. I plan on bringing an apple with me to cut up and feed them as a treat while there. Expect some great photo opportunities throughout the day today!
Saturday, July 12, 2014 - Packs on ready to hike by 9 ish. We will continue eastbound on the AT. There will be some hills to contend with. Early on in the hike, we will have some more opportunities to summit some smaller peaks if you'd like too. We will stay on the AT the entire day. When we follow the trail heading northbound, we will pass through a place known as Scales, which is a mile or so from where we will camp. We will camp on a hilltop. THERE IS LITTLE TO NO WATER UP THERE! There was in fact a water source when I camped there (could very well be dry in July), but it was very murky water and it wrecked havoc on my filter system. We will probably have to filter a mile or two from camp and carry our water up there, SO BE PREPARED TO HAVE A LARGE ENOUGH CONTAINER TO CARRY THE WATER YOU'LL NEED FOR SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING! Camp fires here will probably not happen as this is a high use area and down wood may be hard to find, unless we all want to go scoping for it. Hopefully, the ponies will arrive at camp on Saturday night. The group that was there before weren't nearly as friendly, you couldn't get closer than say 10 feet to them back then, but nonetheless, it was fun to watch them run around the huge field we'll be camping next too.
Sunday, July 13, 2014 - Packs on ready to hike by 9 ish. Today is mainly a steep downhill hike back to SR 603. We will continue northbound on the AT until we hit the Old Orchard shelter and the Orchard Spur trail, where we will turn left. We will briefly hike that then join up with the Lewis Fork Trail, turning right, and hiking that out to the road. Once there, we will turn left and road hike about 1.5 miles back to Grindstone and our cars. I plan on taking a shower at the trailhead before leaving, so bring some clean clothes with you and leave them in your car. At this point, you are free to head home, or join me on a yet to be determined place for a post hike meal. We will discuss this at the planning session.
The map is posted in the files section. Please bring it with you while on the trail.
With all of my hikes, I ask that you follow the Leave No Trace Principles:
Basically, that means if you pack it in, you'll be packing it out. Personal waste will be left in a cathole, properly covered.
This trip is smoking friendly, but away from those that don't. This trip is spirit friendly, but not to the point of intoxication (and please bring your own if you like to partake in that). Please, no animals (although I do love dogs). And hot topics of conversation like politics are best left at the trailhead (no need to get anyone upset out there ;)
Finally, this trip is capped at 18 Wanderers with zero reserves to be considered. That being said, if you're on the reserve list, people drop all the time, so don't give up. Stay on there, but the max amount of people on this hike will be 18!
If you have any questions, please just ask! You can contact me via this site, or call me at[masked], or e-mail me at [masked] . Hope to see everyone on the trail!