Wednesday, June 16, 2010

grayson highlands • part 1

Grayson Highlands State Park is probably one of my most favorite places in the world. This really cool place is adjacent to Mt. Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. The hiking trails at Grayson are some of the most heavily traveled by both day hikers and backpackers, not to mention folks on horseback. There are many options and opportunities for hikers of any skill level. My first exposure to Grayson was in college, when my buddy Jason Franks took myself and Scott Cole on our first backpacking trek. I didn't return until 20 years later.

This is the place where I first took my son, Ian, backpacking. Oddly, my most recent trip (last week) to Grayson was much like the trip that Ian and I made there several years ago. The first day hiking, the mountains were enshrouded by clouds, enough that you could not see the mountains around you, just the terrain immediately in front of you. There was a threat of rain, but thankfully the rain never came. It was quite windy this first day, fascinating to watch the clouds move across the trail. Other than the quickly changing weather, one of the things that Grayson is known for is the wild ponies that graze and wander the beautiful grassy meadows mixed in amongst the rocky tundra. On this trip I did not see any ponies until around 9pm. I was cleaning up after dinner, and heard a couple of odd noises. My headlamp only reaches 15-20 feet, but it was able to pick up the glowing eyes of several ponies grazing nearby. Once they noticed me, they came right up to my campsite for a short visit before moving on. I saw the same group of 10 ponies, three babies and 7 adults, at 6am the next morning when I ventured out of my tent to answer natures calling. My next post will contain photos from my second day of hiking at Grayson.

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