Today was the day I have been looking forward to for a long time. Today was a lot of above treeline hiking through Grayson Highlands and their feral ponies. In 1989 I took a short cut across a road at Engine Gap because they were in full bloom and didn’t realize how much of the ponies I was actually missing back then. I didn’t miss them this time.
I woke up extra early to try to get out well before sunrise to try to make it up to Buzzard Rock to view the sunrise. I started hiking at about 6:15 hoping to get to the top at about 7:15 just as the sunrise should be happening. But the climb up to Hurricane Rock was deeper than I thought and I was about 20 minutes late. It didn’t matter anyway because halfway up I was in thick fog and by the time I got to Buzzard Rock I couldn’t see 30 ft in front of me.
About 9:00 a.m. as I approached Elk Meadow the clouds started to break. It was perfect timing too because this is where the above treeline hiking begins. This is all part of the Mount Rogers recreation area with several different wildernesses and also includes the Grayson Highlands State Park.
You can also take a side trail to the top of Mount Rogers, but it’s a wooded summit and I didn’t want to bother with another side trail without a view. Mount Rogers is the highest point in Virginia and that’s why people like to go there.
I stopped at the shelter near the trail junction to Mount Rogers to have lunch and coffee. I made a kimchi ramen that I had never had before and it was fair but not great. I added some tomato powder to give it a little more flavor. I also met two other hikers also trying to make it to Harpers Ferry but they had just started from Damascus. They are using this as a test trip to see if they want to thru-hike next year.
I entered Grayson Highlands proper at about 2:00 and not 100 yards from the gate were two ponies. The sign says they will bite and kick and not to pet or feed them, but they were pretty friendly and let me pet them quite a bit. They are pretty friendly for feral ponies. Throughout the rest of the afternoon I probably saw eight or nine ponies in all. The one in Grayson Highlands proper were definitely friendlier than the ones in the back areas probably because all of the extra traffic of tourists near Grayson Highlands.
I came across the shelter with nice camping at about 6:00. The camping areas looked great and they had bear boxes but I wanted to go a little bit further. I kept going intending to stay at a campsite that was about a mile and a half further near a road. But as I got closer to the campsite I started reading register entries about bears taking food bags out of the trees in those campsites, so I decided to stop about a half a mile before then and just camp in the woods hoping that bears don’t associate this area with easy food since my food is hung in a tree. I will play Russian roulette tonight and see if I have food for the morning.