A Walk Down Memory Lane...Once again I find myself sitting here reminiscing about my brief time in the Southern Appalachians. Grandfather Mountain was always a good time, the dozens of waterfalls visited were always relaxing, the Rhododendron bloom in the Roan Highlands were a wonder to behold. Amongst all these trips, each memorable in their own right, one stands out in my memory.
This hike took place on a particularly breezy day in mid-October 2006. I don't remember the exact circumstances surrounding the trip but I do know my wife wasn't real happy about my making a third trip north to Grayson Highlands in as many weeks. Peak color in the High Country is a fleeting thing, though...
My route took me from Massie Gap to the top of Rogers via the open ledges of Wilburn Ridge. The day was clear and almost perfect...the winds were literally breathtaking. On numerous occasions I actually had to take a knee to steady my camera enough for a photo. If anything, it made the trip even more memorable...
Wind, Ponies, Poo, & more Wind...
A lonely hiking stick and colors beyond set the stage for a great day on the trail...4650'
Joining the AT about a quarter mile above Massie Gap...4900'
The skeletal remains of numerous Firs lined the trail as it ascended to Wilburn Ridge...5000'
The trail soon broke out into the complete open as it climbed to the highest portion of Wilburn Ridge...5200'
As sure a sign of fall as the autumn leaves, the scarlet berries of the Mountain Ash stand in striking contrast to the sapphire skies...5300'
Large outcrops like this not only served as welcome havens from the wind but offered very nice views as a bonus...5400'
Along some of the rockier sections of the Wilburn Ridge the blazes are painted right on the rocks.5400'
The Wilburn Ridge Trail undulated between rock outcrops and flat fields. It was very fascintating terrain...5450'
The Wilburn ridge is virtually devoid of trees which begs the question, how tough is this tree that it's the only one that managed to survive here?...5450'
Reaching the halfway point, Rhododendron Gap, where the AT, Wilburn Ridge, and Crest Trails meet...5350'
As I left Rhododendron Gap for Thomas Knob Virginia's second higest point, Whitetop Mountian, made a few brief appearances to the west...5450'
Lets hikers in, but keeps horsies out...very cool...even though they do break your rythem a bit...
Just before reaching the summit spur the Appalachian Trail crosses into the Lewis Fork Wilderness...5400'
Not after entering "the wilderness" this little cluster of signs pointed me to the shelter of the trees and the top of Virginia...5450'
I was hoping for some more memorable summit pics but the severe contrast issues screwed with that idea. It was nice to be out of the unrelenting winds for a while, though...5729'
No views, but the benchmark was interesting...Took me a minute to figure out the inscription surrounding the marker read "USGS"...5729'
Descending from the summit of Rogers I left the Spruce-Fir forest behind and broke back into the open views, and winds, of the AT...5600'
These equine landmines were strategically placed to impair the unwary hiker...I almost lost a foot! 5425'
This spot would be completely unemeorable except for the fact I had just been asked by a Grizzly Adams-character with a goat for a pack of smokes...5450'
I was told that the AT in Grayson Highlands was one of the prettiest trails in the southeast...I was quickly becoming a believer...5400'
I found myself frequently wondering at the history behind all the old fencelines in this area...5400'
The AT between Thomas Knob and Rhododendron Gap was quite pleasant...5400'
The colors of fall in the high Southern Appalachians covered the ridges...the red Mountain Ash blends with the green of the Rhododendron...5500'
As I climbed back to the ridge from Rhododendron Gap the trail passed just to the right of this large outcrop. The view is probably amazing from the top but I just didn't have the energy...5400'
The hard price of popularity was evident in many places where multiple paths diverged in open areas...5400'
It was hard to get used to seeing horses wandering these mountaintop fields...4975'
After stopping to see if I was offering any free handouts (don't feed wildlife!) this particularly friendly pony went off in hopes of finding a more generous hiker...4975'
A long day in the wind was nearly over as I descended to Massie Gap. I knew before I had even gotten back in my car that this was going to be one of my more memorable hikes..4725'