On June 21, 2003 my brother Will and I had left Mt. Mitchell, NC earlier in the day and planned to camp at Grayson Highlands State Park VA for the night and climb Mt. Rogers early on the morning of the 22nd. We crossed the VA state line and headed east on highway 58. Dusk was setting and we were anxious to find the campground and get set up before dark.
An hour later as darkness fell about the land, and we had become quite worried that somehow we had missed the park. Our destination finally came within sight. The attendant at the gate said that only 2 campsites remained open, #8 and #50. We pulled in, by now pitch dark, probably around 9:30 PM, and proceeded to camp #8.. it was full. The unsettling idea of backtracking down the winding route 58 for an hour back to the nearest hotel was not appealing. We then went round and round the campground about 3 times before Will finally listened to my advice and turned down another section of the campground and found site #50. It was....empty! Thank goodness. We set up our tents in the dark after some futile attempts at building a fire.
It was quite chilly, We had arrived too late to gather any firewood, and the little that was left at the site was too damp to burn. We tried several times but to no avail. We ate our dinner by the light of 2 flashlights..The batteries soon died on both. Will did have a backup. Cold, and tired, nothing was left to do after dinner than to go to sleep. The temperature fell into the 40's and winds gusted throughout the night. I wasa little chilly having brought my warm season sleeping bag on this trip, after all it was supposed to be the first day of summer.
The next morning I awoke first [of course] and had to wake Will.
Within 30 minutes the camp was packed and a makeshift breakfast of fruitcups and stale dounut holes had been eaten. We then began the short drive [about a mile] to the Massie Gap trailhead for theclimb up Mt. Rogers. We were on the trail by 8:30 AM. It took 2
hours to reach the summit, a 1/2 hour rest at the top and 1 1/2 hours
to return, making the entire round trip in 4 hours. The nearly 4
miles on the Appalachian Trail was definetely the highlight of the
entire trip. Amazing scenic views, open grasslands, large rock
outcroppings, wild ponies, and grazing cattle were common sites. We were in no hurry on the way up, as Will decided to climb several
large rocks. The last half mile to the summit was a spur trail off
the AT. The views went away as we walked this final leg. The summit
itself offered no view, but was quite peaceful, with the survey
marker inset into the large rock .