Before the hikeWe wanted to do a highpoint or two before the summer ended. Since my daughter lives in Charlotteville, Virginia, the closest undone HPs to her were Mt Rogers and Black Mountain.
We took off on a Friday afternoon, climbed Black Mountain Saturday morning, and camped at Grayson Highlands State Park that night. Mt. Rogers is located in the park, and that park is surrounded by national forest.
The AT passes right by Mt. Rogers, and the area has that AT hiker feel, with Damascus just down the hill. At the height of summer, the campground was almost full. Unlike so many other campgrounds, almost everyone was there to hike.
The hikeWe started at 8 from Massie Gap. Almost immediately, we emerged from the trees. Nearly all of this hike is on flat to rocky ground with fantastic treeless views. Mt Washington is the only Eastern highpoint hike with comparable views. We saw many layers of mountains in every direction.
After passing a gate and climbing a hill, the trail flattened out and we ran into a half dozen ponies, about four feet high and incredibly cute. Seriously, these were like a schoolgirls fantasy drawing of ponies, wildly colored, with very long manes in colors different than their bodies. We pulled up some grass and they it ate right from our hands.
We ended up getting off the AT and going over some rocky prominences before returning to the main trail. There were several gates and fences and trail signs.
Thomas Knob Shelter was in excellent condition, with a spring nearby (bring a water filter). Soon after that you take a spur to the right, through the biggest patch of woods on the hike. At the top the trail splits a few feet from the highpoint, which is on a rock. There are no signs of any kind.
On the way down we decided to bushwhack, with compass, GPS, or map! This is because the terrain was so open and gentle. It was easy and fun.
Five or ten minutes after leaving the trail, we ran into a cowboy looking for some lost cows. This was just one of the ways this highpoint reminds you of a gentle climb out West. We had a great conversation with him. Our way ended up crossing another trail (Rhododendron Gap Trail), which we followed back to the AT.
On the AT we ran into a different batch of horses and we got a little more aggressive, and while feeding them started petting them. This was fun until one pony got a little excited and started following Cypress, which freaked her out.
We ended up taking over five hours on this hike, partly because I was babying my knee and partly because there were so many good reasons to stop and look at the views.