May 31st & June 1st, 2008 - Shannon and I had a great backpacking trip in the Mount Rogers/Grayson Highlands area with our friends Jake Mitchell & Johnny Jobe (all TEHCC members).  We left one car at highway VA603, and then started our A.T. hike at the Elk Garden trailhead at highway VA600 around 11:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.  It was very windy as we ascended through Elk Garden Ridge, Deep Gap, and Briar Ridge before we made our way up to the summit of Mount Rogers. 


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Bill, Johnny, and Jake at the Elk Garden Trailhead

  Shannon, Johnny, & Jake
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Shannon on Elk Garden Ridge   View of Bluff Mountain
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Looking Toward the Grayson Highlands Park    Jake on a Stile 
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Shannon Enjoying the Views at Briar Ridge   More Vistas 

By noon we had made our way through the beautiful Fraser Fir forest on the south-side of the mountain, and turned left on the final approach trail to the summit.  It was overcast, but we still had some wonderful views on our way up.  This was my second summit of Mount Rogers this year (see here), while it was Shannon's first time on Virginia's highest peak.  We stopped for lunch on the summit, and Shannon surprised me by pulling out a submarine sandwich out of her backpack.  It was the first of a few birthday surprises she had for me.    

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View on our Ascent to Mount Rogers   Shannon Making Her Way to the Summit
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Johnny Resting at the Summit   The Whole Crew on Virginia's Highest Peak
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Shannon Summits Mount Rogers (5729' Benchmark at Her Left Foot)    Possum on the Summit for the 2nd Time in 2008 

After lunch we went through Thomas Knob... enjoying more breathtaking views.  It was soon after the shelter that we ran into our first herd of wild ponies.  It was a neat experience seeing these wild animals roaming free at over 5000' elevation.         

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Wonderful Views Near Thomas Knob   Shannon at Thomas Knob Shelter
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Our First View of the Wild Ponies   Very Cute Foal
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Another Shot of the Foal   Shannon Trying to Pet It 
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"Momma" Blocking the Trail   More Wild Ponies

We left the ponies and soon made our way to Rhododendron Gap, where we decided to climb a huge rock outcropping.  It was very windy on top of this rock, but the views were unreal looking down into the Grayson Highlands.  We took quite a few photos before making our way on up Wilburn Ridge.                   

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Bill Climbs a Huge Rock Outcropping at Rhododendron Gap   Jake Checking Out the Wonderful Scenery
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Shannon on the Big Rock at Rhododendron Gap   Bill on the Rock
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Holding Her Hat Down in the Very Strong Winds   Is That a Dolphin Trying to Smell My Butt?
Shannon & Bill

The entire Wilburn Ridge area is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  It's full of vistas in every direction, rock outcroppings to climb and descend, and more wild ponies to see.  It's a hikers' playground.  We also made out way through "Fatman's Squeeze", which is a natural tunnel on the trail.         

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Jake on Wilburn Ridge    Shannon Makes Her Way Up Wilburn Ridge 
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Shannon Navigating Through 

"Fatman Squeeze"

  Shannon Exits the Natural Tunnel
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Another Herd of Ponies   The Foal's Mommy Had Enough of Shannon 

We made our way down through the Grayson Highlands Park and kept descending on past the Wise Shelter to a wonderful grove and campsite next to Little Wilson Creek.  It was here that we decided to set up camp.  Jake and Johnny set up in the grove, while Shannon and I set up right next to the creek.  We'd hiked 10.4 miles.

For dinner, Shannon and I had some noodles and summer sausage.  Then she continued with her surprises by pulling out some wine and cheese from her backpack for dessert.  Jake and Johnny visited with us at our campsite, and we talked and built a fire.  We all retired to our tents around dusk.          

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Johnny   Jake Kicks Back at Camp
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Johnny and Shannon  

Cascades on Big Wilson Creek, 

Right Next to Our Tent

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Big Wilson Creek   Taken at Dusk 

I woke up 41 years old, and had a birthday card waiting for me in my tent gear pocket... put there sometime in the middle of the night.  It was a nice way to start the day.  We talked for a little bit while laying in the tent, and then began packing up while making a breakfast of Quinoa and coffee.  We were back on the trail at 8:00 a.m.

We first made our ascent on Stone Mountain, which is a mostly flat, grass-covered ridgeline at 4800'.  I enjoyed it tremendously as it gave us wonderful views of the mountains that we crossed yesterday.  We then descended through the "Scales", and made our final ascent on Pine Mountain to 5000'.  It was here that we saw our last herd of ponies while also stopping for brunch.        

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Shannon Having Some Coffee as We Pack Up    Shannon on Stone Mountain 
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Jake and Johnny Cross Stone Mountain    Looking Toward Wilburn Ridge from Stone Mountain 
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Looking at Wilburn Ridge... 

Where We Were Yesterday 

  More Vistas from Stone Mountain 
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Another Herd of Ponies at We Ascend Pine Mountain    Wild Geranium Taken When We Returned to the Car at Elk Garden 


Following Pine Mountain, we made our way through some very pretty forests on our final descent.  We passed by Old Orchard Shelter, and soon arrived at our car around 11:30 a.m.  We hiked 7.5 miles on day #2, and 17.9 miles total... completing this entire hike in just over 24 hours. 

Overall, I have to say that the Grayson Highlands is the most beautiful area I've hiked.  The scenery, wonderful views, wild ponies, open sky, rock-outcroppings, and the diversity of hiking through so many different ecosystems makes this a very special place. 


Total Miles Hiked:  17.9  

  THE A.T.