Meet Virginia

7:25 p.m. on April 16, 2012 (EDT)
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She doesn't own a dress, her hair is always a mess.....oh wait, no this isn't about the Train song. It’s a trip to the Virginia High Country!

This trip wrapped up three consecutive weekends of backpacking (the other two being Frozen Head in Tennessee and Shining Rock in North Carolina).

I had contacted Tipi Walter to see where he would be in April. I decided it would be fun to try and find him on the trail with no real set meeting point as we have arranged in the past.

It worked out that I had a partial day off work which really helped offset the 3 hour and 10 minute drive from Knoxville to Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. I knew Tipi would be on (or rather camping just off of) the AT somewhere near the park and so decided to loop around the park in my search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I started from the overnight lot and took the AT Spur trail to the main AT and headed North on Friday afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Ah... as soon as I emerged from the forest the big views opened up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I left the AT for the Pine Mountain Trail (for looping purposes) where I passed this neat camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here was where I decided to make camp Friday after not seeing TW yet. It's called Rhododendron Gap and is back on the AT South of where I started.

It was really funny over the course of the trip running in to all the confused thru-hikers that couldn’t figure out why they met me multiple times going in different directions. (Directionally speaking, thru-hikers tend to think in linear terms....they don't process loop routes very well, lol)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A fine dinner of Mary Janes Black Bean Hummus (heated), bell peppers and Spring Mix, on a wheat tortilla. Good stuff, enjoyed whilst gazing upon views new to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After dinner I decided to explore the area a bit more and ambled a bit in every direction from my camp. I climbed an overlook about 2 tenths of a mile from camp and off in the distance, in the most exposed spot a person could choose, was Tipi! I trekked on down to where he was to make greetings.

I spent some time hanging out and jawing but I didn't plan on staying away from camp that long and needed to go back to get some warmer clothes on as the temps dropped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 This was sunrise from my beautiful camp spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The morning came with strong winds and I chose to find a more protected spot to make breakfast (the usual 1000 calorie serving of oatmeal with added walnuts, pecans, almonds, raisons, honey and Starbucks House Blend made with a one cup pour-over funnel).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My first inclination of day 2 was to go see Mount Rogers (name sake of the general forest area); named for William Rogers, eventual founder of MIT. This is a marvelous section of the AT going South from my position on the way to the summit spur trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Most of the MT Rogers Spur trail near the top looks like this: a dense Fraser Fir forest. Even if camping were allowed this would be no fun.

 

 

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 These are just neat summit pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And here is the anti-climactic summit at 5729 feet and the highest spot in the state of Virginia. Nope, no views from there.

 

Hiking back towards the gap, I ran into Tipi who was out stretching his legs and searching for me so we could hook up and do some trekking together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Here was my first encounter with the wild ponies! It was very exciting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Uncle Fungus and me posing for a photo on the AT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Checking out the “not really spring yet” view while going over Wilburn Ridge as we headed North for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tipi was taking me way off the main trail to a place known as Bear Tooth rock and we had to go through a gate labeled Bear Pen. Ominous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Here was my tent near the Bear Tooth rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I couldn’t resist climbing the rock. Here is a down shot of Tipi’s tent and the northern view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here we see ten days of food spread out (actually not all of it…the blue bag to the right had probably 8 pounds of protein and granola bars in it!) You know you’re on a long backpacking trip when you have to write expiration dates on stuff! Funny to think he had already been out for ten days when I showed up….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 After dinner I went roaming around to play with the ponies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This was a nice shot near our camp. We had hiked from about 8AM that morning until 4PM that afternoon and I think we both were ready to crash pretty early.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The morning of day 3 and it was time for me to head out and start working back towards my car. This shot was after I had climbed up the Crest trail so as to take an alternate path around the park. These ponies were just too cool. I like em better than bears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That place was just so much fun…these open areas are a real treat when you’re used to hiking under canopy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shots from the summit of Wilburn Ridge 2 off the Blue Blaze trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This was a North bound view from the AT right before my next trail junction (VHT to RHO trail)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I ended the day by hiking the Cabin Creek trail which advertised waterfalls. It didn’t disappoint and made a nice place to cool off after a hot day of hiking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Grayson Highlands were wonderful and I will be back. Tipi will no doubt have better photos and a better report when gets back but I hope this gives some representation of the amazing Virginia High Country.

 Virginia, I’m glad I met you!

Happy Trails, Trailspacers!

7:34 p.m. on April 16, 2012 (EDT)
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COOOL!

I have only been to Virginia one time and have always wanted to go back.

Is Mt Rogers one of the Boreal forest areas?

Mike G.

7:54 p.m. on April 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks Mike!

 

I'm not familiar enough with that term (Boreal) to say for sure but I know it's one of only a few high altitude spruce-fir forests in the Southern Apps. These places are really cool and fun to see up close.

 

.

9:02 p.m. on April 16, 2012 (EDT)
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My limited understanding of Boreal is based on a few articles I have read. I know that there are Boreal type forests in some parts of the S. Apps.

I just looked up the definition out of curiosity.

From the free online dictionary:

Boreal -

1. Relating to the north or to northern areas.2. Relating to the north wind.3. Relating to the forest areas of the Northern Temperate Zone that are dominated by coniferous trees such as spruce, fir, and pine.

Your photo (s) of the MT Rogers spur trail area were really cool and caught my eye!

I would love to camp in an area like that.

Mike G.

7:54 a.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Mike, yeah you made me curious as well. this wikipedia entry describes the Southern App Spruce Fir areas as similar but distinct from Northern Boreal areas.

Funny, this lists a lot of the places I frequent!

 

"Southern spruce-fir stands consist primarily of two needle-leaved evergreen species— the red spruce and the Fraser fir, nicknamed the "he-balsam" and "she-balsam," respectively. Regional entities sometimes refer to the southern spruce-fir forest as the "Canadian" or "boreal" forest due to its resemblance to the boreal forest of Canada. While southern spruce-fir forests are related to the boreal forests, and are home to a number of plant and animal species that are more common at northern latitudes, the southern spruce-fir is nevertheless a disjunct and unique ecosystem."

 So I guess yes, that could be called a boreal forest!

9:37 a.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Excellent trip and report, Patrick.  Wish I could have joined you guys this time. Alas, too many demands on my time. 

I really like the photo of the waterfall, what a cool place! 

I am REALLY looking forward to my Roan highlands trip in June :)

11:23 a.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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oh, and it's really not nice to put a song in other people's head like that ;)

4:27 p.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Great TR and photos. That campsite at Bear Tooth looks wonderful, and wild ponies are always nice to encounter in the hills.

I am impressed at how well you eat on the trail - makes me feel like I am eating junk food here in the house!

5:58 p.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice trip report Patrick.You did the Greyson Highlands great justice. I am sure you also surprised many thru hikers with your loop.It's a one way street for a NOBO on ther AT.Great you got to enjoy my state..

11:40 p.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Very nice trip report Patman. I can't wait to get back out there. I am going stir crazy for the moment. 

I may have to give the Hummus a try on the trail. I have only had the kind with pine nuts in it. Never really noticed that they have other varieties. 

Gotta say that summit has one heck of a view lol. 

The ponies are so cool. I tried to talk the wife into letting me get one for a house pet awhile back but she said no. I told her I would clean up after it...

Maybe I can get a goat, hmmmmm....

The area where ya took the photo of the waterfall would have my trip all screwed up. I would be stuck there for hours. 

Looks like you had an awesome time. Glad the weather was nice for ya.

On a side note. 

Tipi sure gets around doesn't he?

8:58 a.m. on April 18, 2012 (EDT)
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@Gonzan

Yeah you were missed brother!...sorry about the song…

@Jon (Pathloser)

One of the advantages to the frequent short backpacking trips I take is that I can usually bring whatever food I want. When you’re only out two or three days (and it isn’t too awful hot), a person can get away with bringing all kinds of fresh foods!

@Denis

Thanks very much Denis….Sincerely, it means a lot to get kudos from a local

And I know there is much more to see in VA! (Shenandoah is coming later I hope)

@Rick

Oh Yeah, Ole Uncle Fungus does get around doesn’t he? I actually did splash around that pool for a while, would have been longer if I didn’t have a three hour drive home.

9:19 a.m. on April 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Patman said:

...sorry about the song… 

Haha! I was completely kidding, I actually thought the title was quite clever and humorous :)

9:34 a.m. on April 18, 2012 (EDT)
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I often get songs stuck in my head on my solo hikes. In the Nat Geo article on Andrew Skurka, one of the quesitons they asked him was "What song was stuck in your head durning your Yukon journey?" He replied Dancing Queen by ABBA!

9:55 a.m. on April 18, 2012 (EDT)
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I favor above treeline areas more so than being in the woods.  Depends on wind strength though.  Nice photos. 

11:13 a.m. on April 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Patman said:

...Dancing Queen by ABBA!

now THAT is funny! 

 

7:08 p.m. on April 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Now that diddy will drive one to stay away from civilization as long as possible.  I find Grateful Dead's Truckin to be a good load hauling song; otherwise my backcountry music preferences are all over the place, but not into light pop, disco, or rap.

7:20 p.m. on April 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Why Ed, I didn't know your head was dead.

10:21 a.m. on April 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Great fotogs as usual.  I pulled into town yesterday after leaving Mt Rogers in the snow so I finally got to use my winter kit.  I'm glad you got to visit the Crest Zone and the Virginny highlands with the ponies as it's a special place. 

I'll post my trip report in the next few days.  I took the Cliffside trail which is the Nutbuster of the Highlands and probably the most difficult trail in all of the Mt Rogers backcountry.  Luckily I went down it and not up it.  It's in the Lewis Fork wilderness and there are some nice campsites right on Lewis Fork Creek.  I call it Lewis Gates wilderness in honor of the last of the dogmen, etc.

I think my next swaray will be in NC on the Mountains to Sea trail in the Pisgah NF/Grandfather ranger district and Wilson Creek area.  It includes my old backpacking stomping grounds from the early 1980's so I'm real excited to get back out, just trying to figure a place to safely leave my car for three weeks.  Any suggestions??

11:00 a.m. on April 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey welcome back stranger! Glad you didn’t get ‘et by the ponies. Looking forward to the report…..

Snow huh? Wow, that’s hard to imagine considering how hot it was my last day up there.

8:24 a.m. on April 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Hot in March and April---snow on April 23rd---


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Minimal sure but white nonetheless.  This was taken by the Partnership shelter on the last day of my trip.

7:29 p.m. on April 25, 2012 (EDT)
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That was an EXCELENT report chok full of fun!

12:28 a.m. on April 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

Great fotogs as usual.  I pulled into town yesterday after leaving Mt Rogers in the snow so I finally got to use my winter kit.  I'm glad you got to visit the Crest Zone and the Virginny highlands with the ponies as it's a special place. 

I'll post my trip report in the next few days.  I took the Cliffside trail which is the Nutbuster of the Highlands and probably the most difficult trail in all of the Mt Rogers backcountry.  Luckily I went down it and not up it.  It's in the Lewis Fork wilderness and there are some nice campsites right on Lewis Fork Creek.  I call it Lewis Gates wilderness in honor of the last of the dogmen, etc.

I think my next swaray will be in NC on the Mountains to Sea trail in the Pisgah NF/Grandfather ranger district and Wilson Creek area.  It includes my old backpacking stomping grounds from the early 1980's so I'm real excited to get back out, just trying to figure a place to safely leave my car for three weeks.  Any suggestions??

 I'm going to try to make the long drive up to the area southwest of the GSMNP shortly.  I keep hearing about vandalism and was wondering the same thing.  What's the latest thing on counter-random-vandalism?

7:52 a.m. on April 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Bunion said:


 I'm going to try to make the long drive up to the area southwest of the GSMNP shortly.  I keep hearing about vandalism and was wondering the same thing.  What's the latest thing on counter-random-vandalism?

 Which place exactly?

4:26 a.m. on April 27, 2012 (EDT)
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I hope to base camp at Horse Cove and then go for a few nights in the Bald River area for the first time.  Someone suggested having a locked gas cap, bring a clunker, join Triple A, and leave it unlocked and empty at the trailhead for the windows' sake, but then I'd have to leave my other stuff back at the Cove--nothing worth stealing that won't go in backpack, but I need the car and I'm fond of the stuff!  I was just wondering if that area is having any more or less trouble with vandals thesedays, and any other precautionary tips.  Thanks for your reply.  Really enjoyed the trip report from Virginia--I'll bet the night sky was fabulous in that open countryside!

8:42 a.m. on April 27, 2012 (EDT)
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There are two main places to leave your car for a swaray into the Bald River wilderness---one is by the Falls and the other is up the Tellico River road a bit to a larger parking area on the left.  The dayhiking tourists usually fill the lower Falls lot and I've left my car at the upper Baby Falls lot for 12-15 days at a time with no problem. You could call the Tellico ranger district 423/253-8400 and ask them about the Baby Falls parking area.

8:49 a.m. on April 27, 2012 (EDT)
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I am not sure about the bald river area trailheads, but the only incident I am aware of in the slickrock and citico areas was the burned on the skyway a couple months back. I spoke with both the TN and NC rangers and local PD, and they said that was the first time anything like that had happened. They did say there are very infrequent smash and grabs, but usually in the peak summer season. 

I have an older dinged up Jetta that I drive to the trailheads, which doesn't look like it would have valuables inside. I do lock my car though, and I've had no trouble any of the countless times I've been up in those haunts. 

All of the ideas you mentioned are good, but I don't think it is that much of a concern. 

3:00 a.m. on April 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, fellas, for the feedback.  Nice thing about Trailspace is the "insider information" that's available.  I'm looking forward to my trip to your neck of the woods.

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