20 Days In Grayson Highlands

11:00 a.m. on April 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Okay boys, let's go to Virginia and pull a cordura swaray in the Mt Rogers Crest Zone along the Appalachian Trail.  A little over three hour drive and I'm out of Southeast TN and into the mountains of Virginny where humans actually consider backpacking to be a worthy endeavor.

After arriving at the Mt Rogers ranger station I get a permit to leave my car for 22 days and load up the stegosaurus maximus to pose at the entrance to the backcountry.  Once again I'm hauling too much weight but I'm used to it by now.  85 lbs.

BACKPACKING MT ROGERS

April 4-23  2012

HIGHLIGHTS

**  20 DAYS IN GRAYSON HIGHLANDS

**  20 DAYS ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

**  ON THE TRAIL WITH GRINDER, YAPPY, HOYTS, ALWAYS FINE, BAT, SANKEBIT, BOJANGLES AND PAPPACCINO

**  WINDY AND DRY IN THE TEMPLE OF THE GODS

**  SUB FREEZING TEMPS ON THE GAUNTLET

**  PINE MOUNTAIN CAMP IS THE BEST

**  CAMPING IN GRANDMOTHER GAP

**  PATMAN JOINS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF THE GODS

**  CAMPING WITH PATMAN AT BEARTOOTH ROCK

**  BIG CREW AT THOMAS KNOB SHELTER

**  CLIFFSIDE TRAIL: THE NUTBUSTER OF THE CREST ZONE

**  FIRST RAIN AFTER A 14 DAY DROUGHT

**  A 12.5 MILE DAY

**  THE PUD'S OF MAYAPPLE RIDGE

**  LAST NIGHT IN THE SNOW AT PARTNERSHIP SHELTER



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The trip begins in warm April temps at the Mt Rogers NRA station.


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A couple miles in I get walloped by the Dark Blue Poem---spring lightning zaps and thunderstorms---so I set up at Little Beartooth Rock and call it a day.  Why not?  I vow to go so slow and enjoy myself.


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On Day 2 I get to 7 Mile Camp which is seven miles from the Mt Rogers station and at the bottom of the long ridge running from Partnership shelter on the AT.


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Day 3 begins under blue skies and a warm sun so I pack a wet tent and hoof it a good part of a mile to the South Holston River footbridge where I stop and give the pack a rest.


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Trail angels always seem to leave food and drinks at the bridge.


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A mile further and I reach the open cow pasture which is an excellent place to rest.  It's a reminder of what's to come on Stone Mt and Wilburn Ridge.


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Past the meadow I reach the Trimpi shelter spur but my goal is beyond 2.5 miles to a pretty little campsite on Raccoon Branch Creek.  From Trimpi the trail climbs 800 feet in 1.8 miles and it kicks open my sac with the silvertip grizzly which is my pack.  Throw it on your back, son, and it'll rip your head off but you'll be a better man for it since you'll be headless ha ha ha.

On top of the mountain at a place called High Point I run into Grinder pulling a three week backpack from Damascus to Roanoke.  He knows Sgt Rock and he knows me from Whiteblaze.


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On Day 4 I leave Raccoon Branch Camp and pull into Dickey Gap where I not only find a new trailsign but a new wilderness.


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Past the Gap I reach Comers Creek Falls and the sweet little footbridge.  It's time to take a break at the bridge.


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Two backpackers falling off Hurricane Mt as I climb up Hurricane Mt and it's a tough 1,200 foot climb with weight.


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I pass Hurricane Mt shelter where I get water and pull the last hump to the long top ridge of Hurricane Mt and set up camp after a long eight mile day with too much weight.

DAY 5 MORE TO COME

11:09 a.m. on April 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice so far. Looking forward to more to come.

11:31 a.m. on April 26, 2012 (EDT)
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DAY 5 TO GRAYSON HIGHLANDS


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The end of Hurricane Mt comes at this footbridge across Fox Creek.


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On the other side of Route 603 you reach this kiosk which is a good place to rest and is the gateway into the high country. 


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It's time to take a break at Old Orchard shelter.  I decide to camp 75 yards away by the spring.  From 603 to here is a climb and past the shelter it's another good hump to the Crest Zone and Grayson Highlands.


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The Hilleberg Keron fits right in and feels like home.  I made it inside the sacred lands!


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Day 6 dawns cold and clear with the boys preparing to leave Old Orchard shelter. 


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Thruhiker Bat is packed and ready to head north on the AT.


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I head south on the AT into the garden of stone and take a break below Pine Mt and the crest zone of Mt Rogers.  On top of the mountain I stay on the AT heading south and find a great campsite between two creeks north of Scales.  It's a good place to watch Day 6 become Day 7.


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While resting in camp on Day 6 I decide to take a closer look at my Asolo 520 boots and inspect the delaminating sole on the left one.  Sorry ass crap.  Luckily I bring a small tube of McNett's seam grip which becomes an important part of a field repair effort on Day 14 of the trip.


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On Day 7 I take the AT south to Scales and find it mercifully empty except for some ponies. 


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The Scales trail gets me to Big Wilson Creek where I set up camp and wait for supper.  It's windy enough to need 14 pegs to guy out the tent.  This camp isn't far from Wise shelter.  Behind the shelter the AT heads south to Wilburn Ridge and the pink granite peaks of the crest zone, tomorrow's destination.


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Day 8 becomes the big day of the trip where I enter Wilburn Ridge and the pony kingdom of the rhyolite crest zone.  Unfortunately I don't see any ponies, they're too smart to be hanging out in the "death zone" but I do see bitterly cold winds as I climb thru Wilburn Ridge and into the Temple of the Gods. 

But first I pack and start Day 8 by swinging past Wise shelter and saying goodbye to hiker Fran aka Cured Ham.


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It's time to enter the forbidden zone of Wilburn Ridge and the Temple of the Gods.  The goal is above and to the right.


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As I approach Ma Peak I throw off the pack in a windless spot and eyeball my route.


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There are three peaks on Wilburn Ridge---Ma, Pa and Grandmother.  Here's Ma Peak and my favorite fotog of the trip.


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I reach Ma Peak and take a break at a nice place to camp (but it's very exposed and windy).


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Past Ma Peak I take a new route, the Rhododendron Gap horse trail which delivers me to a water spring so I get three liters and jct with the Crest trail which returns me to the AT south and the Gauntlet north of Thomas Knob shelter where I set up at the first campsite on the left.  It's a good day of hiking and the end of Day 8.

DAY 9 MORE TO COME

12:17 p.m. on April 26, 2012 (EDT)
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DAY 9 IN GRAYSON HIGHLANDS


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Day 9 begins in sub freezing temps and I pack up on the AT north of Thomas Knob shelter.  Most of the trees in this area are Fir with a few spruce and hemlocks thrown in.  Everything in Grayson Highlands is greener, bluer, crisper.


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Here's a view of Mt Rogers from the AT heading south.  It's the highest in VA at 5,729 feet.


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I loop over to Thomas Knob shelter and find Mother and Daughter hanging in the sun.  The daughter is preparing to lay down and sleep.


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I return to Rhododendron Gap and take Pine Mt trail to this fine campsite on the other side of the water spring in Lewis Fork Gap.  It feels good to be off the AT for awhile.  Same camp as in Patman's report.


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Day 10 begins by leaving a fantastic campsite and backtracking on the Pine Mt trail to Rhodo Gap and over to the spring below Grandmother Mt, as above.  With three liters I hump up to the top of Grandmother and check out two campsites but decide to go to Grandmother Gap for the night.  Here are some backpackers on the AT hiking over the peak.


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Hikers gaining ground over the peak.


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Grandmother Gap is a high elevation Crest Zone camp which is very nice and very exposed since the west winds here can kick your butt.  Just have a decent tent and it'll work.


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Here's a bigger view of the gap with Pa Peak to the right.  Look for the tent.


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This is what Mt Rogers is all about---along with kick ass winters and high winds.  Sunset in the Temple of the Gods.


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I can thank the Trailspace messaging system for getting Patman to join me for a couple days in the crest zone.  He shows up from Rhodo Gap a half mile away and we hobnob in Grandmother Gap.  See his trip report.


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Day 11 begins by packing up in a stiff wind and climbing over Grandmother Mt where I take this shot of a tent down in Rhododendron Gap.  Look for the tent.


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Patman sets up his camera on the Gauntlet trail (named for the section of the AT near Thomas Knob shelter which is a series of dozens of fantastic camps).


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Another strange hippie cairn on Wilburn Ridge.  Check out my other Mt Rogers trip report to see a similar cairn.


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Resting on Wilburn Ridge at the AT Spur trail.  Patman has some boot issues and decides to go for a replacement to the Overnight Lot.


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Patman and I spend all day hiking on the AT north and get off on the Bearpen trail where I want to show him a special spot called Beartooth Rock Camp.  I get set up while Patman prepares supper.


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Time to eat.


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We arrive in camp and survey our home for the night.  Behind Patman is Wilburn Ridge and the Temple of the Gods.


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Stone Mt is another jewel in the Mt Rogers crown and Patman sets up in heaven with a view to paradise.  Big Agnes tent.

DAY 12 MORE TO COME

1:35 p.m. on April 26, 2012 (EDT)
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DAY 12 IN GRAYSON HIGHLANDS


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Day 12 pre-dawns windy and so I use 14 stakes to guy out the Keron.  Patman gets an early start to do a final loop across Wilburn Ridge and we say our goodbyes.


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My route for the day is to finish the Bearpen trail and pass thru Scales and climb north on the AT to Pine Mt again.  Behind me is Wilburn Ridge.


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There's a great campsite where the AT jcts the Pine Mt trail and I call it Rabbit Camp cuz a family of rabbits live nearby.


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Rabbit Camp Still Life with map, glasses, journal and a Dale's raw protein bar.


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On Day 13 I leave Pine Mt and this time get to Rhodo Gap on the Crest horse trail as it climbs up a very rocky tread.  Rhodo Gap is in the distance.


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Brand new trailsigns dropped on the Crest trail for later posting.


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I get to the gap and once again pull the Gauntlet and set up camp near the Thomas Knob shelter.  Alot of hikers are on the trail and I spend a good day hanging out with everyone.


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I get up on Day 14 and pass by Papaccino's camp near the Knob shelter and hike with him to Rhodo Gap.


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Papaccino looks back towards Mt Rogers.


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A pony gives birth on the AT and here's the afterbirth.


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Papa and I part ways and I take the Pine Mt trail to Lewis Fork trail (above) and tackle the hardest trail in Mt Rogers---the nutbuster of the crest zone---the Cliffside trail.


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Here's the trailpost.  Looks harmless enough.


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The evergreens of Mt Rogers---fir, spruce and hemlock. 


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I reach Lewis Fork Creek where I find a great little camp nearby and just off the Cliffside trail.


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My Cliffside Camp for Day 14.


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After 24 hours of rain Miss Nature opens up a window of opportunity to move and so at 3pm on Day 15 I pack and hit the Cliffside trail as it parallels Lewis Fork Creek.


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The Cliffside trail jcts with the Lewis Fork trail and it jcts with the Old Orchard horse trail which passes right below Old Orchard shelter and so I set up camp 100 yards below the box by the horse trail.


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On Day 16 I pack in a cold fog and pull my longest day of 12.5 miles.  Here I am below the shelter and leaving the Lewis Gates wilderness.


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At 603 and the Fox Creek footbridge I meet Bojangles for a second time and he offers me coffee.  His tent is in the rhodo.  So begins my hump back on the AT, this time north.


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Letting the dogs run wild---the Comers Creek foot soak.


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I reach Dickey Gap and climb several hundred feet to a high point two miles south of Trimpi shelter and find a good place to camp.

DAY 17 MORE TO COME

7:30 p.m. on April 26, 2012 (EDT)
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DAY 17 ON THE AT NORTH


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I pack off High Point Mt and fall to Trimpi shelter and beyond to the cow field where I misplace my watch in the grass but find it later. 


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The whiteblaze leads the way as I approach the Holston footbridge.


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As I head back on the AT north I cross 7 Mile Creek and find a new campsite next to the creek as the trail climbs up to Mayapple Ridge.


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Day 18 begins in beautiful cool spring conditions so I pack and climb up to Mayapple Ridge and after countless PUD's I make it to Little Beartooth Rock where I take a break.  Camped here on my first night.


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Down the ridge and off the mountain I reach Georges Creek and find a campsite on a little tributary called Locust Creek where I set up 20 feet off the AT.  Being next to a creek helps my brain and causes me to wash out some clothing and clean off my hands and face. 


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The Shriveled Tent---Day 19---it's time to move.


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Partnership shelter gets busy on a cold April morning.


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Napoleon and dog Max watch two thruhikers eat pizza at the shelter.  Yes there's a phone nearby which gets calls out to a couple pizza places and they deliver.


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I find a decent place to camp on a cold April night and it's next to "Lake Marion" downslope from the shelter.


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Another shot and a fitting final shot to the trip?  Maybe, maybe not.


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A hot March and a hot April and then on the last day of my trip I get a dusting of the white stuff on April 23rd.  Weird but wonderful.


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I return to the shelter and find a few cold campers and talk to Allegheny who is thruhiking and using a Clark hammock and a Kifaru backpack.  We say our goodbyes and I'm gone.


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And so ends another great trip in the Southeast mountains.













12:36 a.m. on April 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Very nice trip Walter. Every time I see one of your trip reports posted it's like I just found out my favorite TV show is just starting... Love the dusting of snow on the cabins.

8:53 a.m. on April 27, 2012 (EDT)
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What a fantastic trip, Tipi! I look forward to getting up there sometime. 

9:27 a.m. on April 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Great report as usual... If you don't mind I'm going to download some of your pictures...they are all better than mine!

I'm for sure going to return in the summer with Susan....she wasn't completey sold until I showed her your trip! (not sure why my pictures didn't do it...lol.)

 

It was a real hoot to spend a couple of days out there with you as always....

How cool that your last days were in snow!

 

 

9:41 a.m. on April 27, 2012 (EDT)
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It's a great place and every time I come home I want to show EVERYONE I KNOW the Mt Rogers area but in a couple days I'm back to normal.

My peanut sized brain is currently fixating on returning to the Pisgah Holy Lands of Upper Creek, Harpers Creek, Lost Cove Creek and the Mountains to Sea trail between Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mt.  I may post some pictures here on Trailspace of previous trips into this awesome area.  Stay tuned.

11:13 a.m. on April 27, 2012 (EDT)
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It was a great trip report again tipi. You and Patman did Virginia right with your trail reports. I am glad you come here once a year to hike it....

August 29, 2014
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