FINALLY! See my previous post for the frustration of being kept off the trail…
My work schedule had me in Winston-Salem on a Friday afternoon and the better half had a busy weekend, so I threw the pack in the car and took off for the closest high ground to get out of the early summer heat…Grayson Highlands and Mt Rogers again.
I expected a ton of people at the outset and planned to spend little time on the Appalachian Trail in order to avoid the crowds. Turned out that it wasn’t really busy at the Elk Garden Trailhead (I am sure Massie Gap was packed!). I trotted in about 4 miles or so starting with some nice views and then the green tunnel of the AT (a lot different from my last trip here). Around 5:30 I diverted off the AT to Brier Ridge and a wonderful first night campsite…
The new Tarptent Stratospire 1 was a breeze to set up and allowed for wonderful views. I didn’t bring a ground sheet on this trip so was very careful in campsite selection and despite my adherence to LNT principles I removed a couple of small briers from under the inner tent footprint.I could post the 10 or more photos I took of the Stratospire, but will save most of those for a future gear review.
The evening was not too warm and I even slipped on a wind shirt while enjoying a wee dram of scotch after a filling pasta dinner (Knorr pasta mix with fresh supplemental ingredients from home).
A great night’s rest in the high country, followed by waking in the pre-dawn to watch the sunrise. Can’t beat this!
After a breakfast of instant coffee and Packit Gourmet West Memphis Grits Souffle (delicious!), I packed up camp and took my usual photo of the site to see how little “impression” I left.
I headed back along Brier Ridge and around the west side of Mt Rogers onto the spur trail down to the Lewis Fork Trail. This is a muddy horse track but a good test to see how fast my new boots would dry out!
I took the high route (there are two choices on the Lewis Fork Trail as it does a big U) to avoid the killer climb of Cliffside Trail since I hadn’t been out in a while. I quickly found myself back on top of Pine Mountain…one of my favorite areas. After watering up at the reliable spring near the Crest Trail, I headed east and found a shady spot with a good view south to Stone Mtn for a lunch break.
After lunch, I had no real plan so headed through Scales, which had a large group of campers and some backpackers resting up, and up onto Stone Mtn. My planned campsite that night was going to be near the Bear Pen Trail with a view back to Wilburn Ridge, but I got there really quickly and decided to hoof it along the rest of the trails in the area and spiral back toward camp. I have done much off trail diversion in this area, so kept it easy on the AT, Scales, and Bear Pen trails just to add some miles and see if I cold find water down slope of the campsite.
The campsite I had picked out on a previous trip lived up to my expectations…a nice flat area for the Stratospire and a great view of Wilburn Ridge and sunset. The only down side was unexpected heat…it got to over 90 in the tent that afternoon. I addressed that by sitting in the shade of the rocks where it was about 70 and watching a few of the ponies grazing for a couple of hours. Very peaceful!
I lugged a couple of liters of water up from a spring near the Bear Pen Trail -more than enough for dinner and breakfast. Dinner was my new staple on trips….Packit Gourmet Texas State Fair Chili!
In my opinion, there isn’t a better way to a spend a couple of hours than sitting on a rock in the wilderness and watching the sunset while sipping on single malt whisky. This trip it was Lagavulin 16 to celebrate getting over my health issues and back on the trail!
After a very restful night I packed up camp and headed back over Stone Mtn and along the Pine Mtn Trail. The rhododendron were in full bloom all weekend along with the flame azaleas.
Overall it was a fantastic trip…I put 26 miles under my belt from Friday at 4 to Sunday at 12. This gives me confidence that my back and leg are doing well and future fun is ready to be had!
I’ll leave you with a few more photos…