Monday, October 1, 2012

First of all, let me apologize to all my followers or casual readers of this blog. It has been a long time since my last update and with good reason, on the hike to Hump Mountain, I injured my toe and have been sidelined since then waiting on the nail to work loose and get back on the trail.
Fall arrives at the Grayson Highlands.
beautiful fall colors

Yesterday, I visited the Grayson Highlands in Virginia, they are home to the highest peak in the state, Mt. Rogers and also to a pack of "wild" ponies. Wild is a stretch really, the ponies live in the high country to maintain the balds and pasture like appearance but they are fenced in. However, they live off the land and have no form of shelter, the only intervention by humans is the hikers feeding them, which has several of them completely tame and downright annoying.

The main entrance to the park is located between Damascus and Volney on US 58. The road is curvy and if you get car sick easy, the road will make you miserable. There is a small entrance fee of $3 and the road takes you to the top of the mountain arriving at the Massie Gap parking lot. I had read the maps over the few days before we went and the information online is sketchy and confusing. I had brought Steve and Pauline with me and we settled on parking at the place with the most cars, Massie Gap. From the parking lot, there are several trail heads to choose from and we took the Rhododendron Gap Trail across Wilburn's Ridge toward the AT intersection that takes you on to the summit of Mt. Rogers. The interesting thing about Mt. Rogers is that it's the highest peak east of South Dakota that doesn't have a road to it's summit. It's also a tree covered summit eliminating the beautiful views. I was just interested in finding the ponies and as I hiked across Wilburn's ridge not even half a mile from the parking lot in the middle of the trail stood a pony! I was immediately transformed into a giggling child and approached the pony to see how close I could get, the pony stood still and allowed me to rub his mane and leaned into each stroke encouraging more petting. Just up the trail was a group of at least ten more ponies and several people were just hanging out and taking pictures. The ponies were all different colors and all seemed to be really tame, several would approach and nudge at your pockets looking for snacks and one even took a bite at my leg. We all loved the ponies and spent some time with the herd taking pictures and just watching them before moving on toward a large set of rocks that could be climbed up the ridge.
Steve fearing the dreaded pony bite.

The trail wound around the pasture and arrived at the base of the boulders, they rose at least 30ft above the surrounding landscape and worn spots in the rock made it an easy climb up and around to their summit. The views were indeed spectacular and as I surveyed our surroundings a large peak loomed across the parking lot rising even higher than where we were. We decided to head back to the truck and go summit what we found on the map as Big Pinnacle. We parked at the gift shop and the trail head for the twin pinnacles starts behind it. The trail is a 1.6 mile loop taking you on a graded hike through the woods to Little Pinnacle and Big Pinnacle. The Little Pinnacle overlook is a short half mile from the gift shop and at 5089 feet, is actually higher than Big Pinnacle by about twenty feet. However, the Big Pinnacle has better views and the rock outcrop ends abruptly with a towering cliff and certain death if you were to slip (awesome!) Pauline had noted a waterfall on the trail map so as the day was coming to a close we decided to squeeze in the waterfall on Cabin Creek before calling it a day.

The trail for Cabin Creek begins at the Massie Gap parking lot too, and slops downhill for .6 miles before arriving at Cabin Creek. Steve immediately found several trout in the creek and a short hike upstream and you arrive at a double 25ft waterfall. I thought it was nice and surprisingly we had it to ourselves, it photographs really well due to the shade and the flow is powerful also. Steve and I rested and Pauline explored.
view from Big Pinnacle

 I was overwhelmed by the day and kicked myself for overlooking such a stellar park. All the trails were easy and family friendly, the Pony interaction was definitely a highlight, and the views were second to none. I will visit this park for years to come and recommend you do the same. Hopefully my toes will stay intact and I can bust out some hikes now that leaf season is upon us, until next time...happy trails.

Cabin Creek Falls

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