Mt. Rogers NRA, Virginia – We headed off for a wonderful backpacking tour the weekend before Halloween. A section of this tour had been done in 2014 (NC Touring goes back to the wild…) and it was time to introduce it to some of our clients. We made our way out of Raleigh early on Friday morning, meeting up with another client traveling from Asheville. Hitting the trail at about 11am, we took off on the Mt. Rogers trail. After grinding up some switchbacks for an hour and a half, we took a break to enjoy a brief lunch. The temperatures were close to 60 and it was a wonderful afternoon. Refreshed from our vitals, we continued on as we climbed several thousand feet throughout the afternoon.
And like true nirvana, we finally poked out of the woods to have our first bald view. A wonderful meadow that stretched out for miles, we took off our packs and lounged in the sun for 30 minutes. The marvels of the view were not able to be fully captured by digital film. We only had a short distance to camp, so we begrudgingly donned our backpacks and headed back up the trail. We arrived to the shelter area around 3pm, and we ventured away from the population and found several sites on the bald. Dan and I choose a site well protected from the wind, while Eric and Dwight picked one with stunning views. We would enjoy cocktail hour in the meadow, and then dinner / fire in the protected site (away from the ever present wind).
Surprisingly, the wind was non-existent that evening and many a story was told by the fire. The area is know to have wild ponies, and they did not disappoint. Around 1:30 I awoke to the thundering noise of a herd of ponies walking through our site. They are NOT quite animals. But as quickly as the arrived, they dispersed. We awoke to slightly above freezing temperatures as we enjoyed our breakfast. The group decided to modify the tour, electing to keep our current sites and day hike on Saturday. To be honest, the view was amazing, and our planned 2nd night would be in a wooded section 10 miles away. We still got in 10 miles of hiking that day, as we explored the area dipping down to the Grayson Highland State Park. Again, fantastic views that spanned 50 miles in all directions. We were able to greet the ponies, first hand, and enjoyed our lunch by a stream.
The final evening started with another cocktail hour in the meadow. Winds picked up, and after dinner we had a brief fire, but extinguished it well before retiring. At this point, I must remind our readers to be every conscious of the threat of wildfires. Our state of NC is currently under siege and there is thought that it might not get contained before SPRING! The final morning we all got up and had a quick coffee / breakfast before breaking camp and heading off the mountain. We arrived at the car before 11am to bacon wrapped snickers! What a way to finish a fantastic tour. The weather was perfect, the leaves were wonderful, and the company was beyond reproach. This will likely become a regular destination on our introduction to backpacking tours! (Photos by Dwight Wyatt and Line Dempsey)