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Visit to Grayson Highlands, Part 2

If you’d like to read about Part 1 to Grayson Highlands, please click here.

Our original plans for Grayson Highlands (other than seeing all the ponies) was to hike to Mt. Rogers.  Mt. Rogers is the highest point of elevation in Virginia. I kept thinking how cool that would be. I have been to Pike’s Peak in Colorado and thought adding another highest peak would be a nice note on my hiking successes.

Monday morning we woke up and waited a bit. It had turned pretty cold and everything had frozen. I wanted it to warm up before we started.  We arrived at the park (after I stopped again for various photos) and we talked about what to do. There was a waterfall that we could hike to or we could try for Mt. Rogers. I let my son decide and he chose Mt. Rogers. Off we hiked.

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Because it had gotten so cold, all the trees had rime ice. It was magical. In one area, the wooded area appeared to be a frosted fairyland. The cold also made it much easier to hike. In many areas, my son just walked on top of the snow. I sank down so I followed footsteps already created. I felt like we were going at a good pace, but, eventually my son started to get tired. Although he’s an avid soccer player, hiking legs are something different. He was having fun but going slow. The snow didn’t help. I would stop and take photos (I couldn’t stop). We ran into some ponies and that took time. We rested and had lunch. We arrived at one point and it said, “Mt. Rogers: 2 miles”.  2 more miles?  That meant we had gone approximately 2.8 miles in 4+ hrs. Go ahead, you can laugh.

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I honestly felt disappointed. I knew that 2 more miles in the snow would be difficult for my son. Did I really want him to be upset? Sad? That wouldn’t make for good memories. My disappointment wasn’t as important. We turned around and headed back. We got passed by two trail runners in shorts and winter coats. At that point, I laughed. My son was decked out in a full snowsuit complete with trekking poles and snowboarding goggles. I was dressed very heavily as well. And there they were… two guys just running down the Appalachian Trail towards Mt. Rogers. I checked our elevation and we had reached almost 5,600 ft. I’d say that’s pretty close considering Mt. Rogers is 5700 and change.

In the end, it was good that we turned around when we did.  It started to warm up. The sun and weather felt really good but that meant slush. The snow became difficult. I grabbed one pole from my son because I was sliding all over the place. To be honest, I don’t have winter, or well, any season of hiking boots. I have a couple pairs of trail shoes that I use.  I was wearing my winter boots. I had nothing else. By the time we reached the car, the knee I sprained last year was feeling really bad. I can’t imagine if I would have had to hike 4 miles in the slush.

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By the time we finished, we were both tired. It had been a quick trip back but the snow was tiring. I know that I’ll go back another time, with no snow, nice weather, and get to Mt. Rogers.  It is just over 8 miles round trip and the hike itself was not difficult. Heck maybe I’ll even run some of it.  The views could not be topped. I have included quite a few photos here but if you’d like to see all of them, click on the link below.  Any photos that you like can be purchased.  I haven’t added any to my website yet but will soon.

If you haven’t been to Grayson Highlands yet, please put it on your list. I think it is quite possibly the most beautiful area of Virginia.

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South River Falls in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah in the Morning

I did it!  I ventured out to hike in stupid cold weather.

I was determined to get out for a good hike. Being cooped up in my house was getting to me and not being in depressing. A couple of days before I went hiking the weather turned warm. Although all the waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park had previously been frozen I figured the warm weather would thaw them and water would be flowing nicely.  I was right. I had been wanting to go to South River Falls for quite some time and this was my chance.

When I arrived at the park my car said 5 degrees. And that was without the wind chill.  I was wearing:  1 thin pair of thermal tights, 1 pair of thick thermal tights, Darn Tough socks, a thin long sleeve shirt, a thick long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and then a thick hoodie over all of that, a scarf, a hat, and mittens. I also had on my Altra Lone Peak trail shoes.  In addition to all of the clothes I had toe warms in my shoes and hand warmer in my bra and in my gloves.  Needless to say, I was set.

The wind was pretty bad at first. I kept putting the scarf over my face but then I’d get some of the scarf threads in my mouth and that was gross so I’d remove it. It was a never-ending battle. I finally made my way to the river and it was so pretty. The cascades had all sorts of ice around them and the water was flowing so good. Off to the right I saw a waterfall. It wasn’t on the map. I imagine that with all the trees and vegetation in bloom it wouldn’t even be noticeable. I wasn’t going to miss it through and bushwhacked my way over there stopping along the way for photos.  I will say that bushwhacking does keep you warm. I had to go over and under large tree trunks and find the best way through some thorny patches.  Once I got there it was difficult to get a good photo but I imagine if it had been less frozen it would have been beautiful.

I finally tore my away from the cascades and headed towards the South River Falls Overlook.  It was beautiful. I guess I’ll keep saying that but it was. And it was loud. The overlook provides a good view of the falls from up above. At the time, I wondered if I’d be able to get to the base of the falls.  There was a ton of ice around the overlook so I didn’t stay long. I certainly didn’t want to slip and fall (I had the trail completely to myself so getting hurt wouldn’t have been good).

I continued down the trail and looked at my map. There seemed to be a way to get to the base even though the write-up on Shenandoah’s page didn’t mention it. I eventually came to the portion of the trail where you can make a loop. However, the trail also went straight. I looked at the sign post and it said, “0.5 Base of Falls”.  I was happy and continued down the trail. As I made my way to the base I couldn’t believe how beautiful the cascades were. I wanted to photograph everything.

Eventually I got to the base. It was well worth it. Along the right side of the falls the mist had created frost on everything. It looked like a winter wonderland. I struggled to capture it because the sun had come out. I spent so long taking photos that I missed my opportunity to photograph the falls in shade. I took as much time as I could (before getting too cold) and took some time to just sit and marvel in the beauty. It is unbelievable to me that people don’t care about saving such precious places.

Eventually, I turned and worked my way back. I stopped for more photos of the cascades. I also instructed some others on how to get to the base. I think a lot of people don’t realize you can go there. I’m anxious to go back when it is warm.

Finally, I got to my car. I took off a couple of layers and started my long drive home. I think it was close to an hour before I turned down my heat. I, perhaps, finished thawing out a few hours later.