David and I have been talking for several years about hiking Virginia’s highpoint (Mt. Rogers) in the Winter. Until the 3rd weekend in February, our schedules hadn’t lined up to make it happen. I must admit this is due in large part to my penchant for fleeing to the frozen north to spend my winter weekends ice climbing.
We sketched out a plan: drive to the trailhead, camp out, hike Mt. Rogers, go see a show at the Carter Family Fold, then visit my grandparents in Tennessee for the evening. Well, we did hike Mt. Rogers and we did visit my grandparents, but on Friday. So much for the camping and the music! Here’s how it unfolded…
David and I left Charlottesville just after work, joining the hordes of people commuting home on a Friday evening. We threaded the maze of semi-trucks on I-81 as the light faded and finally turned off the interstate 200 miles later. A winding drive through the mountains eventually brought us to our starting point, the Grindstone campground: “CLOSED FOR THE SEASON”. Okay…. plan B!
We continued driving until we regained cell service and called my grandparents — “Can we drive down and spend the night?”. Less than 2 hours later we were settled in for the night and getting ready for an early start.
We had cool temps at the trailhead, which made for nice hiking. The terrain was quite varied on the hike, with everything from wide-open fields to dense, short evergreens. The route we took (from the Falcon hiking guide to Virginia), followed several different trails to reach the summit. The last bit through the trees was icy and somewhat treacherous. Caution was sufficient, but Yaktrax or something similar would’ve been welcome. We stopped by the USGS marker for lunch before continuing the loop.
Here are some photos from various points along the hike:
Our route took us along a section of the Appalachian Trail. Granddad said this hike was his first time on the AT for 2012, making it 67 consecutive years of him setting foot on the AT. Awesome!
We wrapped up the hike just in time for dinner and grabbed a bite to eat at a pizza place just off the interstate. The gentleman behind the counter thought we had driven from Idaho and set about educating Granddad on “The South” — sweet vs. unsweet tea. This somewhat amused Granddad as he’s originally from Georgia, much more “The South” than Virginia.
Our original plan had been to drive to the Carter Family Fold following dinner, then spend another night with my grandparents. But the threat of an early morning snow storm in central Virginia the next day made heading directly home seem prudent.
I’m glad David and I were finally able to hike Mt. Rogers in the “winter” and it was great to have Granddad join us for the hike!
For more photos see: Mt. Rogers on flickr