The following trip report covers a 52.4 mile loop around Mount Rogers, VA for the dates of March 27-29, 2009. This was a solo trip and my base weight 6.41 pounds. I seemed to have put on a bit of weight...will need to look into this.
The drive from Raleigh, NC took about 3.5 hours. I parked in Grayson Highlands State Park. Parking is $2/day weekdays and $3/day weekends. I gladly paid my $8 and completed a backpacker registration form. The backpacker parking lot was just up the road from the ranger station so my vehicle seemed safe in the lot.
I hit the trail right at 10:00 am at an elevation of 4200. The Rhododendron Trail heads norths through Massie Gap about a mile to connect with the Appalachian Trail. Dense fog clouded the hike.
This place is known for the horses that roam the area. I had hoped to see the horses, but with the dense fog they would have to be close to spot. I wasn't dissappointed, within the mile I approached a grazing horse and within minutes a small herd galleped through the fog to join.
After connecting with the AT I headed south to find the Mount Rogers summit trail. Mount Rogers is the highest peak in Virginia at 5700 feet. This provides a rare climate this far south that supports spruce and fir forests near the top. The hike up is relatively easy for a summit. I found the USGS marker and ate some lunch.
The Thomas Knob shelter sits near the summit. I can imagine this place is a haven at times with its 2 story sleeping capacity.
Through the first day the weather hovered around 45 degrees with dense fog, mist, and rain. My views were rather limited.
I continued south on the AT and completed 15.5 miles stopping right at 5:00 pm. I set up camp in a grove of white pines just west of Beech Mountain. It rained lightly through the night but I was able to get a fire going with the help of 1/2 esbit tablet.
I stayed dry and warm under my ID siltarp and in my MLD superlight bivy with Golite ultra 20 quilt. All was good until I heard a gunshot at 3:30 am nearby. I had camped closer to a road then I knew and I guess the locals were out.
The next day I continued south on AT in light fog and got my first imagines of distance.
I picked up the Beartree Lake Trail and headed north. The Lake had road access and looks to be a popular area. Several groups fished from the shores. I sat on a bench and grabbed a bit of lunch.
After several miles north I connected with the Iron Mountain trail. This trail would take me NE back to the AT (10-12 miles?). I was surprised to find such a well maintained trail. The hiking was quick, but heavy rain conitnued through the afternoon. I reached the AT nearing dark and pressed on to Old Orchard stopping at 7:00pm completing 27.3 miles for the day.
This was a nice ridge with a shelter. I was blessed with a glowing sunset after the day of rain. The shelter was occupied and I figured the "heavies" needed it more then me so I tossed out my tarp and bivy nearby. I fired up my caldera cone as the wind picked up. I had been practicing freezer bag cooking and home dehydrating so I ate heartily this trip. The trail spaghetti was amazing. One block of ramen, 3 table spoons of dehydrated spaghetti sauce with dehrdrated onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and hamburger.
I found out later that severe storms had hit the area that night. I guess the winds on my ridge gusted from 50 to 70 mph. The rain was fierce at times. Again my lightweight rigged proved itself well. I woke up fine with everything intact.
The hike out was fantastic. The fog was mystical in the ridge pine forests and many running streams.
As the day continued and I reached the meadowed areas near massie gap the skies cleared and great views were seen.
The hike from Old Orchard back to the parking lot was 9.6 miles. I reached the lot at 12:40pm. My MLD Prophet pack was exceptional this trip. I can not say enough about this pack. With a Nunatak ghost on order the only other item I am going to change is the ID siltarp. At 6.8 ounces it has served me well but a bit more space up front would be nice in the rain. Since my 41st birthday was the next day (March 30) it looks like Ron Bell will be making one more cuben tarp.