Grayson County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Rogers

Date: September 8, 2007
Author: Julie Shoemaker

other participants: Patrick Johnston, Darren Shoemaker, Ryan Shoemaker, Casie Shoemaker

Started out for this highpoint on a beautiful late summer afternoon. Started later than we wanted which would later prove to be a bit problematic. We started on the Rhododendron Trail which was pretty busy. Saw our first pony just after the first gate. The kids of course had to stop and pet it which would be a recurring theme throughout the hike. Made our way to the AT junction fairly quickly and the crowds thinned considerably. The hiking was easy and the views beautiful!

The trail became very steep and rocky a mile or so into the hike. More ponies which we again had to stop to pet and share some apple slices. It was along this stretch that I snapped my favorite picture of our entire trip; a pony grazing amongst the boulders and vegetation. Lots of great views which meant we spent WAY too much time exploring and picture taking. The trail was a nice combination of steep climbs and fairly level areas to gives the legs a break. Passed through dense area of rhododendron trees and climbed through a gap in a broken boulder. Made it to an intersection of several trails and a sign that said we were two miles from Mount Rogers. This is the point we realized 2 things. We were losing daylight fast (a little over 2 hours until sundown) and we should have packed water for the dogs. We had assumed (always a bad thing!) that wed find creeks or ponds or SOMETHING for the dogs to drink from along the way. It was also at this point that we found out the out Ryan (our 10 year old) had removed the water bladder from his backpack because he thought it was leaking and only had one 20oz bottle. It was a pretty warm day and wed been drinking our water freely. Now we decided to ration things a bit. We did have flashlights and 4 of the 5 of us had still had adequate water, so the decision was made to press on, albeit at a much faster pace.

Fortunately, the hiking was fairly level and it was cooling down so we made rapid progress. Passed several backcountry campsites along the way and regretted removing the tent from our packs. We opted to leave it behind because we were just planning a day hike and didnt want the extra weight. Had we not, Im sure wed have just found a spot and spent the night. Darren (our 12 year old) repeatedly said he had packed enough to make a suitable shelter and wanted to set up camp. Unfortunately, the rest of us werent as prepared although we really considered staying at the shelter we passed shortly before coming to the Mt. Rogers spur trail. We resumed our ascent at the spur trail passing through some thick evergreen stands. Reached the summit with just over on hour left until sunset. Snapped some pictures, did some rubbings of the benchmarks (located two) and had a quick snack. Nobody ever wants to carry a watermelon so weve decided to make pudding our highpoint snack tradition.

Made quick progress heading down while our daylight held out. We were able to get some nice sunset pictures but really wished they were taken further down the mountain! We made it through all but one of major rocky areas before having to resort to flashlights. We took it nice and slow and managed to get all 5 of us and both dogs down with no turned ankles or scraped shins. Once we made it to the meadow, we had a gorgeous hike by starlight. It was crystal clear and the stars seemed to stretch forever. We could hear the ponies moving around off to the sides of the trail.

It was unanimously decided that this has been our favorite highpoint so far. The hike was great, the views stunning, and the ponies were fun. Even hiking in the dark was fun once we were out of the most rugged parts of the trail.