Smyth County Highpoint Trip Report
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
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 we’d 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 we’d 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 didn’t want the extra weight. Had we not,
I’m sure we’d 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 weren’t 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
we’ve 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.