MT Rogers Va – First backpack Trip

6/30/18 – 7/1/18

Sherri, Mary and I

Going backpacking has been all Sherri’s idea.  Sleeping in the woods scares me. I was on board as long as it was a future event! Turns out it was a very cool experience! I really enjoyed it!

I bought my pack months ago and just took it out of the box to try it out. I think I’ve been dreading this day wondering if I could carry it.  My pack is an Osprey 65. Its big. I began packing. I put the sleeping bag in the bottom, put the tent in the backpack, poles in the outside pocket, a little bit of clothes and my sleeping pad. Next I add my food and some toiletries. This thing is heavier than I’m used to! I’m thinking 30 lbs without water.

For food I decided on substance. I packed bagels, salami and cheese. I know the salami will be fine I hope the cheese is cool. I got a tuna and rice packet for something different on the bagel and trail mix and granola bars.

We saw this deer before we even parked. We sign in as backpackers and park in the overnight lot. We are next to two girls and one has the same pack as me. We discuss it for a minute she says I will love it and after a bit I won’t notice how heavy it is. I sure hope so! 😳

We put our packs on. We take off up the Appalachian Spur trail. This trail winds up through a forest and is moderately rocky. It’s also only .68 of a mile when it intersects with the Appalachian trail.  Close to the end we stop to rest because getting used to these packs is hard! We take our packs off and get some water and maybe a snack. I forgot to take my ibuprofen so I lift my pack up on the rock we are resting on and it’s so heavy it pulls me down and I face plant right into my pack!

Luckily Sherri was taking a group selfie and managed to get one! 😏 it really wasn’t staged. It is heavier to pick up than carry! I never did find my ibuprofen. Luckily Sherri and Mary had some.

As soon as we get off the spur trail the views are amazing! All around us is the most serene, gorgeous scenery. The rock outcroppings and beautiful blue sky and puffy white clouds. It’s an amazing place to be. This part of the trail is in Grayson Highlands state park then we will cross into Mt Rogers.

We make a left on the AT and head toward Wilburn Ridge. The trails goes through some of those out toppings and Mary has stopped to take some pics so before she gets here Sherri suggested I climb up and let her get a pic of me. She knows I love to climb. I drop my pack and climb up to get this pic.

Shortly after this we turn around the rocks and run into the area where the ponies like to congregate. It is just up the trail from the Massie gap parking lot. When Sherri and I were here in March a lot of the ponies were pregnant. Now there were new foals following mom around. This place is so magical. We never tire of seeing the ponies.

We thought there was something wrong with this pony. After a bit the others wandered away. When he realized it he jumped up and ran after them.

From here we head up the AT toward Thomas Knob. Thomas Knob is where the AT shelter is. This is where we plan to camp.

It’s right here where we have trail choices we can go left and follow the AT around Wilburn Ridge, or go right and take either the Spring trail or the Rhododendron trail around the back side of wilburn ridge. We don’t know which way to go so I ask a couple and she points to where we are going and tells us to take the right it’s easier. 😳. She either had no idea and was making it up or she was just a plain class A butthole! It was definitely not the easy way. It was however pretty cool but very rocky. To the left was also the Wilburn ridge trail that went up over the rocks. I would have loved to climb this but not with this backpack for sure!

We ended up taking the trail right around the backside of Wilburn Ridge. It was a rocky trip up then it was a cool rock hike before it finally leveled out.

Once we made it around Wilburn Ridge it was about 2 miles to the shelter. While walking along the trail the closer we got the more people we saw setting up camp.  I spotted what I thought were cows down in the field. It’s actually longhorn cattle. It seamed like a very odd place for them!  Turns out they were brought here to feed on the vegitation and keep the balds bald! Just like the ponies are doing.

I was leading and saw a bear box. I yelled we are here! But we weren’t. It was a clearing with some campers. The girls we met in the parking lot were there. They didn’t pass us so they must have taken another trail. The bear box is where you put all food and even toothpaste. It locks with a carabiner so they can’t open it.

They said the shelter was a little farther. We went down the trail some more. I took off and left the girls so I could get to the privy. I’m more of a toilet user than woods girl! 🤣.

It was past the shelter. When I got back to the shelter the girls were there. The shelter was surrounded with big boulders, no camping here unless in it. There was a water source behind it. It was about 1/4 mile back. A water source is a pvc pipe in the ground with spring ? Water running out. We have our water purification gear. This water was crystal clear in the water bottle though.

We had a snack, talked to some people then I walked down the trail to look for camping spots. There were two people camping down the trail and we could camp across from them.  It had great views. We discussed it. Sherri and I want to camp near people. Mary wanted to camp right here. Actually I think Mary didn’t want to walk any farther! Turns out people were camping all over and we wouldn’t have been alone. Sherri and I won that one and we hiked back to where the girls were. On the way back I noticed another place to store food.  It’s an electric fence around a tree where you hang your bear bag full of food. There were bear warning signs all over the place and notices to hang your bear bag in designated areas only. 😱

We walked back to wear the girls were camping and found a great spot in the shade with great views! We were still secluded and could barely see our neighbors.

Here is my problem. It’s 4 pm. No tv or book or even a chair. 15 minutes later I’m bored! Luckily Sherri wants to hike to the top of Mt Rogers! Yay it’s about 2 miles up. Mary has put on her comfy clothes broke out her music and is happy to be chillin in her tent. Sherri and I went to the top. The last half a mile went through a dark mossy forest unlike anything else we’ve seen here. It was dusk so it made it Kinda spooky. We see a couple of people up there and find the survey marks and that’s it.  This is the highest point in Virginia.

Not one view up here though. So, down we go! We get back to camp around 8 and wait for the sunset. Mary put our food and toothpaste (apparently bears like it) in the bear box except she kept out a pop tart! Sherri told her she needed to camp farther away from us if she was going to have food in her tent! Story is she ate it before bed! 🤣🤣

The sunset wasn’t to colorful. We get a sunrise view also but I doubt we are awake at that point. We all tried to sleep. Somewhere near midnight the wind kicked up. I was afraid rain was next! I opened my tent and brought my pack and shoes in and clamped down my tarp. Soon as I unzipped my tent Mary says “are you going to pee!” Scared the total crap out of me!

We went back to sleep. A little later the rain started. I thought it was peaceful to sleep in. I did wonder if we were under a big tree or not but oh well to late now! I was able to go to sleep after that. This was awesome because I was afraid of two things, carrying that pack and the dark!!

Morning came and we all had a different perspective. Sherri’s tent had water in it, she was uncomfortable and she said I slept because she heard me snore!

Mary had water under her sleeping pad, which was a yoga mat and I snore and Sherri purrs.

Me – I was dry but my hip hurt cause I was off my sleeping pad most of the time, we are to old to be sleeping on the ground!  I didn’t hear anyone snore!

I did sleep more than I thought I would. Sherri says she doesn’t think the 79 mile backpack trip we were gonna do on the foothills trail in September is gonna happen. I immediately say “You owe me $300!”  (For my gear) we laughed.  I am in total agreement with that! It’s not easy to sleep on the ground! We would do another over nighter though.

I swear Sherri had her stuff packed up in like 2.5 seconds.  I turn around and she is done! She was ready to go! I ate then started packing. As with any hike if I know I’m only going a couple of miles I pair the water down. That’s gonna bite me in the butt one day but Jeez water is heavy! I ended up carrying only bottle of water. Mary finished packing last.  It was like 7:30!

Sherri mapped out an easier way back to the car. We set out as everyone around us was beginning to stir. We headed down the rhododendron trail. We ran into an older lady who says she likes to use the horse trail because it has less rocks. This was a much easier trail that only took us a little over 2 hours compared to the 4 1/2 hours up! We passed more ponies and campers and beautiful views!

when we got near Massie Gap we saw a couple on Horseback. He looked like the Marlboro man. When we passed them the only thing he said was”did you see any bear up there?” We told them we did not but there were warning signs everywhere. They rode off and we went toward the car. Back at the ca we loaded up and decided food first! At camp Sherri had a jet boil and rehydrated eggs but put too much water in it and got egg soup so she didn’t eat. Mary had a pop tart and I had a bagel sandwich but was hungry anyway! We found a cafe not far from the park. Real breakfast food! It was so good. We got back in the car and headed home!

That was a really great trip! We learned a lot about ourselves and each other 😉.  I am very proud of us. I would love to go again but just one or two nights of course. That’s one for the books! ✅

I don’t know if my snoring kept her awake or not but Mary must not have slept so well. This is her on the way home.

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