Mt. Rogers & Wilburn Ridge Hike
A couple weeks ago, from June 12th through the 14th, I had the privilege of going on a backpacking trip around Mt. Rogers in Virginia! I was hiking with a group of seven people, all connected in some way to an old college friend, and the backpacking experience ranges went from a first timer all the way to trail vagabonds. Experience levels did not matter one bit for this hike as everyone was just out there for a fun weekend away from the confines of home quarantine. It was a thriller of a hike with spectacular views, fascinating wildlife, and some of the best conversations!
The first day was a bit of a long day in the grand scheme of things. We only hiked a total of 4 miles to our first camp, but that was after a 5+ hour drive from Leesburg, VA. To start the hiking portion of the trip, the group drove down to Grindstone Campground which had just opened for the summer due to COVID-19 closures statewide in Virginia. Miraculously, we almost got lost in these first 4 miles and without my Garmin watch or a phone loaded with the route map, we would have made a LONG detour in the wrong direction. So, after approximately 7 hours of driving and hiking, the area we set up tents was an INCREDIBLE respite from the day. With multiple spots for tents and hammocks alike and even fire rings for multiple groups, the area near the Old Orchard Shelter was ideal for groups to kick back and enjoy nature. In fact, the only negative thing I can say about this spot is that I was scared half to death while using nature’s facilities by some mischievous chipmunks (aka mini-terrorists). Beware the most vicious trail mix pilferers in all the land!
Day two was our first and only full day on trail for this trip and it was packed with of some of the best hiking I’ve experienced on the Appalachian Trail in VA! To start the day we headed up Pine Mountain trail until we crested the peak. At this point the trail enters some pasture where wild ponies have been released to graze and keep the balds of the mountains and hills free of large vegetation. We trekked through a few of these pastures throughout the day and we were lucky enough to see some of the equines hard at work shortly after lunch – a definite highlight of the trip! To sweeten the deal of the amazing trails and fauna, day two also allowed us the opportunity to finish the day by making camp near the peak of Wilburn Ridge. This spot offered us a spectacular view of the sun setting behind Mt. Rogers and some night time walking through fields of shrubbery that I found to be amazingly scenic in the low light. It was well worth the 11 mile day going up and down mountains to wrap up the day in such a beautiful place.
On our third and final day of hiking the group got word that a thunderstorm would potentially be rolling through the hills around 10 am. With a couple of us, myself included, being all too well versed in wet backpacking (see here), we decided to get an early start to our day to hopefully beat the weather to the car. Our group of eight broke camp at 4:45 am and made tracks down the ridge with only a 30 minute breakfast break shortly after the sun rose. Everyone made it to the cars by 9 am so realistically, we could have done with another hour of sleep before covering the 6 miles to the parking lot… Oh shucks, we got to see a sunrise in the wilderness!
For anyone interested in attempting this hike themselves, a more direction oriented description can be found here. I hope you enjoyed reading about this trip as much as I enjoyed hiking and writing about it! Please check back again soon for my next post!