Spring Hiking with Wild Ponies in Grayson Highlands, VA
Backpacking Grayson Highlands in Spring
What to bring with you
- long pants for camping (It gets cold at night even in the summer)
- water purification system
- hiking boots (I wear Oboz)
- Sleeping bag for correct weather (The North Face One Bag is a great choice because it is a 5, 20, 40 degree sleeping bag all in one.
For backpacking, I recommend packs made by Osprey and check out this article as well for all your packing needs: 10 Things to Bring For an Overnight Backpacking Trip on the Appalachian Trail
Backpacking Grayson Highlands in spring is perfect for a weekend adventure. The numbingly cold weather is gone but the heat of the summer hasn’t yet begun.
Punk rock and indie music blare through the van speakers on the four and half hour drive to the Greyson Highlands Mountains. Me, along with 8 other adventures, decided to go on a weekend backpacking excursion. As our road trip continues I see the terrain change from flat to mountainous and I know we are close.
First Night Camping
Arriving late at the campsite we quickly built a fire to warm up. Due to my novice fire skills I sat back and observed as my pyromaniac of a friend Joseph built the fire.
We gather around the warmth of the fire telling ghost stories and dad jokes until the rush of the night waivers and tiredness hits us. We camp next to the New River. I can hear the water following parallel to the tent, but the darkness hides how wide the river is.
Awaking the next day to bitter coffee brewed over a campfire with the sweetness of instant oatmeal, I see the river for the first time in daylight. We pack up our camping gear as quickly as we can, to get on the trails before mid-morning.
While we camping next to the New River, you can camp in the Grayson Highlands State Park. For reservations click here.
Getting back into the van to drive the short distance to Greyson Highlands I see tractors, abandoned stores, cows, fields, and silos.
Driving thicker into the deep forest I know we have made it to the national park, and I am ready for the hiking to begin.
Visitors come from all over to hike the Appalachian trails extending from Maine to Georgia. The trailhead is clear and we begin our strenuous journey.
Let the hiking begin
After a couple of hours of hiking, I could see why these trails are so popular. The trails all marked with a patch of white along the way are easy to follow. With a total of 4502 acres, Greyson Highlands is an excellent place for backpacking and exploration.
Hiking up steep pathways we are all heavily breathing in between songs and riddles. Wild horses freely roam on the open planes. The golden tundra-like terrain is unique.
“It’s almost desert–like” –Dylan (my fellow hiker/friend/ adventurer)
Our original destination is to make it to Thomas knob by nightfall. As the day grew on I realized there is no chance making it there before sundown. Moving into plan b we found another spot to camp with a stream to get water from not too far away.
Setting up camp for a second night
Nine miles later with tired feet, we set up camp. We didn’t make it to Thomas Knob but we did find another camping area with running water. Be sure you have a map that shows where there is running water nearby. As long as there is the water you can camp pretty much anywhere.
First picking the tents and sleeping bags, and quickly starting a fire to combat the chill of the evening breeze. The ache in my toes symbolic to an accomplished day.
Going primitive camping requires a little more effort than camping near facilities. For one, you have to filter your own water. Using a gravity filter, water purifier pump, or purifier tablets. Those are three commonly practiced ways of filtering water.
A second thing to note with camping is that you must hang up all your food in a tree., this is called a bear bag. I know sounds crazy, but the wild animals roaming through the park would surely like to snack on the trail mix you left behind. Hanging up your food helps keep the animals away from your campsite.
I think to myself how calm and peaceful it is out here.
Backpacking feels nostalgic, bringing me back to simpler times as a kid with no cell phone service and only the entertainment of the company and the woods around me. I spent a lot of time playing in the woods growing up, somehow this feels no different.
The warm pink of the sunset over the mountains reminds me of lemonade and wild memories of summertime.
Nighttime camping rituals
After dinner is made, and the bear bag hung up far away from our campsite, my cold toes become warm by the fire. The last few embers of the fire die out and I am ready for slumber. Curled up in a warm sleeping bag the sound of tree frogs lull us to sleep.
Good morning in the backcountry
Hoping to see the sunrise we awoke early only for the mountains to be covered in a layer of fog. It isn’t easy pulling my bruised hips and tight shoulders out of that warm sleeping bag. I am not even that disappointed though because it is always an early more in the wilderness. The sun acts as a perfect alarm clock. Backcountry breakfast always tastes like a feast as I grill my cinnamon raisin bagel on the fire for the authentic charcoal taste.
Make sure to adjust your pack before hitting the trail
Pine trees sporadically placed along the skyline. The sun peaks through the clouds as the fog begins to fade. It is early morning in the blue mountains. Packing up our tents and getting moving for the long hike out. Adjusting my pack the second day made all the difference. My back and shoulders didn’t feel as stranded as before.
I begin to break a sweat going up rocky terrain uphill.
We made friends with the horses until………
The wild ponies typically keep to themselves. However, if they feel provoked beware. Another backpacker in our group was casually snacking while hiking and one of the wild ponies charged him. Luckily, the group gathered together a was able to pull him away from the horse long enough for it to lose interest in attacking him. Even though we are all okay, I would be cautious of the wild ponies.
The weekend went by so fast. Even though we are tired none of us are thrilled about having to go back to reality. Viewing the valley below at such a high view I feel invincible. I think I will carry that feeling with me the whole ride back home.
I hope you enjoy backpacking Grayson Highlands in Spring as much as I do.
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