[This is the chronological version of a series of posts on my Mount Rogers Hike]
I spent the weekend on the best hike I’ve ever done in the Appalachians. We started near the foot of Mount Rogers, in the southern part of Virginia:
The weather was beautiful for the entire trip. Plenty of open meadows like this one, punctuated by an occasional stretch of leaf-bare forest.
One of my traveling companions, Mauro Bothello, heads off the trail for a better look at the view:
This was our first glimpse at the wild ponies which populate the area around Mount Rogers. They are descended from domesticated horses in the area; there are two herds, with a total number of about 120. The herd is thinned each year by rangers to maintain a sustainable population.
After an easy four-mile hike to the shelter near the top of Mount Rogers, we dropped off our packs for the half-mile scramble to the top. Since the mountaintop was heavily forested, there wasn’t much to see there. But a large meadow surrounded the shelter, which was in a muddy area and had hard floors. We camped in tents on the soft ground about 500 yards north of the shelter. Here’s what it looked like about 20 yards from my tent at sunset (click for larger version).
I woke early enough on Saturday to witness the sunrise. Not as colorful as sunset the night before, but dramatic nonetheless (click for larger version):
There was a pony grazing about 30 yards from where I took this picture. I approached it to get a better shot of it, and it hardly even noticed my presence. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good picture, but there will be more ponies to come.
I told you there’d be more ponies
The first job on Saturday morning was to get water. On the way to the spring we came upon this small group of ponies.
They’re definitely not shy at all. The mare to the left had a foal, which can barely be made out in this photo. I think Mauro got a better picture. This brown one came right up to me, as you’ll see.
As I mentioned, these ponies aren’t shy. I suspect many of the hikers give them treats, but since they’re “wild” animals, I decided not to.
This one approached me so quickly I didn’t have time to adjust the shutter speed, but I like the result of this shot.
How far down?
My other companion, Marcio, takes a look off the edge of a precipice we climbed later Saturday morning (there was an easier way up…
Mauro is proud of the fact that he actually smiled for this picture (inside joke). (Don’t believe me? click on the photo for an enhanced close-up).
Trees and clouds
This owl perched on a low branch right next to our camp site. It sat still long enough for me to take a couple of flash photos:
I’m thinking it’s a barred owl, but I’ll defer to any ornithologist who might be reading this.
Owl and moon
I was even able to get this “art shot” of the owl with the moon in the background. I’d like to remove that branch in the foreground, but my photoshop skillz aren’t quite up to it. I decided not to remove the redeye — kinda cool, huh?
Right after I took this picture the owl swooped down on Mauro and Marcio, then perched on another branch not far away. I think we camped in the middle of its preferred hunting grounds.
Sunday, our last day on the trail. Apparently one of the through hikers wasn’t sure this trail marker offered enough information, so he or she added a handy waypoint:
The edge of the wilderness
This lovely creek was just about 50 yards from the highway. A wonderful end to our journey.
(actually we still had about 5 miles to go, but it was right next to the highway. Mount Rogers Wilderness is a bit of a patchwork, interlaced with roads and small farming communities. In some ways that’s part of the charm of an Eastern wilderness. Though there’s also a lot to be said for the Western style of wilderness, where you can be a three or four day hike from the nearest human)