Rock/Creek employee Brandon Vice spent a week backpacking in the Grayson Highlands and Shenandoah Wilderness in Virginia. Below is his his trip report. Brandon’s profile can be read at Rockcreek.com
Backpacking Grayson Highlands:
Grayson Highlands is located near Damascus, VA, a town rich in outdoor enthusiasm. This mountain park is next to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in the Jefferson National Forest. There are many great things to see here. We parked at Elk Garden which the AT runs through. I used a Gregory Z35 backpack on this trip. We started our hike around 11:00 PM (very late start). We hopped on the AT and traveled to the Thomas Knob shelter, about a 5 mile hike. We used our headlamps through the woods until we got on top of the mountain. Once we got on top we were able to use moonlight to navigate our way to the shelter. It is a very moderate hike to the shelter.
We decided to pass up the shelter and find a nice place to camp. The primitive camping spots are prestige; there are many great spots to set up a tent. My favorite was in the grassy flats with a good view of the Highland Rocks. We eventually found a perfect cleared piece of land where we set up camp and got a fire started. We woke up, packed up, and hiked to the boulders located there in the park. Good thing we brought our bouldering shoes because there was a full range of granite boulders. We spent all day on the AT bouldering and hiking along Grayson Highlands park. There are many great boulder problems here at the park. Did I forget to mention there are wild Shetland ponies running free all over the park? If you have not made it to this part of VA you are missing out. It truly is one of the most beautiful places to hike in the east.
On this trip I packed extremely light, thanks to the new breakthroughs in backpacking technology. The pack I used was a Gregory Z35. This pack is lightweight and extremely durable and has sufficient space to carry a full rack of climbing gear or a week’s worth of essential equipment to survive in the woods, this pack will suit a wide range of needs. I used a Jet boil personal stove to cook Mountain House freeze dried dinner. I highly recommend Mountain House dinners. I had recently purchased an Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy Sac.. An extremely light and comfortable bivy, this item turned out to be a great investment, especially after a long day of packing. Also on this trip I packed in: Thermarest prolite 4, Gerber Ax, Black Diamond Spot Headlamp(very light), Black Diamond trekking poles, Crazy Creek comfort chair, Camelback 70 oz bladder, camelback 1 liter Better Bottle. Also a noteworthy addition to my gear was the Steri Pen. The Gregory Z35 was super comfortable and fit all my gear that I needed for a 3 day trip around the Highlands. Just look up the knowledgeable staff at Rock/Creek for all you outdoor or backpacking needs.
After we got back from Grayson Highlands, we headed up north to the Shenandoah wilderness. Try to avoid the scenic highway in Shenandoah; it is very expensive just to drive on. The camping on this parkway costs way too much. We decided to make a day hike out of this trip. We hiked to Old Rag, about a 7 mile trip. If you are hiking this trail don’t forget your bouldering shoes either. Once on the top there is an incredible stash of boulders that sit on top the mountains right on the cliff line. Here you will find incredible views and boulders with incredible vistas and climbing that will keep you busy all day. The bouldering pictures were taken at Old Rag. There are two different hiking options here, you can make a loop or go and come back the same way. We took the loop. I do not recommend this trail for the weak at heart. If you take the loop be advised strenuous hiking, mixed with bouldering, is involved to make it down this mountain.
The pictures were taken by Kent Peggram. Kent and Brandon were on this adventure for a week. I highly recommend Grayson Highlands for a weekend getaw