Day 55 -May 1 2017 – 12.3 miles – Lost Mountain Shealter to Thomas Knob Shelter
The Grayson Highlands are famous for great views and feral ponies. We were about to go into the them and the weather report called for rain all day. We decided to do a shorter day in hopes that the next day would have better weather. We did not want to miss the ponies!
Getting to the Grayson highlands involved a 2000 foot climb over Buzzard Rock and then another 1000 foot climb up to the shelter.
At the beginning of the day Stoat had a little scare. He was a little bit ahead of me when I heard him suddenly say, “Ah!” and then start laughing. He had seen a large black shape out of the corner of his eye and thought a bear was slowly closing in on him. It took him a second to realize it was an all black cow.
It was strange to see cows milling about in a wooded ravine. I don’t blame Stoat for thinking the cow was a bear momentarily. One does not usually associate cows and a hilly wooded area. The cows had the right idea though. It was windy, cold, and raining in the field we were walking through. That ravine offered a little protection from all three.
As we climbed up to Buzzard Rock the weather got worse. They wind intensified and the rain turned into freezing rain. While we were walking our feet didn’t land exactly where we wanted them to. The wind was blowing us off course.
We caught up to Mary Poppens and her little dog Arty. I don’t know how Arty didn’t get blown off the mountain.
After we got past the top of the climb we came into a more wooded section. Soon the trail began to go downhill. We saw what looked to be maple trees with tubes hooked up to them. I immediately recognized what I was looking at due to time Iv’e spent in New England but I was not expecting it in southern Virginia. Someone was collecting sap to make maple sugar! Eventually we came to a parking lot that had a sign shaped like a maple leaf. It read,” Maple syrup tours.” I was pretty sure the tours were canceled due to the weather.
The other thing in the parking lot was a bathroom. Not a port-o-john, but a real brick and mortar building. I went to use it and enjoyed the brief respite from the wind. I thought, “It wouldn’t be bad to camp in here” and then I chuckled to myself. These thoughts did not come to me prior to the hike.
After we passed the parking lot we had to climb another 1000 feet to the shelter. Not long after we left the parking lot we came to another view. The wind was really whipping through.
Once we got to an area with trees the sound of the wind intesified.
Near the top of the climb there was a side trail to the highest mountain in Virginia. The weather so so bad we didn’t even think of checking it out.
As we got closer to the shelter the landscape began to change again.
When we got to the shelter we found it to be almost full. Stoat and I looked around to see if there were any viable spots to set up a hammock. Any of the spots that had any shelter from the wind were already taken. We reluctantly decided to sleep in the shelter.
The shelter had a second floor and it was there where we set up. Hikers were packed in like sardines but we made it work..
Eventually the sky started to clear up.
We heard someone shout from behind the shelter. We went over to check it out. Behind the shelter there was a 12 foot tall giant boulder. When we climbed up it to see what the shouting was about my jaw dropped. I felt like I was magically transported to a completely different place.
Our entire day looked like this:
And all of a sudden in looked like this:
It was astoundingly beautiful.
The water source was a little down the hill behind the shelter. It was fenced off to prevent the ponies from going to the bathroom near it.
I felt more like I was in the western part of the US. I had no idea this kind of view was even possible on the east coast.
The wind was still blowing pretty hard so several hikers took the opportunity to dry their clothes.
It was one of those times where people seemed to find a spot to sit by themselves and just enjoy the moment.
It’s hard to put into words how I felt. It was a very special moment. Maybe its one of those complex things that can only be summed up with just a few words or not at all.
I felt an absolutely beautiful sense of peace and knowledge that we were on the right path.
The wind never died down. Throughout the night the shelter shook. The corrugated roof threatened to come off several times during the night. Making a loud banging sound that would wake most of us up every time it happened.
List of names of Hikers that were in the shelter:
2nd floor: Piper, Sir Poops, Slim Shady, Stoat, Straps, and maybe one or two others
1st floor: Grumpy, Mary Poppins (and her dog Arty), Amazon, First Aid, Zeus, Flashfire, and maybe one or two others.