I spent Easter Weekend, and a few days extra, backpacking through Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. Having never been to this area I was not sure what to expect. I had seen pictures from friends’ trips and looked online but that still didn’t prepare me for the experience. Some highlights included visiting with wild ponies, splashing in creeks, bushwhacking, hiking the the highest point in Virginia and eating delicious food. At many points I felt as though I ways on another content, not just a few hours away from my home. The rocky terrain and the vast open valleys made me feel as though I was trekking through the set of The Hobbit. We spent 4 days in the backcountry, picking up and moving camps every night. Each new day came with its own new environment. One day we could only see trees in the distance and the next we were hiking through a mossy forest covered by the canopy of evergreens. One day we had to hike a ways for water and the next day we were swimming in a creek. It was rewarding to know that I was able to see all of this beauty by foot, that I had walked, crawled, hiked, climbed and traversed every mile. On the last day we pulled out the map to figure out where we started, days before, and it was now a peak in the distance.
On our last night we ended up sleeping at Wise Shelter, the 500 mile marker along the Appalachian Trail. There must have been 30 hikers staying in that area and we actually had the opportunity to feed a pair of hikers some dinner. That night we saw people of all ages and all walks of life set up camp together. Some had accents and some didn’t, some where alone and some were in pairs, and some seemed like experienced backpackers and others appeared to be beginners. It was entertaining to witness their community that they had all formed. Many had been hiking together for weeks now, and others had just met at the town before. They all supported of each other, encouraged each other, and shared their belongings and stories with each other. I was glad I got to be a part of this literal milestone on their journey.
How cool is it that nature, and the simple act of hiking along trail has the power to change peoples lives and create such an incredible community?