The Grayson Highlands were incredible! It was without a doubt one of my favorite days of hiking since starting the trail. I had heard really great things about the area, and it definitely lived up to the hype. The day that I had originally planned to hike through the park tuned out to be foggy and rainy, so I zeroed at a shelter just before the entrance to the park and waited for better weather. Luckily the weather was much better the next day, and I ended up being really glad that I hadn’t blown through the park the previous day without being able to enjoy the views.
Part of what makes the Grayson Highlands so cool are the wild ponies that roam and graze in the area. They are really cool to see, and there were even several baby horses around when I passed through. Some of them are super friendly, and even love to be pet. As nice as they can be, they’re known for going after hiker’s food bags. I camped on a grassy ridge on my first night in the highlands, and I was awoken around 10:00 pm by a pony who had wiggled his nose under the vestibule of my tent and was sniffing around for food. I gave him a little tap on the nose and he wandered off.
As we were walking down out of the park, we got word of a big hiker picnic that was being hosted that evening at a local baptist church. Sure enough, as soon as we got to the next gap a van pulled up to shuttle people to the picnic. I’m not one to turn down a free meal, so I hopped aboard. Next thing I knew I was sitting under the pavilion at Troutdale Baptist church. Apparently they put on a huge hiker picnic once every year, and I just so happened to be passing through on the day it was happening. There were about 65 hikers there, and the spread was incredible. Every one of us had seconds, and there were still leftovers. I ate: Two cheeseburgers, one chili cheese dog, potato salad, pasta salad, chips and queso, macaroni salad, cole slaw, fudge, lemon squares, blueberry cobbler, and ice cream. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my life. Hiker hunger is real…
Unfortunately my phone died after my first night in the highlands, so I wasn’t able to get as many photos as I would have liked to. Here’s what I captured before it died: