I have done a few car camping trips in Linville Gorge and at my buddy's Loki's spot in Mills River, but this would be the 1st "big" event I have done and the 1st time doing any type of camping in over a month. In previous camp outs, I have had major issues with being able to sleep comfortably in my hammock for multiple nights. There have been a couple where I have left and drove home in the middle of the night. Recently I came up with a plan to take my big Camp Rest therm-a-rest
and lay it out in the back of my Subaru. This allowed me to sleep comfortably through the night. With that in mind I was all set to make the four hour pilgrimage to Mount Rogers, and Grayson Highlands State Park
In the days leading up to the 23rd, I set about getting things together as it wears me out to get the car loaded with the necessary gear for a weekend of car camping. I must admit, As the day to go drew near, so did my excitement.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER, 23I left Greenville, SC around 3:30 p.m. on Friday the 23rd Driving up through Western North Carolina, into Tennessee, before entering the highlands of Virginia. The drive was filled with spectacular views which continuously plastered ear to ear grins on my face. I hope that as I got into the higher elevations I may see some signs of Fall. This was not to be as most of the trees appear to be holding their leaves for a later show. The drive was enjoyable still and before I knew it, I arrived to GHSP.
My Good friend Hickery texted me earlier in the evening to let me know they had arranged for me to park in the disabled parking spot right near the campsite to cut down on how far I would have to walk to and from my car. I pulled up into the spot they had reserved for me and I see another good Friend Rockdawg. We conversed for a minute or two exchanging traditional pleasantries and such. Afterward, Rockdawg recruited a small army to carry my gear and get my hammock set up in some nearby trees they had saved for me. I kind of felt bad having, Slow Hike, Mac, Rockdawg, Hickery, and the guys going everything as I stood there but I was most appreciative.
Once I was all set up, We ventured down to the rest of the group at the community fire ring. I was greeted by many of my friends that I have come to know and love like family over the years as well as some new faces that I was meeting for the 1st time. As I expected there would be, a lot of conversations turned to my fall back in May. I personally enjoyed listening to Hickery talk about the day from his point of view.
I really enjoyed this time around the fire, but after the long drive, my knee was bothering me some so I retired to my hammock, but 1st letting others know that I may end up in the car so as not to get alarmed if they do not see me in my hammock. Sure enough after two hours in the hammock, I woke up and had to go to the car for the rest of the night.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 24
The rising Sun Saturday morning brought with it beautiful weather and fall like temperatures as I was awakened by the all to familiar "Are You Sleeping!" cry from Hickery with his face pressed against the window of my car. I arose, made coffee, did my morning exercises and stretches for my knee, then made my way down to the group area. Everyone was a buzz about the festival activities and the wild pony auction. For the festival, Members of hammock forums demo and educate people on hammock camping. Personally, I was most interested in seeing the wild ponies. The ponies can be found all along this section of the Appalachian Trail. Once a year, some a herded up and auctioned off to keep the population healthy and sustainable. The proceeds of the auction go back to protecting the ponies.
Most of the group decide to hike the 2 plus miles to the festival grounds. Really wished I could join them but I would have to settle for a nice drive through the parks as my means of transportation.
I was lucky enough to get into the disabled parking area when I arrived at the festival grounds. This put me close by the stage and right in the middle of all the festivities. As I exited the car, the hills were alive with some good bluegrass music. I made my way through the wooded path into the field among the vendor tents. I worked my way over towards the stage and surveyed the grounds. It wasn't too long before I spied where the HF members had the hammock demo set up, so I made my way there stopping for a few to take it some of the music...
I hung out at the Hammock demo for a spell enjoying the company of my friends, the music and the nice autumn weather. Afterward, Hickery and I perused the vendor tents before jumping in the car to make our way up the road to the pony auction...
...We arrived at the pony auction and joined the countless others viewing the ponies and awaiting the auction to start. Being my 1st time there, I was inquisitive as to how much the ponies would go for. Hickery informed me they usually go for around $100 but there were normally a lot more of them. This year, there were only eight up for auction. The auction stater off big with the first pony bringing in over $500. It was a treat to watch
After the pony auction, I drove the park, enjoying the nice afternoon. I came to the conclusion I really have to get back up there to do some hiking as soon as I'm able.
Saturday evening brought the group meal and all I can say is "WOW!" My hat's off to everyone who cooked up something for the group. It was truly an awesome meal!
Afterward, we had our gear raffle. there was all kinds of cool stuff donated by individuals and vendors alike. I believe we raised over $750 that will be donated to the Friends of Grayson Highlands. It always feels good to give back to those protecting such beautiful areas. Plus the shenanigans that ensue during the raffles are always a hoot!
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 25
It's always bittersweet when a fun time comes to an end... again some of the guys gave me a hand getting my gear together and packed which was most appreciated. I joined some of the others at The Log House Restaurant for lunch before heading out. I decided I would sneak down to Linville Gorge and surprise some of my Gorge Rat brethren with some cold beers as they finished up some trail work there... It's always nice to be in the ditch, so any excuse will do ;)
It was a fantastic weekend! I really appreciated all the words of encouragement I received from folks I met over the course of the weekend! Seeing the beautiful area just gave me that much more motivation to keep working hard at Physical Therapy so as to get back to doing what I love!