Mount Rogers Trail Run, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia
Elevation:  5729'
May 2, 2015 - Grayson Highlands State Park is home to not only Virginia's highest
point in Mount Rogers, but a place where two herds of semi-ferral ponies range freely.
I have only ever seen wild mustangs in Utah and the beach ponies on Assateague
Island.  Each band has its history in escaped horses brought here by the early 
Spanish conquistadors, but the origin of the Mount Rogers ponies is not clearly 
understood.  After extensive logging in this region, fires, and persistent grazing by 
domestic stock, what largely remains is unforested balds that are perfect habitat for 
today's hooved residents.

I came here to run to the summit of Mount Rogers and to see what I could see as
part of a weekend of running adventures in the Southern Appalachians.  During my
three-and-one-half-hour 11-mile sojourn I would see perhaps twenty of the short
frisky equines, and gladly offered a head rub to the little blond below.  These guys
have become habituated to hikers bringing them apples, granola bars, and other
tasty treats, so they are anything but shy.  This little lady seemed intent on taking
a sip of my latte-flavored Perpetuem from my drinking bottle, but I held the line on 
my standard for sharing.


While the photographs make the open balds seem like it would be a fairly easy
jaunt, the trail was quite technical.  From the overnight backpackers parking lot in
Grayson Highlands State Park I ran up a spur trail to connect with the Appalachian
Trail which then heads south toward the summit of Rogers.  The trail undulates over
a series of rocky outcroppings and weaves its way through a tight cave before
reaching a very damp, fragrant sub-alpine boreal forest that covers the summit. 
These thick forests of fir don't seem to vary much between here in Virginia and those
found in New York, throughout New England, and into Quebec and the Maritime 
Provinces.  The cool, sweet smell of this sub alpine biome is spell-binding.  Had the
air temperature been warmer than the thirties I would have lingered.  With only a 
sweaty wet T-shirt and able to see every breath I turned at the summit, marked only
with a USGS elevation benchmark within a thicket of trees, and made my way back
the way I came until I reached the sunlight and ambient warmth for the balance of
my adventure.

There were quite a few people hiking and camping, but I was the only runner, an
innocuous anomaly it would seem.  Folks were friendly, with the most engaging
being the through hikers.  After dancing through the rocks all day here and at Pilot
Mountain I was pleased to have avoided mishap.  I cooked up a good dinner chez
Larry and got to bed early to head down to Grandfather Mountain the following day
for the second act of my adventure weekend.

Chilly temps near the summit