Sundays in July usually mean that I am working as a river guide in neighboring West Virginia. But a high school reunion brought me back home for the weekend to celebrate. To walk off the drinks and toasts, I elected to summit the highest point in my native state of Virginia, Mt. Rogers-elevation 5,729ft. I had not been up here in nearly twenty years, and when I did it before, I approached it from the east. For this trip I took a route I had never walked before, coming from the west. This mountain is only about 40 minutes or so from where I grew up. Part of my motivation to do this walk also came from all the trip reports I check out on here, as I am in the planning stages of my trip to Scotland next summer.
I parked my car at Elk Garden, a pass between the two highest mountains in Virginia. Here is a view of the summit of Mt. Rogers from Elk Garden:
All but a short part of my route would be along the famous Appalachain Trail (AT), and nearly all of it would be in a protected wilderness:
In the higher elevations of the southern Appalachains, the forests are comprised of northern hardwoods normally found far to the north, and at the highest elevations, a boreal forest of spruce firs exisits. These valuable trees did not escape the attention of loggers, and in the late 19th and early 20th cenutries, the mountains were extensively logged and the forest cover stripped off. The result on some of the mountains are large "balds", or open meadows. These balds were created as fires swept through the remnants of the forest understory after clear-cutting. However, a small percentage of the balds were created by the Native Americans to attract game. They have proven popular with hikers and equestrians, so the US Forest Service has maintained them by grazing and burns. A view south across one of them:
A SW view across a bald towards Whitetop Mountain, the second highest point in Virginia. I came from this direction:
Leaving the AT and headed for the summit:
Approaching the summit, the forest cover changes from fir-hardwoods to an exclusive spruce-fir forest:
At the top. Because this is in a wilderness area, there is no clearing or viewing platforms allowed. There is a trig point on the rock at the bottom however:
A typical view on top of Rogers. The climate in these mountains is more like Canada than Virginia. Last winter saw over 4 meters of snow up here. It can and will frost in every month of the year.
On my return leg, the nice weather turned a little cloudy:
A view into towards distant North Carolina and the approaching storm:
On my way back to the car, it rained for most of the journey. But with the dense forest cover, I never really needed to pull out the rain jacket. Near the end, it finally cleared and I was rewarded with fabulous views NW across the Virginia mountains:
A final look back at Mt. Rogers in the sunshine. In this photo you can see the darker greens of the spruce-fir forest at the summit. Enjoy!
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