Sunset Hike on Rhododendron Trail
On our first night in the Highlands we decided to do a late evening hike up the Rhododendron Trail. We really lucked out and all the mountain Rhododendron were in full bloom so the mountain tops were dotted with bright pink bundles of flowers. Pair that with a soft pink sunset with big storm clouds rolling across the horizon and you have yourself a slightly romantic evening hike. The trail starts off up a semi-steep hill and once you get a couple hundred feet up there is an absolutely breathtaking view of the Appalachian Range to the west (second picture). When we got to the top of a ridge a couple that we had seen earlier while fly fishing stopped up and told us that about a mile north on the Appalachian Trail there was a herd of wild ponies grazing. Of course we headed straight in that direction and got to spend some time with the ponies! Although they're wild they are very used to people and will come right up to you to see what food you have and to lick the salt off your skin. They ask that you do not feed or touch the ponies so we didn't, but over the course of the weekend we saw countless people who specifically brought food to feed them and some people who were literally hugging their necks. As we were hiking around the Appalachian Trail we could see ponies dotting the hill side on the mountains adjacent to us. There are so many of them! We then hiked in the dark back down to the Jeep and retired to our campsite for the first night.
We stayed at the Grayson Highlands Campground our first night and I reserved a spot on http://www.reserveamerica.com You can't reserve specific sites, instead when you arrive to the park they'll give you a certain color piece of paper with your name on it and it's first come first serve to whatever campground they assign you. Some of the campsites are for tent only (brown) while others have electric and water hookups for RVs and campers. We were assigned a brown site and since we arrived pretty early in the day we were able to pick out the perfect campsite that was away from a majority of the other people in the area. We spent our second night up in the Highlands and I will have another post soon about our first backpacking trip together! It was such a blast.