Grayson Highlands, VA -Vanlife #2

VanLife trip #2 (October 3-6) was a little more relaxed and certainly more enjoyable than the first trip. Our destination was Grayson Highlands State Park in western Virginia, a drive that was twice as long as trip #1 and included 45 minutes on a winding two-lane road that climbed to the top of White-Top Mountain. Again, I got away without driving but my “grace period” is about up.

The biggest difficulty of this trip was getting out of the neighborhood. On the first attempt, we forgot something, the “what” has slipped my mind. On the second attempt, a loud rattling in the kitchen alerted us that something was not properly stowed. On the third and final attempt before a successful departure, John left a large glass of water on the kitchen countertop. As we turned to leave the neighborhood, the glass fell off the counter and hit the dog, who was resting peacefully on the floor. Ouch!! Needless to say, Katie was startled, wet and unhappy.

Grayson Highlands is a beautiful state park, well kept, nice trails, friendly camp hosts and good facilities. Because we booked late, our site choices were few. We ended up in site #45, which sits on a hill. Even rolling the front wheels onto a 3-story leveling block configuration did not level us. I couldn’t bear the thought of adding more blocks, yet I was fully convinced we would roll into the trailer below us in the middle of the night. At least the campers below were friendly, and we had our heads facing in the right direction for sleep. Of course, the van remained stationary for 3 days.

Campsite #45, not level, avoid if possible.
Looking outside before most of the campers pulled in. Of course this campground was packed, it’s fall!

Grayson Highlands is an interesting place to explore. Several trails begin in the campground but for our first hike, on Tuesday morning, we walked the main road. We began in the campground and walked to Hwy 362 and back, turning around just past the backpacker’s parking lot. The walk is not far, 3.41 miles and we took the time to stop and take in the fall colour around us.

Rock wall and colours along the road between Hwy 362 and the campground.

The morning walk was not enough exercise and well, what else did we have to do 😁, so after lunch, we took another hike. The hike, Wilson Creek Trail, was a short 1.8-mile loop (2.6-miles out and back from our campsite) and advertised as difficult. Wilson Creek Trail lived up to its billing with a very steep drop to the water over roots and large rocks covered in leaves.

Along the route we passed lots of rhododendrons, hickory and brightly coloured maple trees. At the base of the trail is a beautiful 25′ waterfall. Although the falls are not fully visible creek side, what we saw was worth the hike. As we continued along the creek, on a slow ascent back to the trailhead, we were awed by small waterfall after waterfall. The scenery was a nice distraction from the rock steps and many twists and turns. Good news for these campers, Katie was exhausted for the rest of the day.

Headed down Wilson Creek Trail.
John and Katie under a canopy of rhododendrons.
The first few stone steps (many to come) as we turned the bend and headed up.
Glimpses of the creek along the trail.
My favorite picture of Wilson Creek.
We had a cozy little fire the 2nd night, but I forgot the marshmallows!

On our last full day, we hiked again, combining Stampers Branch Trail (from our campsite to the Visitors Center) and Twin Pinnacles Trail (located behind the Visitor’s Center). The combined hike out and back was 6.04 miles.

John and Katie near the beginning of Stampers Branch. Katie could not believe her good fortune with the walk through creek crossings
And a few stone steps to climb.

Twin Pinnacles Trail was my favorite on this hike. The trail is located behind the Visitors Center on Haw Orchard Mountain. Logged of virgin spruce, hemlock and fir in the early 1900’s, Haw Orchard is now covered in grasses, shrubs and red spruce. The red spruce trees have adapted to relentless wind and are permanently twisted and stunted in growth. Haw Orchard Mountain is dramatic and intense.

John and Katie at the top of Little Pinnacle. At 5089′, this is the taller of the two pinnacles.
Really amazing views! Mt. Rogers, the highest peak in VA, is in the distance.
John and I stopped for lunch on Big Pinnacle (5068′).
Colours were not peak but still beautiful.
Views that seem to stretch to infinity.
On top of Big Pinnacle, John and our little hiker girl.
Picnic overlooking a field in Abingdon, VA. Nice break on the drive home. Katie is clearly more interested in John’s food than her own.

Overall, this was a really good trip for us. As a matter of fact, we are now two weeks post Trip #2 and feeling anxious to get back on the road. On this trip I seem to have mostly worked through my sleeping issues with a new mattress topper and set of soft cozy sheets. We did forgot a number of items such as dressing for the salad and cabbage for the coleslaw dressing. We ended up putting the coleslaw dressing on the salad, which was not bad. I also felt a little disorganized, but time and experience will take care of that. Meanwhile we are looking forward to an upcoming 2-night trip, without Katie!

This entry was posted in Hiking, Outside, PetLife, RVing, Travel, Uncategorized, VA State Parks, VanLife and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Grayson Highlands, VA -Vanlife #2

  1. Looks like fun. πŸ˜ƒ But soon, soon you’ll have to drive – at least it’s not an RV the size of a bus! But do try to keep Katie dry! πŸ˜‰

    • smithposts says:

      Vanning has been a lot of fun and each trip is getting better! I am getting braver about almost driving πŸ™ƒ, John is beginning to look like a pro behind the wheel.

  2. Laurel says:

    That looks like a great hike! I found your blog through your comment on ours, but for some reason I’m not able to sign up for updates. Would be fun to follow you since we’ll be living next-door (kind-of!) when we move to NC. Very cool that you’re traveling by van! We’re thinking to downsize from our travel trailer since we’re no longer full timing. Tiny house, tiny trailer, we’re downsizing all the way, LOL.

    • smithposts says:

      I will look into the “following” signup. I turned the “like” button off

    • smithposts says:

      We are enjoying our van. Since we are backpackers and use to carrying days worth of gear on our back, having a van is a real upsize. This is our first rv. Next summer we are planning a several month trip to Alaska so we are on a fast learning curve.

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