Sunday, August 21, 2016

Grayson Highlands State Park 8/20/2016

My first photo-adventure after moving to VA!  Grayson Highlands is only about an hour away from me, so it seemed like a good place to start.  Plus, wild ponies!

I stayed up later than planned on Friday night, therefore slept later than I wanted to Saturday morning, and ended up dashing out the door pretty soon after awaking, without really eating breakfast.  I packed some grapes and pretzels, and called it good.  (I knew it was supposed to rain later, and wanted to get in as much adventuring as possible beforehand)

The downside to adventuring in VA is that they charge parking fees at state parks.  And since I haven't gotten my VA registration yet, I had to pay slightly more for being from out of state.  But, I suppose $5 isn't too much to ask for a well maintained park...

There are various different parking areas and trails in Grayson Highlands, and I wasn't sure where to start, so I drove along the road until I came to the Sugarland Overlook, which looked like a great place to get out and take in the view.

I enjoyed taking photos here until a couple of other cars pulled up and people started getting in the way.  I took that as my cue to move on.  I drove on up the road to see what my other options were.  Massie's Gap was clearly the popular spot, it's parking lot was very crowded, so I ended up starting back near the entrance to the park.  The trail I found there was pretty short and there were some obnoxiously loud boys on the trail, so I didn't linger too long, but I did get some nice butterfly shots in the meadow leading to the trail. And a few photos inside the woods as well.  

After going into the Park Office and realizing that Massie's Gap was where I needed to go to see the ponies...I headed back up the road to Massie's Gap.

I got about a mile up the trail before catching a glimpse of the ponies off in the distance on a different trail, and then the rain started.  I didn't want to risk my cameras out in the rain too long, and knew it would take awhile to get back down the trail I was on and head up the other one.  Without being able to know for sure if the rain would get harder or lighter, I decided to play it safe and head back to the car.  Once there, I changed into trail running shoes to head for a run.  I was kicking myself for not remembering a ziploc bag for my phone, but then found one in my car...hooray!  Thanks to that discovery, I was able to bring my phone safely on the run and get some photos of the ponies.  Of course, the rain stopped only minutes into my run.

Trading my hiking sandals for trail running you can't guess my favorite colors...

Found the ponies!

There were a lot of giggly girls petting the ponies and lying down with them...pretty sure this foal didn't just happen to snuggle a flower.

It was naptime for all the babies! 

The trails were very rocky...but I miraculously never twisted an ankle!

After spending some time taking pictures of ponies, I headed back down the trail.  Since I had hiked south on the Appalachian Trail earlier with my cameras, I decided to explore the trail northwards for a bit on my run.  I didn't run too long because I was very aware of the fact that I hadn't eaten much all day and still had an hour drive home.  Overall, I hiked just under 3 miles and ran 3 miles, not a bad day!

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