Rain Man (and Woman)

A rainy day is a perfect time for a walk in the woods.

~Rachel Carson

I am finally getting around to posting about our trip to one of our favorite backpacking spots, Mount Rogers, VA. My backpacking and camping queen (you know who I am talking about) has been chomping at the bit to get out on the trail since the pandemic has caused us to hole up at home. So, after spending a few days helping my mom in her home in southwest VA, we planned to do an overnight to the nearby high country of Mt. Rogers. Since it was a weekday (and there was a less than ideal forecast), we were able to secure a spot in the overnight backpackers lot at Grayson Highlands State Park without having made online advance reservations (definitely required for weekend trips). We hit the trail after lunch and planned to do a short 2.7 mile hike to an area just off the Appalachian Trail on Forest Service lands. The cool temperatures made for a pleasant hike, and the overcast skies enriched the colors of the woodland details. As is usually the case on our backpacking trips, I did not carry my camera gear, so all accompanying images were taken with an iPhone.

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Frequent rains make for a lush forest floor in the highlands (click photos to enlarge)

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Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)

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A huge mushroom with a world of invertebrates in its gills

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The highlands are home to numerous fruit-producing trees and shrubs like blueberries, blackberries, hawthorn, and mountain ash

It started raining about halfway on our journey, lightly at first, but then hard enough that we sought shelter under a spruce tree for a few minutes before marching on. Fortunately, we arrived at our campsite during a lull in the precipitation, so we were able to get the tent set up without much problem. But, as we started to put up the all-important tarp, the skies opened and our spirits dampened (along with everything we owned).

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That look you get when you have been waiting to backpack for sooooo long, and it rains on your parade

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The tarp is a life-saver on this kind of trip (once you manage to get it set up)

We finally got the tarp up and ate dinner, but dove into the tent as the torrential downpour began. It rained most of the night and continued past first light the next morning. It eventually eased up enough to encourage us out of our still dry tent and into the wet world. With the normally expansive vistas shrouded in low clouds, it encouraged us to focus more on the small beauties along the way. All in all, not a bad way to spend a rainy couple of days.

Maple looper, Parallelia bistriaris

A Maple Looper, Parallelia bistriaris

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The wild ponies help keep the meadows open

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The highlands are home to amazing textures and colors of lichens…

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…you just need to pause and look closely

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The green colors of ferns, mosses, and lichens were richly saturated in the gray skies

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Patterns and textures everywhere

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The upright fertile shoots of the Fan Clubmoss contain the spores. In prehistoric times, some clubmosses reached the height of trees and often dominated the landscape.

Turk's Cap Lily

We spotted a single Turk’s Cap Lily ((Lillium superbum) on our hike

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Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris), as the name implies,  has been used to treat a variety of ailments in the past

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St. John’s Wort (Hypericum sp.) were found scattered across the high balds

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A view as the cloud bank started to lift (barely)

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We lifted a few rocks in a tiny rivulet along the trail and found three salamanders

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The highlands are home to an incredible variety of fungi. I believe this is a Pigskin Earthball, Scleroderma citrinum

Upright Coral Fungus, Ramaria stricta

This beauty was growing on a fallen log…probably the Upright Coral Fungus, Ramaria stricta

Eyelash Cup, Scutellinia scutellata

I love the names of this one – Eyelash Cup (Scutellinia scutellata) – also called the Molly Eye-winker, the Scarlet Elf Cap, and the Scarlet Pixie Cup. Look closely and you can see the fine fringe of filaments resembling eyelashes along the edge of each cup.

Ponies at Grayson Higlands SP

As we left the park, the weekend crowds were starting to arrive, the clouds were lifting, and the ponies were doing what they do, adding a touch of glamour to the most beautiful mountains in Virginia

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Rain Man (and Woman)

  1. Rain or shine it looks wonderful!! I especially enjoy learning about mushrooms and lichens. Beautiful photos as usual.

  2. I remember many rainy days on My Rogers and Whitetop when we used to live in Gate City and after. Some so foggy you couldn’t see three feet. A Dec ripping wind and rain on Whitetop when we woke to zero degree temps and 1″ hoarfrost on all the twigs. Nice to be transported back, Mike. Thanks!

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