by Dennis Forney
A group of us traveled ten hours to the southwest to ride bicycles and hike trails in the Virginia highlands. In Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the mountains rise to over 5,700 feet. No peaks, but the trees at that level approximate the vegetation of Nova Scotia, especially the dark-trunked red cedars. On the summit of Mount Rogers – more of a hump than a peak – a National Geological Survey metal marks the highest point in Virginia.
Wild horses also mark the Virginia highlands. The herds look very healthy and it seems like every spring when we go – about mid May – many of the horses have just foaled. The horses see plenty of people and aren’t fearful. They don’t seem to have much in the way of natural predators on the Alpinish meadows where they like to hang out. We picnicked alongside a meadow where the horses were grazing. One particularly handsome specimen – looked a little like Rod Stewart – strolled over to where we lounged amid rocks and rough grass. Then it proceeded to start licking the salt off my arms and others too. Up close and personal.
Grayson Highlands State Park, considered one of the nation’s best, offers great hiking and horse watching. The Appalachian Trail passes through the park and the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. As a ridge trail, it takes full advantage of the magnificent views and the endless ridges of the Appalachians. Here are a few photographs to give you a sense of the horses and the highlands.