Last weekend, Jason and I went on a real adventure! We went backpacking around Mount Rogers! It was about fourteen miles of hiking over the course of the weekend. Jason is the backpacking expert of the two of us. He’s been backpacking tons of times before, but this was my first time. And as it turns out, I quite like backpacking.
A lot of set up was included in us getting there, including me acquiring a sleeping bag, appropriate shoes, wool socks, and food. Jason even bought me a beautiful North Face backpack since I didn’t have one.
It was about a six hour drive to get to Mount Rogers and we couldn’t leave on Friday until after Jason got off of work. So, it wasn’t until around 3ish when we headed out. There was a fair amount of traffic, so it actually took us a little longer to get there than it should have, but it was totally worth it.
It was about 11pm when we parked at the trailhead and let me tell you what: It. Was. Cold. So cold. But, we bundled up in hats and gloves, strapped on our head lamps (a wonderful fashion accessory, if I do say so myself) and started out. It was pitch black without the head lamps, which was crazy. And the trail was about 2 miles uphill. And Jason saw two bears. In the dark. He saw a momma bear and a baby bear. Which scared the poop outta me. But, Jason yelled and scared the bears away and we hightailed it to our campsite.
We (and by “we” I mean “Jason”) put up the tent and just crawled inside because we were tired and it was sometime around midnight. It was hard to sleep for how cold it was, but when we woke up in the morning, it was so much warmer and we decided it’d be better to just sleep in another hour now that the weather was tolerable. And Jason was smart enough to document our campsite that morning with his GoPro camera.
And me looking like a beautiful flower first thing in the morning.
I tried out the GoPro, too, but didn’t do as hot a job.
We hiked through the densely wooded trails, where Jason saw another bear. I didn’t see any because Speedy McTrailblazer was always ten feet ahead of me. But, he scared this bear away just like the other, too, much to my great relief. After a little while we emerged out into this beautiful meadow. The pictures don’t even remotely do it justice.
And, of course, us with the meadow.
After we got over our awe at the sight, we turned back into the woods and hiked some more. And it wasn’t too far before we came upon some wild ponies, which apparently run rampant through the Mount Rogers area. And holy crap that was awesome. They let us walk right up and pet them.
They were the fluffiest.
And Jason got this really nice picture of the adult pony.
They even let us feed them.
It took some convincing to get me away from the ponies, but finally we headed out again. Jason and I wanted to climb pretty much every rock that we saw, and that’s basically what we did. Up on top of one of those rocks, Jason and I saw this gorgeous view:
And it was super windy up there.
It made my cheeks pink.
We stopped to eat lunch around noon because our (my) energy was flagging. We were at the bottom of the Mount Rogers trail that took you to the top, but as we were eating our Mexican rice and chicken—which was bangin’—people kept coming down saying how wet and snowy it was at the top and that there wasn’t even a view. So, Jason and I decided to opt out of that part of the climb. We turned and headed in the other direction.
And Jason found another rock to climb. Except this one actually involved more real “climbing.”
And then Jason had me pose for a picture because I was too much of a sissy to climb part of the rock. After I saw the picture though, I realized he was pretty much just taking a picture of my butt.
The view up there was really pretty though. (I managed to find another way around and got up that way.) Jason got some nice pictures.
And I very precariously worked my way back down.
And Jason found this strange little cave opening.
Some more hiking took us to our next campsite. Jason was a lot better at photo documenting this weekend than I was. He walked around and took some shots of where we’d be spending our chilly evening.
Then Jason built us a fire which I can only assume he did via black magic because everything was wet. But seriously. The fire was amazing and I think we would have frozen our tushies off without it. It actually melted one of my socks!
The temperature dropped along with the sun, but at least Jason got a great picture of the latter.
Jason boiled water for our dinners and we chowed down. The freeze-dried food we ate was actually a lot better than I had anticipated. I had teriyaki chicken and rice while Jason had beef stew.
The rest of the night was past by cuddling up by the fire and idly chatting and staring at the stars. It was really nice. It wasn’t long before we were too pooped to still be awake. So, into the tent we went. Even walking two feet away from the fire was a severe temperature drop. We basically leapt into our sleeping bags and wrapped ourselves up.
In the morning, we closed up shop and hiked out again. This was another longer hike and we had to follow along a horse trail for awhile. Which, I discovered, is code for “shitty-trail-also-literally-covered-with-shit.” We had to backtrack a little bit on the last leg of the trail, but it’s okay because it was the same portion of trail that we’d gone when it was dark, so it was like doing it for the first time, almost.
When we finally emerged at the bottom, I insisted that we take a victory picture.
And this conclusion is actually a side story: Sometime around Junior year of college, Jason found a smooth river stone that was in the shape of half of a heart and he’d kept it since. While we were hiking, I announced that I had found a half-heart rock. To which Jason replied, “Shut up. No you didn’t.” And our heart shapes matched. Go ahead, say it. You know you wanna.