Friday, June 25, 2010

Grayson Highlands

Back last night from four days of loving the cool breezes and clear air in the high country. I understand why people have been escaping to the Blue Ridge for centuries to beat the heat of the muggy south in high summer. We camped at Grayson Highlands State Park and it was absolutely fantastic. This is our 4th try going to GHSP, the other 3 times we were completely in a cloud or it rained the entire time, but finally we hit it right. We did have a rain shower each day we were there and they tend to come up on you with no warning, one minute you hear the thunder and the next it’s raining! But we were all set with a new bigger tent we purchased just before leaving and with our trusty blue tarp stretched over the picnic table we stayed high and dry.  We even brought a bunch of flowers from home, had to tie them to the tent pole to keep them from blowing over because it was so breezy up there.

We managed to check out most of the park over the course of the 4 days, two hikes that took us up high for stellar views and two hikes that travelled through fairylands of fern, boulders and grassy glades. It was really enchanted and we enjoyed it immensely. I did not want to come home to the heat! We swam in both Wilson Creek and Cabin Creek.

This is the main water fall on Cabin, the water down there was chillier than on Wilson and the landscape and forest felt completely different than along Wilson on the other side of the mountain, fascinating to see such differences in a small area. On Cabin the rosebay rhododendron covered the steep hillsides, just beginning to open from dark pink buds to pale pink flower clusters. Tumbled boulders filled the creek bed and areas along the creek canyon, everything covered in green moss. I would not have been surprised to encounter a hobbit anywhere along that creek.
We saw several wild ponies grazing in the high meadows, including this foal that was very brazen and came straight up to us hoping for a snack.  The fields were filled with wildflowers and dozens of spangled fritillaries danced in circles through the air all around us as we hiked.
We had great food, we are known for going overboard with camp cookery and this trip was no exception. One night we grilled eggplant, squash, peppers, onions and chicken and chopped it up into a pot of pesto pasta, most all of it from the garden back home. Another night we had baby new potatoes sautéed in olive oil with fresh garlic and rosemary to accompany green beans and grilled pork tenderloin. We enjoyed good wine with the meals and good chocolate for dessert. I can’t wait to go back up there again and dip into the water so cold it makes you holler and then head right back in for more.

On the way out we turned down a side road following a sign for Laurel Hill Nursery, a place I had wondered about on previous trips to GHSP. At the bottom of the winding road nestled in a valley was an old homestead with a gigantic garden and a field with daylilies in full bloom. They carry 400 varieties, we knew we were sunk right off the bat. We roamed the rows of lilies despite the hot sun beating down on us, quite a switch from the breezy mountain top we had just left behind. In the end we selected 12 varieties and the son and daughter dug them from the field while we sat in the shade making very pleasant conversation with the mother of the clan. We headed home with the backseat loaded with tall blooming flowers, most of them dark red to purple shades with orange, yellow and green throats, colors we were lacking in our existing collection. We spent almost every last dollar we had in our wallets and laughed about it all the way home.

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