A Blue Ridgey fall, day 2: Christmas trees, peaky peaks, and Virginia

Grayson Highlands State Park (Virginia)

Grayson Highlands State Park (Virginia)

The Cabins at Healing Springs are in a valley, sandwiched between hills owned by a lumber company and hills coated in Christmas trees.  The lumber trucks woke us early, so off we went to amble among the Christmas trees at dawn.  I was reminded of the hilly regularity of Tuscany.  Sasso, not having been to Tuscany, was more interested in bounding through the grass surrounding the trees.

Christmas trees!  I wanted to scoop them up and take them all home with me.

Christmas trees! I wanted to scoop them up and take them all home with me.

Next we headed off to Grayson Highlands State Park.  Which, yes, is in Virginia, so it sort of felt like cheating if the point of my travels is to get to know North Carolina.  But state boundaries are arbitrary, right? And it was half an hour away, and I’d had too many people tell me how beautiful Grayson Highlands is not to go. The drive was lovely, on narrow winding highways meadering through fall-colored forests and past farmhouses painted with quilt squares.  I was just thinking the curviness of the roads would make it a great place to drive a sports car, when a yellow Corvette suddenly appeared, and just as suddenly disappeared into the distance. Then I decided I was happy to go slowly and soak in the beauty of the place and the moment.

Pumpkins coordinate so well with fall leaves.

Pumpkins coordinate so well with fall leaves.

The leaves in Stone Mountain State Park weren’t at peak yet, but Grayson Highlands showed off the full range of fall color.  Our first hike, the Twin Pinnacles trail at the highest point of the park, was striking in its cold desolateness. And it was windy!

View from Little Pinnacle, with rocks like a dragon's backbone stretching down to the valley.

View from Little Pinnacle, with rocks like a dragon’s backbone stretching down to (eat?) the valley.

No leaves left here!

No leaves left here!

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More rocky pinnacle-ness.

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A few toward a sunny, warm(er) valley. Shelter from the rocks and wind.

One of the liberating things about traveling alone is the ability to decide, hey, sure, this trail was pretty short (2.1 miles), but I’m feeling kind of lazy today.  Let’s do another short, super easy hike, then go take a nap.  So that’s what we did. The short, super easy hike was a half-mile or so wander on a trail I picked only because I liked its name–Split Rock trail–and becase it was near the park entrance at lower elevation and hopefully less windy and more fall leafy.

Turns out the trail was called Split Rock because there is literally a rock, that is split, that the trail goes through.

Turns out the trail was called Split Rock because there is literally a rock, that is split, that the trail goes through.

Sasso, playing princess, but forgetting about the dirt on her nose.

Sasso, playing princess, but forgetting about the dirt on her nose.

We wandered over to this cabin, inhabited by a historic interpreter, before departing for naptime.

I want to stay in this cabin!

I want to stay in this cabin!

We also took a few minutes to do some recall training on a long leash, because Sasso wanted to play in this grassy field so badly.

Yes, grassssss!

Yes, grassssss!

A few more tree-and-mountain views before hopping back in the car: IMG_6509 IMG_6453 After a delightful, refreshing nap, I dragged myself (and Sasso bounced) off to our next adventure.  Mount Jefferson State Park is right next to Jefferson and West Jefferson (surprising, right?).  Hiking North Carolina tells me that “Jefferson” is a fairly recent name for the mountain, but declined to share the original name–it was changed for good reason and was apparently a racial slur. The mountain has rocky overhangings used to shelter runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad; the craggy barrenness of it made me think the mountain would increase the feelings of terror the runaway slaves must already have felt.

Not the most reassuring place.

Not the most reassuring place.

Then again . . .

Then again, maybe you can see the promised land.

I’m sure that in the summer Mount Jefferson has an entirely different feeling.  It had possibly the best picnic area I’ve ever seen, with tables tucked in among the trees.  I realized how lucky I was to be there on a random Tuesday; Sasso and I had the trail to ourselves.  For that matter, we had pretty much all of the trails on the trip to ourselves.

My car enjoying having this giant parking lot to itself.

My car enjoying having this giant parking lot to itself.

My fingers were chilled after the hike, so I abandoned any desire to check out a new local restaurant (because I was not willing to sit outside) and went through the Taco Bell drive-through.  But before sitting down to eat in our cabin, we took a final romp through the lumber company’s fields at sunset.

Turns out a clear-cut lumber field can turn into something beautiful.

Turns out a clear-cut lumber field can turn into something beautiful.

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3 thoughts on “A Blue Ridgey fall, day 2: Christmas trees, peaky peaks, and Virginia

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