Grayson Highlands State Park

Tuesday, October 18, 2021

Preparing for the trip to Grayson Highlands, I turned on the propane and started the refrigerator in the Airstream. Luckily, I went back for something and smelled smoke. Checking the refrigerator vent, I saw smoke coming out and quickly turned it off. I already have a leaking water tank – now what? A couple of hours later I turned it back on with the same result – smoking. OK, without fresh water or a refrigerator, what should we do? We decided to load the groceries in my big Pelican cooler and carry a case of bottled water. We might have been OK without water, because the campground has full hookups, but they have cut off the water at campsites due to drought.

I read up on a smoking refrigerator on Airforums, and there were several suggestions. One was to blow out the tube leading to the stack. Two – clean the stack by banging on it. Three – remove the refrigerator and clean the stack. Four – buy a new refrigerator for $1,500 – $2,000. Before leaving at 10:00, I blew out the tube with canned air. Three stink bugs came out. The refrigerator would not work on electric, so I opened the cover to the circuit board and removed 15 more stink bugs! Still wouldn’t work on electric, so I changed a small glass fuse. Still didn’t work on electric. I banged on the stack and more stink bugs fell out. I think the smoke was coming from roasted stink bugs. I then fired up the refrigerator on propane – no smoke 😀. I didn’t want to travel four hours with it on, so I turned it off and would fire it back up when we got there, keeping a close eye on it.

Description

Elevation: 3853 ft.

The extensive 4800-acre Grayson Highlands State Park provides any nature enthusiast premier wildlife watching potential within the mountain range home to Virginia’s highest peak, Mount Rogers. The park offers camping, picnicking, overnight horse stables, a visitor center, hiking trails, and access to the Appalachian Trail. The Rhododendron Trail can be accessed from Massie Gap in the park. Hiking along the summit of Wilburn Ridge can produce spectacular cliffside views. This trail connects to the Rhododendron Trail. The Rhododendron Trail then forks to lead into either the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail or the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Rogers (not accessible by horses).
Habitats within the park range from open meadows, northern hardwoods, rocky outcrops, rhododendron thickets, sphagnum bogs, grazed pastures, Fraser fir groves, and red spruce forests. Nine trails originate within the park, but several of these connect to the extensive trail networks of Mount Rogers National Recreational Area and the Appalachian Trail. Mountain hikers should note that the least strenuous and shortest hiking trail, at 4.2 miles to the summit of Mount Rogers, originates at Massie Gap within this park. Sullivan’s Swamp can be accessed from Massie Gap, as well. This rhododendron bog holds many unique treasures, occasionally including alder and willow flycatchers.
Wildlife watching in this park can be rewarding any time of the year. In addition to eastern hardwood breeders such as wood thrush, ovenbird and black-and-white warbler, in summer, visitors can look for nesting songbirds typical of high-elevation forests, such as black-throated blue, black-throated green, Canada, and chestnut-sided warblers, as well as scarlet tanager and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Spring and fall visits can produce a copious number of migratory warblers, thrushes, and vireos. This park is also home to a large diversity of other wildlife as well. Visitors should keep an eye out for black bear, bobcat, red fox, ruffed grouse, deer, and wild turkey. Salamanders can be plentiful, and this is one of the few regions where Weller’s salamander can be found.

We met our friends, Ruff and Sandra, Tuesday afternoon for a three-night stay in Grayson Highlands. They have a new camper, and were worried about pulling it up the mountain with their Honda Pilot, but they had no trouble. We enjoyed an evening by the fire catching up on the latest happenings.

Each morning I went down to the overlook for sunrise. With colors about peak, it was beautiful.

Martha and I hiked the Cabin Creek Trail the first morning. It is listed as strenuous, but really isn’t too bad unless you hike up Cabin Creek, which we did. This section of Cabin Creek is a tremendous series of waterfalls, all of which are pretty.

The next day we all hiked up Massie’s Gap Trail to see the ponies that remain wild here. We then walked up the Appalachian Trail south to the park boundary. A ranger at check-in said we would find horses there, and sure enough, three were there. A photographer was coming down and said there was a great overlook ahead, but it was socked in with fog. I love fog, as it often makes cool pictures, but I have recently had a fog overdose.

Sunrise at the overlook the next morning was cool with the clouds.

Martha’s chicken black beans and rice skillet dinner
Campground store
Shower house and Pepsi
Wayne Henderson is a highly sought-after guitar maker lives nearby
Visitor’s Center
Visitor’s Centter

We have barely scratched the surface of Grayson Highlands and will surely return. Happily, the refrigerator worked fine on propane, although not on electric. It might require a new circuit board, but I’ll read more on Airforums.

  4 comments for “Grayson Highlands State Park

  1. Karen
    October 27, 2021 at 7:02 am

    Love your sunrise pics!!! One of my favorite parks for sure and the ponies ❤️

    • October 27, 2021 at 2:58 pm

      Now I can see why you love it Karen. I can’t wait to go back!

  2. Ed
    October 27, 2021 at 10:02 am

    I have not visited Grayson Highlands State Park but plan to now! As usual fabulous pictures and dinner cooked over an open fire looks makes me wish we were “on the road”! Seeing the Wayne Henderson instruments reminds me of going to The Galax Fiddlers Convention, quite an experience if you’ve never done it. There is wonderful Airstream retired couple in Galax that is famous for hosting a gathering at The Fiddlers Convention. Everyone knows the wife as Ms Betty she is a retired school teacher and he was the postmaster so between the two of them they know everyone in town and are loved by all. No one would think of saying “no” to a request from either of them. They made arrangements for the group of Airstreamer’s at the Fiddlers Convention to meet and tour Wayne Henderson’s home and shop. I had never heard of Wayne Henderson, shows my ignorance his musical instruments are highly sought after and he is one of the nicest and most humble people. I think that “humble” is in the DNA in that area of VA. It’s one of the most beautiful areas of VA that I seen it’s definitely a blue grass music venue!

    • October 27, 2021 at 3:01 pm

      Ed, great comment. I had never heard of Wayne Henderson until Martha told me about him. I’d love to go to his shop and watch him work! Missed the Bluegrass Festival last year, but hope to go – maybe this year 😊

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