Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Wild Ponies at Grayson Highlands

Grayson Highlands State Park
Grayson County, VA
Friday, October 8th, 2010
Grayson Highlands

The Full set of Photos are posted here:

For years Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia has been on my list of places to visit. The problem is that it is a bit too far for a day trip and it is not really near or on the way to anything!

However, it is not "that far" out of the way when travelling to Blacksburg, VA.

This weekend we had purchased tickets to Saturday's Virginia Tech Football game, and booked a weekend stay at a Bed and Breakfast. We decided to take Friday off from work and finally make a visit to Grayson Highlands State Park on the way to Blacksburg.

Grayson Highlands

The Highlands and adjacent Mount Rogers Recreation Area encompass some of the highest peaks in the state of Virginia and contain hundreds of miles of hiking trails. I had hoped that we would hit the area with some peak Fall color, but what I really wanted to see was the wild ponies.

Since the 1970s, several herds of wild ponies have roamed free, making Grayson Highlands one of the few places in the United States where you can find wild ponies.

A little bit of research and some tips from some of my hiking buddies informed me of the most likely places to encounter the wild ponies. Our plan was to start at the Massie Gap Trailhead and hike the Rhododendron Trail up Wilburn Ridge.

The Rhododendron Trailhead at Massie Gap

The trail almost immediately starts gaining elevation, but the climb is gentle enough to still be classified as "Amy Approved". We went about a mile across some spectacular landscape before encountering our first group of wild ponies.

I knew that we are not suppose to really approach the ponies, so I started snapping some photos from a distance. Before long, the ponies decided to approach us. It was soon obvious that these guys were completely unafraid of us and wanted some attention (or more likely some food).

Amy with a Pony

Jack and Amy with a Pony

While many visitors feed the ponies, it is completely illegal to do so. We did obey that rule, but we might have pushed the rules about not getting too close to the Ponies! We spent a good bit of time hanging out with this first group of ponies before continuing our hike.
Amy getting a Closer Look

A few minutes later, we encountered a second group of ponies and gave them a bit of attention as well before continuing on. We had probably hiked about 2 miles before we decided it was about time to turn back.
Jack and Amy at Grayson Highlands

 One the hike back, we passed by some of the ponies we saw earlier, but also spotted another couple of groups of ponies. I believe we saw (17) different Wild Ponies during our (3) hours visit to Grayson Highlands.
Nice Hair-Do

Amy making friends

I figure we were at least a week too early for peak fall colors, but the experience with the Wild Ponies more than made up for that!

It was a beautiful day and an awesome start to our weekend getaway!

The full set of photos from Grayson Highlands is located here:


Mr. J said...

I did a double take when I saw the title of this post, Jack. I've been meaning to get there myself. It's a growing climbing area that I want to hit. The ponies are pretty cool too!

HemlockMan said...

Grayson Highlands is probably my all-time favorite mountain area in Virginia. I love it there, but Carole doesn't like to go because her dad took her there a lot and she gets depressed thinking of him when we go. So we don't go there quite as often as I'd like. I want to take the travel trailer there, but so far Carole has resisted that.

I see the ponies every time we go.

Christina said...

Im SO jealous!! I would love to see wild horses/ponies like that. Amazing!