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Ponies & Waterfalls

posted Jun 24, 2017, 4:42 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jul 22, 2017, 3:17 PM ]

Sunday, we woke up early and broke camp and then headed up to Massie Gap for a hike before leaving Grayson Highlands State Park.  Right at the trailhead, beautiful flame azalea were blooming fiery orange flowers.

Hiking the Rhododendron Trail, we started heading up, passing more beautiful azaleas and wildflowers, including ragwort.

The mountain laurel were starting to bloom here and we had a nice view of Twin Pinnacles in the distance.

The mountain laurel were not quite at peak, but the pink buds were very colorful.

A little further there was some flame azaleas with really deep red-orange flowers.

In a short ways, where the Rhododendron Trail and North Horse Trail met up, we saw our first wild ponies of the day - two adults and a little boy.

The mother pony used a trail sign as a scratching post and the little boy came over to emulate his mother.

Continuing on the trail we came to a larger group of ponies grazing just before the trail leaves the park.

There were several adults and three little babies, alternating between nursing and grazing for food.

We spent some time here getting pictures as the babies were really cute.

One was taking a little nap without a care in the world.

Sandy and I alternated between holding Alex and viewing the ponies.  He was very excited about the ponies, but not sure what he'd do, so we kept him a safe distance a way.  Continuing on, we entered Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and took the Rhododendron Gap Trail towards its namesake.  Another smaller herd of ponies were right along the trail and it was tricky maneuvering Alex around them as he really wanted to play.

There were some babies here too.

We definitely picked a good time to visit and see the baby ponies.

Continuing on, the trail crosses the AT and then finally intersects with the Crest Trail near Rhododendron Gap. We went right on Crest Trail for a quarter-mile to Rhododendron Gap.  Unfortunately, the rhododendron were all past peak - recent storms had knocked off any remaining flowers, though I did find one flower.

We climbed up the rock outcrop here for a snack and to enjoy the views of Mount Rogers and the surrounding mountains.

Even without the rhododendron flowers, it's still a beautiful spot with views that seem endless.

After our break, we took the AT back Grayson Highlands.  Back in the park, we stopped again at the larger herd of ponies.  One of the babies came up and starting rubbing himself on my pants.

I try not to get too close or approach the ponies, but this one approached me and I didn't want to make any sudden movements.  I scratched his itchy spot until he seemed satisfied and then continued on.  At the intersection, we went right on Rhododendron Trail to head back towards Massie Gap.

Getting close to the cars, we weren't quite ready to leave, so we got on the Cabin Creek Trail at Massie Gap, and went left at the split to hike the loop in the clockwise direction.  The trail descends steeply along a tributary to Cabin Creek and then follows the creek upstream.  We stopped at Lower Waterfall on Cabin Creek for a couple of pictures.

It was kind of warm so I took off my boots and waded in the shallow pool with Alex.  Above enjoying the main drop, I rock-hopped to the small island for a view of the upper drop of the waterfall.

Continuing on, where the trail cuts back to the right to finish up the loop, we continued upstream to the Upper Waterfall on Cabin Creek.  It's a long series of steep cascades but there's no good viewing spot.  I bushwhacked up a ways and then made a difficult climb down to see the upper most drops, but there was a lot of downfall so hard to get a decent picture.

Then we finished up the loop back to Massie Gap.  On the way home, we stopped at Foothills Brewpub in Winston-Salem for dinner and drinks before finishing the drive home.