Roadtrip 2016 Day Five: Grayson Highlands Part 2


Click here for a list of all the posts in the roadtrip series. 

The night before, Tyler and I fell asleep to rain. Thankfully, when we woke up, the rain had abated. Every now and then the wind blew, shaking water from the trees. For the first time  while camping, we actually make breakfast. Tyler made eggs in basket while I changed clothes and started packing up the tent. Mmm, it was so wonderful to eat warm food for breakfast. Especially since it was kind of chilly in the Virginia highlands.

We packed up camp pretty quickly, but were left with two extremely dirty tarps. Everything fits in the Fit, but there is certainly no extra room to sequester away the muddy tarps. Instead we decided to wash them. In the dishwashing room, there is also a large floor level sink that is labeled as “laundry.” I thought we could rinse them off there, but ultimately we decided that was too small. Instead, Tyler rinsed them off in the shower.

We had fun getting rid of the extra water. Or at least I did. Tyler may disagree. We each held a corner, then brought our arms up and down just like we used to do in elementary school when we played with the parachute. That was one of my favorite days in P.E. Water sprayed all over. Then we got wise and started doing it side to side, rather than up and down, because the water we so gleefully sprayed into the air would just fall back down on the waiting tarp.

After packing up the last of our things, we drove to the Massie Gap parking lot, where the Rhododendron Trail had deposited us the day before. This time we were looking for the Cabin Creek Trail. The map showed that the trail started at Massie Gap, but we had a little trouble locating it. However, on our way back we found that there was a clear sign at the gravel trailhead, but we just couldn’t see it from the angle we were at.

The Cabin Creek Trail is a short lollipop type trail. Where the gravel turned to dirt was a kiosk with a map and information about the trail. I was surprised to see that the trail was rated as strenuous due to its short length and appearance of flatness. We knew that we didn’t have a ton of time, so Tyler and I opted to take the shorter route to and from the falls.


As we hiked, we passed by some pretty ferns and bubbling streams. True to what I thought, the trail sloped gently downhill.


Early on in the hike, we crossed a forked creek. We joked that this was it, this was the waterfall, which was described in the guidebook as being a multi-pronged waterfall.

Is this it?

Soon enough, we came to the actual waterfall. It was beautiful!

Here it is!

The water was rushing fast and strong. The pool below it was clear with small smooth rocks. But it was cold. Oh so cold! If I stayed in too long my feet felt like they were going numb, so I spent most of the time hopping from rock to rock, trying to keep my feet out of the freezing water.

One …
… two…

The guidebook mentioned that this creek is popular for salamanders. We had such a great time with them on our on hike to Long Creek Falls, that Tyler and I were really hoping to see more. Alas, we didn’t find any this time. We still had a good time exploring though.


I figured out why the trail was rated strenuous. To get to the top of the waterfall, the trail climbs a very steep slope. I had to use my hands to grab onto roots to help steady me as I climbed up. It was a short section, but like I said, very steep!

This is the trail.

At the top, there was a second pool and small waterfall. I warmed up plenty by scrambling up the trail, so the cold water felt good. But only for a minute! Then it was too cold. I’m sure if we came in the middle of the afternoon, I would have happily sat in the water. As it was still morning, it was just not hot enough for that!

Tyler trying to move the log …
… so it wouldn’t obscure this picture.

All too soon, it was time to head back. Walking back to the trailhead was less fun. Uphill pretty much the whole way. If only it had been reversed! Ah well. If you visit Grayson Highlands State Park, I highly recommend hiking the Cabin Creek Trail. It was such a great little waterfall.

Tyler and I didn’t want to leave Grayson Highlands. We liked it there. It had become our home for a few days. Still, we had lots of adventuring left. So we said goodbye and promised to visit again soon. Perhaps next time we will visit their bouldering site!

Since we didn’t have cell service, Tyler and I made a somewhat informed decision and started driving. We drove for a very long time with no service. I was surprised because usually, when you crest on the tops of hills, you will often get a very weak signal. Here there was nothing. Eventually we passed by a little town with a Walmart. Finally, we had service!

After grocery shopping at Walmart and getting some lunch, we started looking up places to camp in Pigah National Forest. I checked the weather. Oh no, rain and thunderstorms all evening, through the night, and into the morning. Okay, maybe we won’t camp there. Pisgah is pretty large, lets check here. No, the weather is bad too. Here? Nope. On a whim, I checked the weather at Tsali, where Dad and I have camped and mountain biked. I knew is was decently close to Pisgah and that it was super close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No thunderstorms, no rain.

At first Tyler and I thought about just camping in Pisgah anyways. Grayson Highlands was what I was looking forward to most. Pisgah was what Tyler was looking forward to most. I hated to suggest skipping it. Ultimately, we decided we were tired of camping in the rain. All our rain gear and hiking boots were still soaking wet, so we weren’t keen on another day of rain hiking. Not to mention thunderstorms in a tent are not pleasant.

Sadly, we decided to skip Pisgah, camp at Tsali, and set ourselves up for limited driving into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the next day. We were bummed out, but at least Pisgah is close enough to home that we could come visit and explore on a weekend camping trip.

We drove for a very long way, but managed to get to Tsali before dark. I’ve been to Tsali enough that it feels like home to me now. I was so happy to see the little campground. It was also the most empty I’ve ever seen it; we practically had the campground to ourselves. There were a few people in the neighboring loop and only one other group in the same loop as us.

Tyler and I chose the same campsite that Dad and I camped at the first time we were here. It’s a good one: next to the little creek, not too close or too far from the bathhouse, and across the road from the trash cans and a water spigot. This time, we actually set up the tarp, even though there was only a small chance of rain. Usually, there is a pole in the middle to prop up the tarp. Since we wanted to put the tent under the tarp rather than the picnic table, the middle pole had to go. Tyler had the bright idea to string up the middle via some rope and an overhanging branch. It worked surprisingly well.

No rain will breach our impenetrable fortress!

I set up the tent while Tyler cooked dinner. Remember that ground beef, zuchinni, and mushroom dinner we made on at Lake Sherando? Well, we had quite a bit of leftovers. We repurposed them by mixing them with fresh rice and soy sauce to make a verison of fried rice. Yum!

After dinner, Tyler and I showered then crawled into the tent. We actually had a little bit of cell service at our campsite. I know some people think that being outdoors and electronics don’t mix, and usually it is nice to “get away from it all,” but I really enjoyed laying there and twiddling on my phone before going to sleep. It’s a lot easier than trying to read by  headlamp without blinding Tyler in the process.

The air outside was hot and sticky, unlike the other places we had camped. However, it was worth it. We were able to fall asleep with no worries of rain.


3 thoughts on “Roadtrip 2016 Day Five: Grayson Highlands Part 2

  1. Pingback: An Introduction to Our non-Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip – Simple Adventures Open Eyes

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