A Calm Day at Grayson Highlands State Park

A Calm Day at Grayson Highlands State Park

I’ve spent my entire life living in Southwest Virginia. I have traveled to other states and even other countries, but never have I found a place quite like my home. Living here, it’s often easy to take things for granted. The quaint small towns, the mountainous landscape, and the vast scenic views. I’m lucky to be surrounded by such beauty on a daily basis, but sometimes I find myself overlooking it.

It’s easy to get caught up in a fast-paced lifestyle. Work, responsibilities, family, friends all require a lot of time. Relaxing and general wellness also require much needed time.

Last week I wanted to go out and explore. I wanted to go somewhere, somewhat familiar, and try out my latest camera. Many Southwest Virginia locations crossed my mind, but I settled on Grayson Highlands State Park. I wanted to go to Grayson because the past two trips were a little on the rainy side. The day I decided to go, it was nothing but sunny blue skies (at least back at home).

I live about an hour away from the state park and the drive itself is well worth the trip. I started my trip off I-81 exit 29 in my hometown of Glade Spring. From Glade, you can head to Damascus via VA-91 S, it’s about a fifteen-minute drive. I arrived in the well-known trail town of Damascus and grabbed some water and snacks for the hike ahead.

The ride from Damascus to Grayson Highlands is a winding road across Route 58 through the mountains. Along the way, you’ll see portions of the Virginia Creeper Trail, White Top, and so much more. It’s a peaceful drive as there are no big cities, loud noises, or too many other travelers. It’s just you and a connection with the great outdoors.

I started to become wary about my trip, however. The closer I got to the park, the more the fog started to roll in. I was worried this photo journey would be like my last. Nice, but gloomy. I tried to remain optimistic. I decided that no matter the outcome, I would enjoy my time and gather some nice photos.

Parts of the drive over the mountain and on into the park were clouded with dense fog. It seemed to just keep getting worse. I was hoping that as I increased elevation, I might get above most of the fog. I was partially correct.

I finally arrived at the parking area, sometime around 10:30 a.m. I suppose the fog drove off many visitors as the parking lots were fairly empty in comparison to other times I had visited. Trying to keep a level head and positive mindset, I grabbed my gear out of the car and began my trek up the mountain.

I started snapping photos almost right away. Something about all the fog was not only atmospheric, but it was also calming. No bright sunlight beaming down to create harsh shadows and there was a cool breeze sifting through the trees. In some ways, it was a perfect kind of day. Alas, I ventured on.

As the day went on, the fog started rolling out and the sun started to shine through the clouds. I was finally catching a little break. It was perfect timing too, as I was venturing into areas where the views are simply breathtaking. I wanted to go to an area of the park I hadn’t been to before. It was an area sitting atop some large rock formations, I knew the views from there couldn’t be anything less than extraordinary.

It was a much shorter hike than going around the mountain to where I had been before. This gave me more time to get the photos I wanted before the afternoon rain showers moved in. I followed along a narrow path to which I assume was carved out by the wild ponies who inhabit Grayson Highlands. Little “surprises” along the way confirmed these assumptions.

When I arrived at the rocks, the sun was almost completely peaking out from behind the clouds. Not so much that is caused issues with the photos, but just enough to dramatically light the scene. I took some time to soak in the environment before I started capturing some memories. I feel it’s important to get a feel for your surroundings before doing so. I just sat there on the rocks and stared off into the distance with nothing but amazement in my eyes. I couldn’t help but appreciate everything I was seeing.

As I filled up with joy and excitement, I cracked a smile. I nearly jumped up from where I was sitting and started clicking away. There was no bad photo taken on this day. Grayson Highlands as the rest of Southwest Virginia is a fantastic model. While editing the photos and preparing them to share with the world, I couldn’t help but keep thinking “I am lucky”.

I am lucky to live in an area full of so much beauty. I am lucky to live in an area where I am constantly surrounded by these old mountains. I am lucky to live in an area so closely tied to friends, family, and heritage.

I am lucky.