When I first moved to Virginia from Montana, I would come to the Grayson Highlands State Park and Mount Rogers Recreation area just to find a little bit of breathing room. It's not like Montana is short on trees, but the dense forests of Virginia felt almost suffocating at first. It almost felt like a challenge to find an overlook that I found acceptable for a sunrise or sunset.
While I have since started to 'see the forest for the trees', I still need to get up to the big open spaces of the Grayson Highlands. This was especially true after the last few weeks. All of my free days the last two weeks have been consumed by my beautiful wife telling me to take off the shingles of our roof, and install a new metal roof! I can honestly say that this project had me way over my head regarding my DIY skills. One of the frustrating things was having to watch so many beautiful sunsets from the top of my roof!
Monday night, I had just enough time to escape to Grayson Highlands State park and stay the night up on Wilburn Ridge. I didn't plan on it being so chilly! This was evident by my forgetting to bring a hat or gloves! This was more of a 'cram the tent into the camera bag and bungee cord the sleeping bag on' kind of outing.
Just as you enter Mount Rogers Recreation area(after crossing the gate out of Grayson Highlands State Park), there is a nice little area of hemlocks shooting up into the sky.
As I was enjoying these wonderful sunlit hemlocks, a couple nice folks were cruising on up the Appalachian Trail.
By this time, I had already set up my tent near the hemlocks since that is where I was going to be shooting later on that night. I then headed on up to the first peak of Wilburn Ridge.
The sunset was nothing short of overdue and spectacular. Once I got up to the rock outcroppings, I had a nice view of the color on Big Pinnacle. You can see the color really starting to come out.
As the clouds moved, the light on the Pinnacle would change...
As the sun went down, the color really started to come out. Boy was I happy with this one!
As the sun dropped down below the clouds, it lit up the rocks with nice warm light for a few minutes.
Then the sky really came alive with color. The trail marker in the below photo is the Wilburn Ridge Spur Trail marker. It is an option for A.T. hikers to really get a nice view.
Sure is nothing quite like standing in a meadow under a big pink sky...
After watching the last of the sunset, I headed back to the tent and waited for the sky to get dark enough to shoot the stars. I spent a little time lightpainting them. The thing about light painting with the stars, is that you are working with multiple frames. So during the culling of images when I got home, I had a lot to work with, both light painted and strictly silhouette.
After shooting the hemlocks it was time for bed. I must say, I was not quite ready for how chilly it was going to be. Rolling up my tent the next morning was a cold, dew filled experience. Next time I will prepare properly!
The next morning, Orion had moved into perfect position with one of the hemlocks. The morning twilight lights up the hemlock just enough to make out some nice detail.
While every sunrise is beautiful, this one simply wasn't as awesome as last night's sunset. This and the fact that my roof needed a few finishing touches, I made my way out. Looking back on Wilburn Ridge, you can see it and the hemlocks lit up by the morning sun.
These last two are shot from the Rhododendron Trail. The color is really starting to come out in spots! Hopefully we have an awesome fall on our hands!
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