Well I’ve graduated.  No longer am I a pansy, one-nighter, no-pack, less than 6 miler camper.  Last weekend was the Wilsie-Phillips camping trip extravaganza and it was awesome.  At times painfully awesome.

Ross and I took some time off of work on Friday and met up with Tom and Julia in Grayson Highlands National Park for a weekend of real-deal camping and hiking.  Even Rosie came along.  Complete with her very own pack.  (Yes, she had a pack, and yes we packed stuff in it, and no, she didn’t hate it, she loved every minute!)  Pictures to follow shortly. update:  more pictures here!

The weather was perfect, the leaves were gorgeous fall shades, and the views were breathtaking.  The unique thing about hiking in Grayson Highlands is there are large chunks of the area that don’t resemble anything else on the East Coast.  Many times I felt like I was back in Montana or Washington State: natural balds that overlooked mountains and colorful woods; 100-year old hardwood stands with beech and maple, and peaks with 360 views.  Awesome.

Our hike was roughly 16 miles round trip and believe me, just hiking that far with a pack is a challenge, but trying to follow three people at or over 6 feet tall, is VERY much a challenge.  But I made it, and have lived to tell the tale.

Julia and Tom fed us well, with amazing tips for scrumptious trail  recipes.  I was also able to pick their brains on how to plan for a week-long packing trip, since they just completed a 100-mile stint through the Smokies back in September.  And as always, I took plenty of pictures, so be looking for those soon.

My feet probably fared the worst on this trip – either my boots aren’t broken in yet, or they’re not the right fit for my feet – so let’s just say that I showed up to work today in a black sweater, gray dress pants, and lime green crocs because they were the only shoes that gave me a cushy enough walk.  I could barely stand last night, but it still felt awesome to know that I’m no longer a yuppy camper.  I have conquered the hiking world and (once I heal) can’t wait to go back for more!  (As long as Advil and an ace bandage get to come along as well).

As far as Rosie is concerned, she passed the test with flying colors: she ran up and down the trail (pack securely fastened), never leaving us unless she spotted a water source she could drink from, run through, or dunk her head in.  She had the luxury of sleeping with Ross and I in our tent – at our feet of course – since temperatures dipped below freezing at night.  And she even made friends with a few other fellow hikin pups.

Ross and I had a great time bonding with Tom and Julia and left with promises of “Only 1 more month!!” until we get to see them again.