Buy Once, Cry Once

My favorite place on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Graveyard Fields.

“A natural explanation for this valley’s interesting name originates from a time when a windstorm blew down hundreds of the spruce and fir trees that originally grew here. The upturned roots resembled gravestones in a graveyard. But there is a man-made explanation as well. During the early 1900’s, when the mountains were being extensively logged, all that remained in this valley were the stumps of cut trees. Another story of the valley’s name tells of how mosses eventually grew all over the stumps, resembling an overgrown graveyard. However, later during the logging era, catastrophic fires swept through the area, destroying anything resembling a graveyard and heating the soil enough to sterilize it. The once dense spruce-fir forest was forever changed from that point forward.

Today, the unusually flat valley is like an upside-down “bald”, with fields of high-elevation grasses and shrubs surrounding the tributaries of the Yellowstone Prong. True bald mountaintops, such as Black Balsam Mountain, surround the valley… Rare mountain bogs lie along springs and seeps in the valley. Although the trees and shrubs are beginning to grow back in places, periodic smaller fires have swept the area, helping keep the alpine meadow-like appearance in places.” — from

For my birthday, I wanted to camp here. I have camped here before, and loved it. However, that was during the summertime. This time was a challenge because not only would it be cold (COLD!), but also because we would need appropriate gear which can get pretty costly. Shopping for tents and sleeping bag was the first time I heard the phrase, “Buy once, Cry once.” It’s painful but when I think about the last birthday camping trip we took to Mount Pisgah where our tent broke in the middle of the night… it’s a motto I can get behind.

It was a fantastic trip. I returned happier than I have been in.. well, maybe years. It was just beautiful, and everything I hoped it would be. It was freezing cold but our gear kept us warm. It was well worth it, and I’m glad Ben loves me enough to go on trips like these – even if it involves using the bathroom in the woods.

Now, onto pictures. (You can click on each photo for a larger version of it.)

This is an aerial view of the valley we camped in. By aerial I mean it’s a view from the parkway. CLOSE ENOUGH.

This was posted on the trail near the beginning. We didn’t see it until the hike out because it was dark by the time we even got to the trailhead. This is unfortunate since near the top of the list of what not to do is to hike at night. Whoopsie!

One of Ben’s co-workers thought he was joking around when he said he was camping at Graveyard Fields. They thought he had made up the name – so here’s the proof. We camped along the upper falls trail.

Ben tending to the morning fire with Tobi as our ever vigilant guard dog. (We heard coyotes in the night that sounded pretty close.)

Flannery stayed at home because she hates the cold and outdoors. However, Tobi is a pretty hardy dog and seemed to love it. We had to keep him leashed up at all times because so many hikers had their dogs unleashed on the trail.

We woke up to everything covered in frost – brrrrr!

The sun slowly but surely melting the frost away.

This is our tent once I took the rainfly off. Frost got onto the tent even with the fly on it. It was so cold out!

but pretty!

sooo pretty. The last two pictures were taken from our campsite. It was nice to wake up to such a great view.

I thought setting up the campsite would be a nightmare to do in the dark, but it actually went very smoothly. This was our first time using our tent, and I loved it. I never thought that I could adore a tent this much – but I’ve never had one with vestibules. We used the back vestibule to keep all our gear in. Since the tent has two doors I could get to all of our gear in the morning without getting out of the tent. Perfect! Plus, it was so well ventilated and stayed pretty warm inside.

Ben on our hike out.

This is our packs side by side. Poor Ben! I’m a lightweight! But there’s really no way I could carry as much as he does. By the way, I let Ben pick out the color of my pack. I don’t know about this color but it’s pretty easy to spot me… from California.

Ben & Tobi trekking along.

Still trekkin’

I took this picture of Ben while standing on a bridge. Our campsite was close enough to water that we could get some in order to make sure that our fire was DEFINITELY put out.

Not the campsite we used (not enough cover!), but pretty.

Another campsite that wasn’t what we wanted but was still nice.

It was a good trip. Such a good trip that I think we shall be doing it again in a week or so. Different spot but the same general area. We’re trying to get enough gear so that we’re able to go cold weather camping in comfort.

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