Just reaching this area from my house is an adventure. It is almost a 4 hour drive, and you actually approach it from the West Virginia side. One must drive, via switchbacks, over three mountain ranges after crossing the Blue Ridge. The red circle on the map below gives the location.
Ah, the best laid plans! I had planned on the 14 mile figure of eight route that my guidebook had described. But my first adjustment came about an hour into the hike when I could not find the correct trail. On my route map below (I started and ended at the top left, and Friday's trek is shown in the red route, Saturday's in the blue), you will see a route that headed west for a while, marked by an upwards facing purple arrow. This is where I spent nearly an hour going back and forth trying to find a marked trail before I gave up and continued across the trail that I was on. The guidebook said the junction was at 1.5 miles and exactly at that point, the GPS showed a trail coming in on the right. As it turned out, the junction was about another 0.3 miles, but by that time, I had wasted so much time that I decided to just keep going.
Now, look at the lower right and you will see another track, indicated by the leftwards pointing purple arrow, where I turned around. Here is the story on that: It was about 3:30, and it was clear that a storm was coming in. I had passed a really nice camp site about 1.5 miles back. If I continued along the route that I planned, I would do a loop and reach essentially the same spot about four miles later. The thought of hiking in the rain only to have to set everything up in the rain was not that appealing. So I turned around and went back, and got everything set up just before the rain started at around 5PM.
This was a really nice hike. It started out at about 3,700 feet in elevation, and coniferous forests were the rule. It was so pleasant hiking along here, like being transplanted to the "north woods."
You can see that spring has not yet really come to Highland County, Virginia, although they are no doubt collecting sap from maple trees in parts of the county.
My trek to Laurel Forks ended just after this point. Even though it didn't go quite as planned, I enjoyed seeing a brand new area and camping out along the way. It would have been perhaps a bit more fun to have another person along, but there is also something to be said for being the only human being in a particular spot among the 7 billion or so of us in the world.