Posts Tagged With: 2014

Hike Thru-hikers Forward -Update and Prequel

Appalachian Trail 6/24/2014 Shenandoah National Park

Another disappointing week of no updates. Neither Mileage nor Rock & Roots  have posted to their online journals. They may be off trail or they may be out of the habit of posting the progress. Either way there is only silence.

In the place of progress of 2021, I thought I would look back on my adventure on the Appalachian Trail. On June 24, 2014, I celebrated my 60th day on the trail. I was two days out of Waynesboro, Virginia, and had just completed 900 miles of the trail. I woke up early in my tent after a good night’s sleep. It had rain gently over night but did not prose a problem in packing up and hitting the trail by 6:30 am.

Bad picture of Bear Cub 6/24/2014

I had the exciting experience on Day 60 of seeing my tenth bear of the journey. It was a small cub running through the woods. I am sure that Momma was close by, but she did not bother me and I kept my distance from her baby. Later in the morning, I stopped along the trail to talk with an older couple, Half Beard and Granny Smith.  They were headed SOBO, but we took a few minutes to say hello. The couple were from Martinsburg, WV so we chatted about West Virginia University and the Mountaineers. I shared a little about my 60-day adventure of God’s faithfulness to me. Half Beard said “Amen” which led to a spiritual conversation. Turns out they are dedicated Christians.  At the end of our short conversation, Grey Beard asked if he could pray for us. To find Christian fellowship on a quiet, lonely stretch of trail was such a special surprise. God was so faithful to me.

View along the Skyline Drive 6/24/2014

I was hiking close to the Skyline Drive, so I tried to visit every Wayside along the trail for some good food and a place to rest my legs. I stopped a Lewis Mountain Camp Store for lunch and Big Meadows Wayside for dinner. It was a good food day. I enjoyed my walk after lunch as I was joined by three deer along the trail. My day ended at Rock Spring Hut around 6:30 having nailed 23.2 miles. Instead of sleeping in the hut, I decided to pitch my tent, enjoy a good night’s rest, and be able to leave early the next day without disturbing any hiker who wanted to sleep in.  

One of my deer friends 6/24/2014

I enjoyed reviewing my 2014 journal and remembering Day 60. As I re-read the diary, I could really see and feel some of the details. The possible food spots along the Skyline Drive drove my walking strategy for the day. I got a turkey sandwich and a cherry pie for lunch and sat on the camp store’s front porch to eat. There was a young man sitting there so I bridged a conversation. He was a rising 8th grader from Virginia, but he grew up in North Carolina. He loved math (so do I), and he played soccer, football and baseball (catcher). He seemed interested in my thru-hike so I spent a little more time eating lunch than normal. He seemed like such a nice kid. I also remember the foot-long hotdog, French fries, and a double-scoop of blackberry ice-cream that I enjoyed for dinner at the Big Meadow Wayside.

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A Day with the Horses

215Grayson Highlands State Park (GHSP), located in Virginia along the Appalachian Trail about 30 miles north of Damascus, Virginia, is the home of the wild ponies. I looked forward to hiking through this park from the first moment I heard about it. Every book I read about the AT made mention of an encounter with the horses as the thru-hiker made the journey through the highlands.

In my mind’s eye, it was a place of gentle meadows with tall grasses and an occasional apple tree. The highlands should have revealed rolling hills boasting of lush green moors and the distant call of bagpipes and Scottish tenor drums played with soft mallets. I imagined a cool breeze blowing across my face as I followed the narrow path through the fields of wild ponies, stopping to stroke the neck of colt or filly, or gazing at mare with her foal close by her side.

216In reality, my thru-hike of 2014 through the GHSP was significantly different. There was no gentle meadow but rather a rocky trail over rugged terrain. There was no cool breeze but rather a blazing sun that made me glad for my long-brimmed hat. The canopy of trees had opened to reveal not lush green foliage but a strenuous path with lots of elevation change to add to the adventure. I experienced some rock scrambles and some trails richly populated with trip roots and loose rocks. It was not what I was expecting but it was still breathtaking and beautiful in its own way.

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The horses were there! I came upon ten beautiful ponies as I hiked down from Tom Knob Shelter. They greeted me warmly and welcomed me to the highlands. One pony, in particular, walked right up me and put his nose against my chest. I quickly realized that he wanted to eat me or at least lick the salt off my sweat-filled hiking shirt. He took a nibble of my shirt in his mouth, and I rubbed the blaze on his nose, talking is calm tones to quiet his advances and my pounding heart. He decided that salt produced by a 64-year-old thru-hiker was not worth his effort. We parted friends with my shirt in one piece including just a little horse slobber as a free souvenir.

222I did not see too many ponies through the highlands themselves, but close to the end, I took a short side trail and found six or seven ponies – one new born sleeping close to mom. When I arrived at Massie Gap, just south of the park’s northern boundary, I heard a bazaar noise to my left. The trail was a narrow path with tall, five-foot high brushes on either side. Suddenly, a horse trotted by right in front of me, followed by a foal, followed by another adult horse. They did not pause, look at me, or slow down. They reminded me or a snooty church going family arriving late for Sunday school.

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As I made my way through the stiles at the north end of the highlands, I thought I could hear the faint sounds of bagpipes and drums. I continued to walk the trail with hopes of returning to visit the ponies on another day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Grayson Highlands, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia, Wild Ponies | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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