And I Would Walk 500 Miles....

April 9, 2018

Destination: Wise Shelter Today's Miles: 14.90

Start Location: Campsite at mile 488.7 Trip Miles: 503.60


Wild pony in the Grayson Highlands
I woke up to the sound of rain at 3am. That then made me need to pee, so I ran outside and it looked like there were some tiny, misty snowflakes mixed in with the rain.

I went back to sleep and woke again at 5 to the sound of pelting ice on the tent fly. Some days it feels like the snow will follow us all the way to Katahdin. I slept another 30 minutes and then retrieved my food bag. I had cold breakfast in bag. I wanted to conserve a little fuel. Basically, that just means I skip my morning coffee and pour a little cold water into my oatmeal packets. I had a few spoonfuls of Jif Maple and wished I could envelope my whole body in it and then eat my way out. I packed up my wet tent and started hiking. 


I had a big climb to start the day. First I climbed up Beech Mountain. It was steep and I felt tired, but I felt ok and pressed on. I felt hungry a lot today, perhaps because Damascus spoiled me. After the initial climb things evened out a bit and then I started upward again to Buzzard Rock. Buzzard Rock is a lookout point and is supposed to have some of the best views in Virginia. Unfortunately, my view and everyone else’s today was that of snowy, blustery grey mist. Oh well.... I hiked on not seeing a soul and climbed up and around Whitetop Mountain. One of the earlier highlights of the morning was the road crossing at Beech Mountain Road. They had a toilet AND a trash can! Oh day of days! I promptly made deposits in both. 

The rest of the day was largely muddy, snowy, slushy, grey and cold. I took a 0.5 mile side trail up to the summit of Mt. Rogers. My guide basically made it out to be anticlimactic, but it’s the highest peak in Virginia and I figured if not now, when? The summit is oddly not a bald; rather it is a dense forest with some large boulders. There aren’t any real views from the summit. There is a geological marker on one of the rocks, but they were all covered with snow so I couldn’t find it. Womp! I decided to make my own summit triumph sign in the snow and I took a picture of it. Fortunately it wasn’t a long trail, and now I can say that I’ve been on the highest peak in Virginia. On the way down I ran into another thru hiker, GerMan. He’s German, from Cologne. After getting my trip report, he promptly skipped the Mt. Rogers trip. 


It was a little after midday and I was planning on hiking to the one shelter in Grayson Highlands, Wise Shelter. The afternoon hiking was good and got really technical as I entered Grayson Highlands Park. The park is not long like the Smokies; I’ll be out of it tomorrow morning. It’s known for its feral ponies though, and that was something I was excited about. The bad weather had me worried though - do ponies enjoy snow? Probably not.... I think snow makes them run off to the my little pony pretty pony castle. Anyway, I kept my eyes peeled through the grey mist as I climbed over huge boulders and through lots of technical rock jumbles. I finally reached the 500 mile marker on the trail! Well, there wasn’t a marker, so I made my own out of rocks and took a picture. Apparently I was really into self commemoration today. I scrambled over a bunch more rocks and waded through a ton more mud. As I lumbered down a rocky slope a shape caught my eye to the west. A pony!! It was eating grass about 20 feet off the trail. It was brown with a funny L-shaped white stripe. I took a few photos of it and then went on my merry way, gleeful at having seen a wild pony. I was also glad it didn’t try to come over and bite me with its crazy horse teeth. Ever get a good close look at horse teeth? Yeah - those babies will grind some Hungry Cat meat up! And they chew sidewise to inflict more pain. I actually secretly believe horses are evil. That’s another story, and I do still enjoy seeing them (from afar)!


I slogged through more mud and rock and was within a mile or so of the shelter when, yet again, movement to the west caught my eye. It was a bunny! It froze in place and I managed to get a picture. I want to see what kind of rabbit or hare it is when I have internet again. I like bunnies. Their teeth aren’t frightening. 


I got to the shelter and was the first person there! Sweet! It was full of trash and a set of flip flops - the classy Red Stripe Rasta ones with a built in bottle opener on the foot strap. There is road access for Day hikers only a few miles away, so not surprising. As I set up camp GerMan rolled in. Later on Sauerkraut showed up, as did a girl named Dimples from VA Beach. We talked about food and resupply, and then it was time to hit the hay. 


While the weather wasn’t ideal today, I was super grateful for the wildlife sightings. I’m glad I climbed Mt. Rogers and I was grateful that my feet and heels held out fine. I was also thankful the shelter wasn’t crowded and I had a space!  Hopefully the weather tomorrow will allow for more views.

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