Monday, May 8, 2017


I made a clean start from the campground today, and outpaced four others of my age and pack weight up the first slope, toward Third Mountain. (What a sad name, not even second place ... but the fourth highest gets named after the pines on it! No justice.)

Pine Mountain is actually reputed to have the best views in the area, but that is not what interests me. Nor am I greatly motivated by the idea of "bagging" the highest mountain in the state, particularly since there are taller mountains on the horizon that happen to be in Tennessee. What I am looking forward to is walking around the boreal forest that tops Mount Rogers, one of the remnants of the Great Forest that covered the continent before the glaciers came south.

As the climb around Third Mountain continued and I slowed, one of the gray spirits that I had passed caught up and passed me by. "Don't worry,"he said," youll get some level walking at 5000 feet."

Coming up on Grayson Highland (aka Pony Country) I saw that the Stiles, once cattle weighing station, has now become a fenced campsite with animal proof gate latches. Wait, when they told us to stay away from these wild animals, I just assumed that the ponies would stay away if I didn't try to feed them

On Highlands Ridge, the ponies were out as advertised. Very photogenic, everybody had their cameras out.

Just don't get behind it, or you might get hoofed

Are you ready to have a root brain response stimulated? Just say "Awwww ..."

Irregular clutches of NOBOs are rushing past, barely stopping to look at the horses.

But, the heights are calling, little ones, I'm off to Massie Ridge. Another giant's rock playground, it seems, reasonably level, buffeted by strong gusts of wind.

Massie Ridge

Another piece of squished seabed

The Fat Man Filter

While I was climbing around Pine Mountain (4400 feet & upward), my knees, ankles, and back joined forces to call for a cease and desist order, which I tried to ignore. Two long rest breaks did little to address their demands.

On the second stop, though, the humbling sight of younger spirits flying past quieted their objections.  A squad of high school boys came  swinging up the trail -- hello, grunt, nod -- followed by a larger group of girls -- hi, great day! No, we're from Ohio, on a school trip. Several minutes later, their teacher staggered up the path, and confirmed my fears. The shelter where they are is also my goal this evening.

More ponies ahead, the oncoming NOBO's said as we quickly traded trail info. They had clearly reached full pony saturation.

A herd of ponies and admirers

On arrival, I found the two story shelter (the third I have encountered on the Trail!) was already filling up. When another NOBO party "family" arrived, I decided I would sleep better alone, regardless of the cold, so I pitched my tent in the forest.

Some ponies shuffled in to the campground about dinnertime with three young colts in tow.  Everyone refused to feed the moochers, but one of them got away with the sippy mouthpiece for my unattended pack's water bladder. Grrr.

Cold tonight, rain forecast late tomorrow, lightning storms on Wednesday -- but the sky is clear. I plan to slack-pack the last mile up to the highest summit in Virginia first thing tomorrow morning, pay my respects to the boreal forest, then return to strike camp and begin the two day descent into Damascus.

Mount Rogers, possibly

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