Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wonderland

     I slack packed again for ten miles out of Damascus Virginia on a beautiful sunny day.  It was so nice that I hiked with my shirt off to do something about the farmer's tan that seems to be permanently etched into my skin, but alas I ended with the same pasty chest that I started with.



     I left the next day carrying my full pack and weighed down with several days of food.  Like normal, I felt good leaving town, well rested and strong.  The trail wound it's way through forests and hills and by midday I stopped at a place called Buzzard's Rock.  It was an out cropping of jagged rocks on top of a tall mountain. So, I did what any other man would do, I climbed to the tallest ledge and peed off of it.  Minutes later "Boot Strap" strode up as I was eating my lunch and we sat there for a long time giggling about nonsense.  After what seemed like an absurd amount of time we left Buzzard Rock, which incidentally we were told is named that because buzzards frequent it.  We were headed into the Virginia highlands which has horse trails crisscrossing the AT, but they are not allowed to ride directly on the trail.  By dusk we reached Thomas Knob shelter and a large group of hikers prepared to turn in for the night, but not before some unexpected visitors payed us an awesome visit.


     The next morning I left the shelter and headed into Grayson Highlands State Park.  This was an amazing place, landscape ripped directly out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel.  I expected to see the Horselords of Rohan riding through the grassy plains or Ring Wraiths perched on the rocky spires dotting the ridges. My imagination ran wild as I made my way through the windswept fields.  I was bought back to my senses though when I ran into even more wild ponies.  One I even named Fabio.


     As the day wore on the clouds darkened and began to rumble.  My energy levels for some reason dropped real low too, I think I must not be eating in the most optimal way.  Maybe I will try eating larger meals before hiking instead of at the end of the day.  Whatever the reason, I was dragging tail.  As the rain began to sprinkle down I ran into another occupant of the Grayson Highlands.



     I walked through one rain storm and then it let up long enough for me to dry out some, but the skies kept threatening me so I picked up my pace.  I made it to a shelter right before this came down.


     After it let up I departed and pushed on another couple miles to Hurricane Mountain shelter.  There I spent the night as the fog rolled in and the skies opened up.  When morning came it was cold and still raining so I laid in my cozy sleeping bag until I caught grief from everyone else leaving the shelter.  The lore on the trail spoke of a shelter twenty miles down the trail that offered the ability to order pizza directly to it.  With that as motivation I set off.  All during the day the temperature steadily dropped, but i trudged along thinking that I would have warm cheesy deliciousness before nightfall.

     When I finally dragged myself the twenty miles to the shelter the weather was only getting worse.  I met up with "Boot Strap" and two other hiker and we decided to head into town and spend the night in a hotel instead of the freezing to death.  We stood on the side of a road with our thumbs out for only about ten minutes when a nice older couple stopped.  At first they were reluctant to let four of us squeeze into the back seat, but we convinced them that we did not mind at all and preferred it to standing in the cold.  They dropped us off at the Royal Inn where we purchased a room for the night.  We then ordered the pizza we had all been using as motivation, turned on the TV and watched nature programs until one by one sleep and full bellies claimed us.

     The next morning we all got breakfast and then the others resupplied there food bags from the local grocery store.  I tagged along, but had enough food to last me another two days where I would be meeting my father again for resupply.  When I finally hit the trail again this is what greeted me.


     My destination was only seven miles in, where the group I had been hiking with planned on staying at a shelter and reuniting with another four hikers.  There we cooked up couscous and vegetable curry and drank spiced rum until dark.

     The next morning I walked five miles to the truck stop my father was patiently waiting for me at.  I am really glad that I experienced some snow out here, but I think that I forgot how cold it needs to get in order to have that experience.


~Frenchy

22 comments:

  1. I absolutely loved the ponies!!!! Thanks for the video updates and the giggles! :) Glad you are doing well!

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    1. The ponies were awesome, really magical.

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  2. Ride those dinkys man!!!

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    1. I thought about it, but then I imagined myself splatting on the jagged rocks and decided against it.

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  3. virginia is the best! so amazing.

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  4. That looks like camping in Idyllwild. At least you were prepared this time. : )

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    1. I was prepared but it was definitely still cold. I think it helps to be walking in it because at least you are generating heat as you move.

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  5. There was a foot of snow in Pennsylvania this week. You must have hit part of that storm. Love those ponies. Mom

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    1. The ponies were SO cool. Yeah, must have caught the same storm. I heard they got a ton up there, any by you?

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  6. You are now Lord Of The Snow. Snow in late April, wow. I heard the entire northeast was covered in it this week. We had a cold front hit down here in Georgia. I hiked up to blood mtn Saturday and it had dropped down to 38-40% with rain. Those ponies looked awesome, actually made me smile watching. Great footage and photos Frenchy. Keep on trekking

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    1. The landscape up there in the Grayson Highlands was really breathtaking. If you get a chance you definitely gotta check it out.

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  7. Diego says pop one of those ponies in your pack for him. He has always wanted his own Mini-Me. Looks like you have found some Elfin magic on your trail. Stay strong and keep the pics and videos conming. All your San Diego fans say hello.

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    1. I say hello back :) Elfin magic indeed.

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  8. I just found your blog. I got so interested in it, I wasted two whole days at work reading it from beginning to end. You are doing a great job, maybe I will run into you in NH/ME when I do trail magic this summer.
    ~angel

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    1. Hey Angel, I hope those two days weren't a complete waste :) it really makes me happy that others are enjoying this trip with me. Would love to run into you this summer.

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  9. Love it! Ponies follow you everywhere!!

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    1. It was really cool Tori, they wanted to lick the salt off our hands and arms. Just had to be careful they didn't nip.

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  10. Hi Matt! I knew there were wild ponies on Assateague Island and along the North Carolina coast, but I didn't know about the ponies in Virginia! What a great experience! I'm really enjoying your blog, since I used to backpack in Shenadoah Nat'l Park back in the '70s. -Pat (Ros's friend from Georgia) Don't know what this "select a profile is, so I'll chose "anonymous" and see if that works!

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    1. I should be up in the Shenandoahs in a few weeks, I'm really looking forward to it, I've heard they are really pretty. Thanks Pat

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  11. You're such a great writer - I wish you would be those into a book when you get home. You can do it yourself on Amazon Create A Space. I loved the video of the ponies and the excitement in your voice and my granddaughter was thrilled when you whispered "ponies!" You are surely taking everyone who follows your blog along for the trip! Thanks

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    1. The ponies were really, really fun and the landscape around them were magical. I am thrilled to know that you are enjoying the writing ;)

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