Grayson Highlands State Park

Today was awesome hiking through Grayson Highlands State Park as I just rented entered into Virginia. It’s days like this that I must file away and tap into when I’m cold, wet, tired and discouraged.

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I had no idea what was ahead of me when I headed out this morning. I had hiked just over 18 miles coming out of Damascus, Virginia the day before. I continue to be amazed with the body’s ability to recover overnight. I was packed by 6:30am and eating a protein bar as I walked north.

Wild pony and foal in Grayson Highlands State Park.

Two miles later, I stopped and boiled water for breakfast. My breakfast consists of two packets of oatmeal, a packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast,p two individual packets of instant coffee and a tablespoon or two of peanut butter and honey. All of this simply goes in a Ziplock freezer bag, and I add boiling water. Yes, freezer bags hold boiling water, and afterwards there are no dishes to wash and so cleanup is easy.

“If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”

Elon Musk

The weather was nearly perfect with temperatures starting off about 60 degrees making shorts and a long sleeve shirt comfortable. I was soon able to switch to a t-shirt as temps increased to nearly 80.  The slight breeze cleared the sky, making for magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains. The view had to be over 100 miles in all directions from the treeless mountain tops of Grayson Highlands State Park and Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area.

The wild ponies were a unique highlight in Grayson Highlands State Park and the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area.

Then I happened on some wild ponies. And then more ponies. And then a baby pony, or more correctly stated, a foal. Grayson Highlands State Park is apparently famous for their wild ponies. Some were friendly and would meander towards me, other quite skittish and kept a distance.

               

500 Miles

About 10am I passed the 500-mile mark on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. I was energized by the milestone, as the last 100 miles was challenging. The cold and rain were nowhere to be found today, and I was elated to have passed 500 miles. I have been gradually increasing my miles per day and pushing to make progress, so this milestone was rewarding.

Completed 500 miles of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike.

As I pushed on along the trail I would periodically see more ponies. Then as I came around a corner there was a longhorn steer sitting on the trail. Was not expecting that or the other dozen steers grazing nearby. Never did figure out what they were doing there, other than enjoying the grazing.

Longhorn steers relaxing on the Appalachian Trail.

Fail so hard, you can’t help but smile. Then do it again.

@nike

Fourteen miles into my day I passed through a fenced corral used annually to roundup the ponies. Once a year, they check their health and manage the herd size by selling off some of the ponies. In the grassy corral, under a shade tree, I set up my tent and called it home for the night.

The experiences of today at Grayson Highlands State Park make my Appalachian Trail thru-hike worth it, and memories of the cold, rainy days are easily pushed aside.

               

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