Pretty Little Pony
Virginia thus far…
We are officially half way through the state of Virginia and we have completed 1/3 of the ultimate journey to Maine. There is much excitement and celebration to be had! I would describe my relationship with Virginia as love/hate. Yes, the terrain is far easier than when we started in Georgia, but the environment has been unrelenting. Let’s just say that I am looking forward to West Virginia.
The moment we crossed the border, Tiger Lilly and I encountered grueling heat and scorching sun. We endured hiking in almost 90 degree temperatures–it sucked! Fortunately, the trail got a lot easier for us. Virginia is all about ridge lines. You might encounter one descent climb at the beginning of the day, but after that a hiker will find them self cruising on a flat ridge line. With an ease in hiking terrain came an acceleration in hiking speed. We found ourselves planning a 16 mile stretch and arriving at the shelter at 3 in the afternoon. Not wanting to sit around for the rest of the afternoon, we would decide to push on 5 or 7 more miles. Eventually, we just decided to start hiking 20 mile days as a part of our standard routine.
Around the time we settled into our new pace, we began hiking with a new group of characters. Spoon, Downhill, Savage, Breeze, and The Mayor started hiking with us and we have developed into a solid team. Kudos to Spoon who has decided to hike the trail whilst carrying a guitar; it makes for wonderful musical entertainment at the end of the day. Nonetheless, the boys have encouraged us to pickup our mileage, simply because we are fit and capable.
One of my favorite moments with our new group came when we hiked up Mt. Rogers and through Grayson Highlands. At this state park, wild Shetland ponies roam free. We were unaware of this until we started seeing large mounds of horse crap all over the trail. When we arrived at the shelter, we found three ponies camped out by all the hikers–ponies really like hikers. To understand this fully I must explain that as a hiker hikes they sweat pretty bad. Sweating causes salts to come out onto the skin; therefore, a hiker and all their gear is caked with salt. To a wild Shetland pony, a hiker is like a giant, walking salt lick. As we sat and enjoyed some water, the ponies pursued us and wouldn’t back off, so we decided to take revenge… and attempted to ride the wild ponies. Downhill made several unsuccessful attempts, but later mounted and rode a wild pony. The whole event inspired Spoon to compose a humorous song called “Pretty Little Pony.”
To move in a completely different direction, I thought I would take a minute to explain the overwhelming feeling a hiker can experience when they get to town and hear about current events. A brilliant literary, Pope, once said that “ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.” I particularly enjoy this statement on the trail because we are completely oblivious to the crazy events that are going on around us. Even in the real world, I refused to watch the news; nonetheless, we did experience a bit of the craziness first hand, on the trail. You may all be aware of the tornadoes that ravaged the south about a week ago. Tiger Lilly and I were 17 miles south of Pearisburg, VA when the storms hit us. We decided to stay at Wapiti shelter for the night knowing that some storms were approaching. Around midnight we all woke up to the sound of ice pummeling the tin roof of the shelter… hail. We all looked out in amazement as the ground quickly turned white from all the hail. Suddenly, the wind gusted into the shelter and blew all the rain inside. All of us scurried to the back wall of the shelter and shielded ourselves with our sleeping pads. It rained into the shelter long enough to soak all of our gear. It was a pretty funny sight to see all the hikers huddled together, trying to stay dry. We didn’t encounter any tornadoes, but we definitely endured our fair share of wild weather.
After the storms, we hiked to Pearisburg and got some much needed rest. Pearisburg was exciting for us because it meant that we had hiked far enough north to send home our winter gear. I basically dumped out the entire contents of my pack onto the hotel bed and sorted through all the unnecessary cold weather gear. To my surprise, I ended up shipping home 9 pounds of gear! To a hiker that carries all their possessions on their back, 9 pounds makes a world of difference. Of course, I held onto a few layers just in case winter decided to have one last say. When we hiked out of Pearisburg, Tiger Lilly and I felt as if we could sprint up all the hills and hike so much faster. I’m telling you, a light pack is a morale booster to a weary hiker!
Since Pearisburg, we only had a short journey to the next town. Between there and here, Virginia got a whole lot rockier and whole lot prettier. I found myself starting to enjoy the hiking more and more. In the last three or four days, we encountered large cliffs and boulders that seem to stand on a single point, balancing over the edge. The Tinker Cliffs were beautiful; standing strong like bastions at the corner of a Civil War fort. The trail looked as if it had been chiseled into the walls of the boulders. The word boulder doesn’t seem to do it justice. We hiked up to a ridge line near McAfee Knob and the house sized boulders covered the entire mountain top. It was crazy.
Now that we are about half way through Virginia, we are resting in Daleville with my parents. Right now, I am sitting in a comfy bed and watching cable television… what a sight to behold! The television could be on mute and I would still sit in amazement at the moving pictures. It’s funny how being in the woods for almost two months can change your perspective on everyday things.
This morning, as I was chowing down on a massive breakfast, CNN blurted out horrible stories about natural disaster and Bin Ladin’s assassination. One of the anchormen said that the US was enduring tornadoes, earthquakes, and massive flooding. It sounds like the book of Revelation to me? On that note, I am ready to go back into the woods. So long folks and thanks for all the warm wishes and support!