Here is how to start at perfect day. Wake up and head out to a beautiful field along a ridge near your campsite with a cup of coffee. Gently lean against a wild pony and softly stroke her fluffy mane as the sun creeps above the ridge and warms your face. Slowly sip your coffee and reflect on how lucky you are to be right here right now. That is exactly how I started my day on the Grayson Highlands and it was just like it sounds – amazing.
These ponies are a trip. They are all over the Highlands and are so friendly. Two of them hung out near our tents last night. I heard some rustling outside around 1:30 and peered out to see two big hooves. One of the ponies was laying down a short distance away. It was sweet to have them around and they were great to hang out with in the morning. We had shared our fruit snacks with them earlier in the day and they were looking for more.
Before we left camp today we made ourselves a 500 mile mark sign to celebrate our milestone. The hike out of camp at sunrise was so peaceful and the terrain looked more like high desert Arizona than Virginia. We hiked so slowly because the views literally stopped you in your tracks. We just couldn’t blow through such a stunning part of the trail. If you want to hike a special section of the AT – this is it. Head up to Grayson for a long weekend and bring some treats for the ponies (and the thru hikers).
We stopped for lunch at a horse corral and met up with two other thru hikers named Astronaut and Jellyfish. We had a nice lunch together and talked through some of the logistics for the next few days. It was exciting to see some more hikers on the trail and they were a blast to talk to.
We came through a famous part of the trail called Fat Man Squeeze and we made it through just fine. Actually, I’m afraid to get on a scale to see how much I’ve lost. I am guessing somewhere around 10 pounds and I don’t really want to lose anymore but the math just isn’t in my favor. I’ve managed to get my daily calories up to about 3,500 but I’m estimating that I am burning about 5,000. I’m loading up on pancakes and stuff like that when I’m in town but there is only so much catching up to do. Hope those Sour Patch Kids will pull me through.
Mallwalker is a great hiking buddy. He tells hysterical stories and is really easy going. He told me tonight that he was really glad we were together and I told him the same. I’m learning a lot about life as ex-Marine in the military contracting business. His job in Iraq for the last four years was searching for IEDs so this whole AT hike is a breeze. Nothing to blow you up except maybe the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Another hiker stopped by our campsite tonight and asked if we were the Marine and the lawyer hiking together. Odd couple for sure but we are having a blast.
I am getting up really early tomorrow to meet Bob (my friend’s father) for a resupply trip at a road crossing about 20 miles away. Bob has been a big fan during my hike and is so gracious to pick me up and take me to Wal-Mart. I have a long list of goodies to pick up for Oso, Mallwalker and Pancho. It’s all 100% junk food but stuff you just can’t carry on trail. It will be a bacchanalian feast of Doritos and cherry Coke’s tomorrow night. I already feel bad that Bob has to ride in the car with me tomorrow without a shower. I’m day 4 out of town and that’s when things get interesting. The ponies smell way better than my hiking shirt. Sorry Bob!