Day 40: What a View

The Best So Far

I have a new favorite section of the AT:  Whitetop Mountain to the Grayson Highlands.

The views. Gracious goodness, the views. I could see forever, ridgeline after ridgeline of tree-covered mountains, fading bluer and bluer into eternity. And when the views disappeared, deep green, sweet smelling, soft-floored, softly scratchy, spruce forests replaced them. When perfect replaces better.

Deep inside one of the spruce groves, the 500-mile point was marked out in fist-size pieces of black and white granodiorite. Five hundred miles! Slightly longer than our 2017 Camino de Santiago hike, but not quite as long as our 2019 South West Coast Path trek. In a few days, I’ll be ¼ of the way to Katahdin.

Grayson Highlands

After leaving the spruce forest, I descended into Grayson Highlands State Park, which would be a treat to walk through even without the herds of wild ponies. The rock outcrops, meadows, views, brisk wind, and hills reminded me of Scotland. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

At Grayson Highlands, I walked past three small herds of wild ponies, two of which included foals so young they still struggled to stand and walk. I walked in between the ponies, close enough to touch them with my trekking poles, but quietly enough that they barely acknowledged my passing.

I Wonder If I Could Have Made Him Sit and Rollover Too?

But the rest of the day’s hike had its moments too. I saw four deer along Elk Ridge. The second one darted across the trail right in front of us, causing Gus to start to give chase. I immediately shouted, “No! Place! (“Place” is his command to get in the heel position). He stopped, turned around, and came quickly back, obedient but giving me his side-eye look to let me know I’m a killjoy.

I looked up and saw that the deer had also stopped when I commanded Gus to stop. It just stood there looking at us, seemingly waiting for the next command. But when I pulled out my phone to snap a picture, he must have figured out that, as a wild animal, he didn’t have to obey and bounded off. After watching the deer disappear, we walked around a bend and bumped into a pair of day hikers who were still laughing over what they’d witnessed.

Silver & Gold

I bumped into Yogi again and met Stormcrow for the first time. Both were happy to have escaped Damascus before Trail Days, preferring the quiet woods to a rowdy town.

After connecting with Northstar at the end of the day, I drove her up Whitetop Mountain to enjoy the views and the racing clouds. On the way down, we stopped at Elk Garden for break, where she met Five Cats. Five Cats is thru hiking with his girlfriend and their (white) golden doodle Mookie. I’d passed them several times during the last three days, but Mookie is a tad reactive, so we’d never spoken.

Five Cats wanted to know if the Railroad Restaurant was really within walking distance like it said in the FarOut app. I recalled seeing it along US58, about five or six miles away. Having just walked 500 miles, we decided that just about everything on the East Coast is walking distance, but he appreciated the ride down the mountain and back all the same.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Grayson Highlands State Park (Mile 502.2)
  • End: US 58 (Mile 487.7)
  • Weather: Perfect hiking weather. Partly sunny, chilly (47F), breezy
  • Earworm: 500 Miles, The Proclaimers
  • Meditation: Jn 19:39
  • Plant of the Day: Spruce trees
  • Best Thing: The views. Also, not being bothered by ice cream additives.
  • Worst Thing: Northstar discovering her ice cream had an additive she can’t eat.

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Comments 5

  • thetentman : May 21st

    Tough break that Northstar could not eat the ice cream. I hope you ate it for her.

    Hike on.

    • Jon : May 21st

      After 40 years of marriage, I’ve found it’s the little things that I can do for her that matter most.

  • Debbie Carney : May 21st

    What a good dog you have!! So obedient!! Love your funny comments 😄

    • Jon : May 21st



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