One quarter done! It is hard to believe, but I am at mile 544 which makes me about 25% of the way through. So I am celebrating by relaxing at the Relax Inn. I have a pizza ordered. As you can see from the photo, the skies have been sort of unsettled. It rained the last two nights but my tent stayed completely dry, now that I figured out the final tweak for pitching it correctly. Luckily, it was not raining when I set my tent up, or when I took it down in the morning, which does make things a lot easier.
Grayson Highlands Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. Before I got to that area, I met some local hikers who assured me I was about to see “the most beautiful 8 miles of the Appalachian Trail.” Well, they’re entitled to their opinion, but I certainly saw prettier areas in the three states I’ve hiked through already (GA, TN, and NC), as well as in the states where I’ve lived that include parts of the AT (New York, Maine, and Vermont.) And the hiking itself was steep, boulder-filled misery. Yes there is a superficial resemblance to the west the trails I’ve been on in the west were walkable, not an exercise in rock scrambling. To me Grayson Highlands looks overgrazed and eroded.
But there are wild ponies, right? I stealth camped about 0.7 miles past the Thomas Knob shelter. I had the campsite to myself. At about 8:30 pm I heard something walking and snorting outside my tent. Oh boy! Ponies! I turned on my light and it wasn’t ponies. It was a massive long horned cow, with a hornspan of maybe 10 feet. And it was only five feet away. Whose idea was it to startle innocent, exhausted hikers with one of those things? Boomer took one look, curled into a ball, and shook. We were out of there by dawn.
Boomer. He’s still enjoying the hike. But he’s definitely ready to sleep at the end of the day. He no longer argues about going into the tent. As soon as I open the flap and tell him to get in, he jumps right in, curls on his pad, and goes right to sleep. He scarcely moves all night. There was a thunderstorm, which he hates, last night. Actually the thunder stayed fairly distant and it only poured for a short while. But he bravely stayed in the tent without panicking. He also hates gunshots, but ignored some shotgun blasts yesterday while we were hiking.
And even though he’s very friendly, having a dog serves as a deterrent to weirdos. We met two in the last 24 hours. One guy was camping with clearly inadequate gear (A bear bag made from a Walmart shopping bag??!), claiming he was out of food and lost. Right next to a road. He wanted to borrow first my map, and then my cell phone. We hightailed it out of there. Also, a hiker that we know happened along then. A young strong male hiker. So that was nice.
And on today’s hike, there was a heavily tattooed creepy sort of guy sitting at the shelter with no gear at all. He said he was out for a day hike, but didn’t even bring a water bottle?
Other than that, the only weird person giving off creepy vibes that I’ve met on the hike thus far was back at Standing Bear farm. He was one of those hangers-on who was staying there for several days. Several of us had to tell him to mind his own business and get lost. The creepiest thing of all is that he threatened in a joking way to slit the throat of a very nice hiker named Mogely. Well, he’s long since been left in the dust.
Trail magic. I’ve come across several instances of trail magic recently. Several days ago a group of former through hikers and their friends had set up a massive operation of the parking lot. I had scrambled eggs which is something I’ve been craving. Along with all the other breakfast fixings. They said that at lunch time they were switching over to tacos and they were staying all day and on into the next morning.
Today there was trail magic at the settlers museum near Marion, Virginia. The old schoolhouse has coolers with water and soft drinks, a box of snacks, a box of dog treats and dog food, and a box of assorted hiker supplies.
Feet. My saucony trail runners were wearing out. They had several hundred miles on them before I even started the Appalachian Trail So I exchanged them for a pair of Oboz boots in Damascus. No place in Damascus had any trail runners that fit my feet correctly. Well, the boots are better at protecting my feet from rocks. But they make my feet hurt in entire new places and have given me if you blisters in new places. They are also very hot. So I ordered some trail runners for my next mail drop – 4-5 days away.
Other gear. My Gossamer Gear backpack is starting to tear at a critical location. I emailed Gossamer Gear and they are sending me a replacement at no charge to my next maildrop. And I finally figured out the final tweak to be sure my Zpack tent never leaks. I’ve been using my trekking poles instead of buying poles, to save weight. I met up with someone who has the same tent and purchase the poles. I compared and it turns hour I had my trekking poles set a hair too long. I tried making them shorter, and everything works better.
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Love following your blog, Eva, and that you share with the Women’s Group!
Your adventures with Boomer really make me wish my Trixie could hike but 3 miles and she’s done for.
If you will, please contact me when you can in reference the male you encountered…” One guy was camping with clearly inadequate gear (A bear bag made from a Walmart shopping bag??!), claiming he was out of food and lost. Right next to a road. He wanted to borrow first my map, and then my cell phone”
It’s in reference to a missing person case out of Boone, NC.
Detective Kat Eller
Boone Police Department
Just curious if anyone has seen any bears?
Thanks in advance..
Eva, you don’t like the rocks in VA just wait till you hit Rocksylvania and No Jersey.