We Found the Ponies!
Day 59: 4,570 ft ascent, 16.1 miles
Today was a lot of climbing. A lot of climbing. We planned to get a big chunk of the climbing done in the morning before lunch and eat at Buzzard Rock, which we had heard had great views. We weren’t disappointed.
At the next road crossing, we came across a blanket with some snacks beside the parking lot. I looked at Erik and asked: “do you think it’s trail magic?” The owner of the blanket heard me and rushed over to confirm it was indeed trail magic for hikers. I had been craving a Little Debbie since I saw some hiker with boxes of honey buns, so I quickly snatched up an oatmeal cream pie and a Gatorade. As we got to chatting with the guy, we found out he had hiked the trail in 1971! He had tried to rehike the trail the past three years (starting with his 50th anniversary year) and had to get off the trail for various reasons before hitting 600 miles. We really enjoyed our time chatting with him.
We continued to climb with plans to hike at the top of the next mountain. As we were climbing, Erik suddenly looked into the woods and shouted: “a horse!” Sure enough, we had made it to the wild ponies!
There were four horses in this herd. We got some pictures and continued on up the mountain excited to see some more ponies the next day.
We found a beautiful camping spot with an incredible view. It was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend so there were plenty of weekend warriors out, but we were still able to find a nice secluded spot to ourselves.
Day 60: 1,200 ft ascent, 12.5 miles
It was really cold when we got up the next morning, the coldest it had been in probably a month. We were slow getting moving not wanting to get out of the warmth of the tent.
It didn’t take long once we got going to hit the 500 mile marker! What a milestone!
We quickly came upon a few more herds of ponies. Jake did a great job not trying to herd the horses, but it was a constant battle to keep him from eating all of the horse poo along the trail!
With rain in the afternoon forecast and the next day, we decided to stop early and get the tent up in the dry and then take a zero in the tent the next day to avoid the big storm. We found a beautiful spot beside a stream and settled in for the night.
Day 61: 890 ft ascent, 3.0 miles
We had originally planned to spend the day in the tent, but when we woke up, it wasn’t raining. We didn’t have any internet access where we were at, so I got a weather report from my Garmin Inreach. It told us there was a break in the rain until 10am. It was 8am. We decided to make a run for it up and over the next hill to the camping area near a shelter in hopes of making a few miles and getting internet to keep us occupied the rest of the day.
We took off trying to beat the rain… and we lost. It started sprinkling around 9, and by the time we finally decided on a camp site it was raining. We quickly got set up and I dried off Jake the best I could. The worst part? We didn’t have any service where we were at. We spent the rest of the day partly wet in the tent while it poured down outside.
Day 62: 3,370 ft ascent, 19.4 miles
We got up at 5am and it wasn’t raining. Erik got up and walked down the trail 200 yards to get cell phone service. It was supposed to rain again for most of the morning, but we had a small window before the rain started.
Our gear stays pretty dry if we can set up or take down in the dry, so we rushed and got out of camp as quickly as we could. Quickly leaving camp meant I wasn’t having my morning coffee before we left.
It poured all morning. At one point we came across a part of the trail where the bridge had been taken down a few years prior. Although it was passable in low flow, there was a high water route marked on the map. We decided to take the longer high water route so we wouldn’t get stuck having to backtrack.
As we hiked the high water route, we passed a national forest campground. Erik suggested we take a detour over there. We were pleasantly surprised to find a heated restroom with running water! Even better, the building had a small overhang where we could stand out of the rain! We both used the facilities and I made coffee. It was just the motivation I needed to keep walking in the rain.
As we kept walking, we talked about what we wanted to do in our next town stop, Marion. There was a free shuttle into town, but today was Memorial Day so it wouldn’t run until the next day. There is a shelter right by the shuttle pickup spot, but we don’t stay in shelters and there was conflicting information in our guides if tenting was allowed around the shelter.
We decided we were going to try to push for a big mileage day and get a hotel in Marion that night. For that to happen, we needed two things to work out: finding a shuttle six miles into town and finding a hotel that takes dogs with availability.
We called the outfitter in town and got some great information from Coach. He gave us advice on where to stay (Red Roof Inn is good, whatever you do don’t stay at the Travel Inn) as well as the phone number for three local trail angels/shuttle drivers. We left a message with the first one, but struck gold with the second. Carrie would be happy to pick us up, we just needed to call her when we got there and she would be there in 15 minutes! We were quickly able to secure a reservation at the Red Roof Inn. We were able to walk the rest of the day with the motivation of a hot shower!
Day 63: Zero in Marion
We had three things to do in town: laundry, groceries, and a visit to the post office. I planned to get groceries and ship them to the next small town. I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of a Dollar General resupply so shipping my food ahead seemed like the next best option.
You can send mail to a post office for General Delivery. This means the post office will hold it for you at that location until you arrive! I sent my food ahead (plus a few supplies we planned to ship home at the next town) for $16. Not free, but not that expensive either to get foods that will keep me going.
The Red Roof Inn and the Walmart were a few miles from downtown Marion where the post office was located. Luckily, the same shuttle system that can pick up hikers from the trail also had a route in town! We were able to get our resupply and then ride the shuttle (with Jake) from Walmart to the post office and then back. We decided to stay a second night in Marion and get in a full zero before getting back on trail the next morning.
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