Most of my posts are about an idea or a specific story. I’ve been thinking about what to write since we left Damascus, VA this past weekend and while we have had many noteworthy experiences, there isn’t one best story or an overarching theme connecting them other than all happening within the past few days. So I’ll briefly tell you about the Easter Wookie and trail magic, mysterious nighttime wild ponies, awesome food delivery, a hail storm, and some friendly section hikers we’ve had the pleasure of spending some evenings with.
To start, we had a wild Easter eve on Saturday night. We were over 5000ft elevation in the Mt. Rogers Wilderness in VA in a nice shelter. There were only four of us there and around 10pm (a couple hours after we all went to bed) we heard some noises. At first it sounded like another hiker coming in after dark but without any headlamp. No one came into the shelter. The noises grew and sounded like crunching. Whitney Houston asked if it was bears. Bravefoot answered that it was wild ponies. We all sat up and indeed it was four wild ponies in front of the shelter chewing on something – we found out in the morning it was pistachio shells – and they were licking the salt off the shelter. A weird encounter indeed.
The next morning was Easter. We had a beautiful, hot sunny day but none of us felt much like hiking. We got a late start, accidentally went the wrong way at a point, and were making very poor time for the day. However, as we were coming down a hill about 7 miles in, we saw a big group camped out on the lawn. They waved us over and were grilling up all kinds of food with cold drinks and other goodies for hikers. One of the guys even had a Chewbacca costume and would lie down on the side of the trail with a bottle of whisky laying beside him all the while moaning about his drunkennesss before getting up to scare the hikers, then inviting them for trail magic. This was our best trail magic thus far and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Monday had plenty in store for us as well. Lunch was at a well known hiker shelter known as the Partnership Shelter. It’s legendary because it has a shower in it and it is right next to a building with a phone to order pizza from. We hurried in for lunch and had a large pizza with broccoli, red onion, and garlic, along with bread sticks, and a Greek salad, all delivered right to the trail.
We also saw the weather report here and saw that there was a decent chance of storms for the week but most likely on Wednesday. There was only a 20% chance on Monday. However, we know Mondays and storms thus far. No more than an hour after lunch the rain started. There was thunder and lightening but we just hurried up the trail hoping to out outrun the storm. The hope really consisted in hoping for good luck that the rain would stop. And it did, for awhile.
We were heading to a little truck stop on I-81 where the trail crosses. There were some gas stations to resupply on food and pick up some treats as well. We were about two miles away when the storms hit again. And wow did they hit. It was a downpour that turned into a hail storm with serious thunder and lightning. We were getting pelted with pebble sized balls of ice from above and it felt like it was breaking our skin. To make it worse, the lightning and thunder were close together and felt very close. The trail took us in and out of the forest through open fields and crossing streams. We tried to time the lightning when crossing the open fields; it literally felt like we were in a combat zone as we really did fear for our lives with the lightning and didn’t know what else to do other than run.
We made it to the gas station, a nice lady gave us a towel and some dry clothes. We were treated well and sat around for a couple hours as the storm let up.
Lastly, we’ve met some really good folks out here the past couple days. We somehow were in a pocket where there were many thru hikers ahead and behind us but none around us. We were fortunate to spend Sunday evening with a couple guys doing a section of the AT from CT. They were retired and a good source of information about living life and the things that are important. They were also very supportive of our life choices; that may have had something to do with why we liked them so much.
Then last night, we had the chance to spend the evening with a father/son duo from Columbus, OH out for a week of hiking. The son was home schooled and taking this as a week of spring break out in the mountains. We had fun talking about OH and about hiking. It reminded me of hiking with my Dad in the Grand Canyon growing up.
So no new insights on life, no new theories on hiking or my emotions but unique life experiences out here on the trail. We’re enjoying life and covering miles.