4/18/2018 – Day 40

Lost Mountain Shelter to Wise Shelter – 17.5 miles

Did most of the beginning of my hike alone. All the uphill parts in the beginning. It was surprisingly warm this morning and a bit humid. Played my trombone some at Buzzard Rock to a beautiful view. At Elk Garden, I finally caught up to 2-Clicks (first one to leave camp this morning). Homebound, 2-Clicks, Baba Ganoush, Soothe Sayer, Buckeye, and I started hiking together from there and as we spread out, we met up again past Mt. Rogers at Thomas Knob Shelter for a long lunch. Soon followed by Honeybun. After lunch, I decided to hike with my pBone out of the case and in my hands, so I’m ready to play when I see ponies. Soothe Sayer was nice enough to carry my poles for me. In Fatman Squeeze, all of us went in together and I “tested” the acoustics with my pBone. They were great. Best acoustics on the trail so far. Saw ponies not long after. One that looked pregnant and a baby that both walked right up to us. My trombone had no effect to them. At Massie Gap, Honeybun’s dad was there with some trail magic. I had 4 oranges and lots of cookies. Everyone at the shelter from last night is at the shelter tonight.

I started hiking like I usually do, on my own. This time though, there was a large group of us who planned on staying at the same campsite/shelter again rather than just Rachael, Braden, Graham, Grant, and I. Part of the way up the first climb of the day was a spot called ‘Buzzard Rock.’ There wasn’t a full 360 degree view there, but it was out of the trees and fairly high up so it was a great spot for a quick pBone break. After the first part of the morning, I ended up spending a lot of the day hiking with some of the new hikers that I first met in Damascus – Homebound, 2-Clicks, Baba Ganoush, Soothe Sayer, and Buckeye (same Buckeye who I met back in Georgia).

A few years before my thru hike, I took a 2 day backpacking trip through this section of trail including the Grayson Highlands with my mom and another friend of hers. Only difference is I hiked it southbound so I got to hike it north this time. The highest peak in Virginia is Mt. Rogers and the AT just so happens to go right by it. It is just a short .5 miles to get to the top of it but I had hiked it already with my mom and her friend so I felt no need to hike up there again. Plus, there is no actual view at the top. It’s all in the trees. I remember thinking that it looked like the forests of Dagobah where Yoda lives in the Star Wars films. It was really beautiful but I was ready to get to Thomas Knob Shelter to eat my lunch.

Homebound hiked up to Mt. Rogers while the rest of us hiked on to the shelter and enjoyed a nice and long lunch break. It was very muddy around this shelter – likely because of a mixture of rain and ponies walking everywhere. Through the shelter register, we found out that hikers who slept here had to be careful with all of their belongings because the ponies would try and eat whatever they sweat on to get salt. That would include backpacks, all clothes, and even the straps on hiking poles. We somehow managed to not see a single pony while we were eating at this shelter.

When we got hiking again, we started off spread out a bit but eventually were all hiking together in one big line of hikers. I had seen one pony so far before this. Just barely though because it was by itself and wandering away from the trail, so I was hoping I would see more later on. I was excited to try and play my pBone for the ponies to see if they would like it as much as cows do so once our group started hiking together, I actually took my pBone out and hiked with it in my hands. Soothe Sayer graciously offered to carry my hiking poles so that I had 2 free hands for the pBone.

Before getting to the actual Grayson Highlands State Park, we passed by a rock formation called, “Fatman Squeeze.” It wasn’t too tight of a squeeze, but it was a fun change from the usual hiking. Inside the Squeeze, I immediately noticed the echo in there and told everyone to stop so that I could ‘test the acoustics’ with my pBone. It sounded really cool in there. 2-Clicks even got a video of it.

0.7 miles after Fatman Squeeze was the southern border of GHSP. To hike into the park, all you need to do is go over a fence which they have stiles over so hikers can easily get over the fence while keeping the animals in or out of the park where they should be. It didn’t take long once we got into the park for us to come across 2 more ponies that actually came up to us – most likely just because we had been sweating all day and they wanted to lick that salt off of us. One of them gave Baba Ganoush a bath basically because he just sat on the ground and wasn’t stopping them from getting their fill of salt from his skin. Of course the first thing I did once we saw the ponies was play my pBone…they did not take to it like the cows did. One of them walked up to me while I was playing and them proceeded to try and bite my trombone slide. I didn’t want to end up with a broken pBone, so I gave up on the music and put it away in it’s case on my backpack. It was very disappointing but I at least still had the cows to play for.

Honeybun had told us that his dad was going to meet him at Massie Gap today and that they would do some hiking together. When we all got there, we thought we might quickly meet his dad but we ended up getting some trail magic from him. His dad set down a blanket with apples, oranges, bananas, granola bars, and a big box full of cookies for all of us to enjoy. It was a nice snack for all of us before we made it to Wise Shelter to camp for the night.

Very friendly ponies.
Soothe Sayer in the background.

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