Day 72 – 75 Damascus VA to Marion VA on 2017 Appalachian Trail Thru-hike

Tuesday 20 June, Friday 23 June

Total Distance:  532.6 miles

Mountains: Whitetop Mountain 5080, Stone Mountain 4820, Pine Mountain 4950, Iron Mountain 4240

Passed 500 miles…freakin momentum really. The path has gone back to being rocky and full of tree roots.

The Grayson Highlands State Park is one area I have really been looking forward to seeing. There are wild ponies that inhabit this area and from the looks of it they seems to be about three teams.

I didn’t get too close to them, while they are human tolerant you still have to keep in mind they are wild – albeit very cute.

A couple of them came up to see if I had any food for them including one of the foals which surprised me. However the mother to that foal did not like the interaction after a while and came up between us – it was funny to watch.

Rock scrambling was required to get today in around the highlands. This was not good for my foot and I hurt it again. I have a sneaky suspicion that this is going to be the story of the trail for me from now on.

I thought it appropriate that as you approach the pony area even the forest seemed miniature. Fanciful perhaps but I read a lot of fiction, some containing fairies and pixies so you will occasionally get some of this.

There were also a couple of really good opportunities for some sweeping views again.  It is a very popular area with groups of scouts, young people, general overnight and day hikers.

All in the span of five days you go through an ever-changing scenery, bush density and colour. I’m sure I mentioned this in the last post but it still astounds me how tropical Virginia is and how dense the vegetation can become. No doubt after another few hundred miles it will all become bush blah blah blah.

Some parts reminded me of New Zealand with the ferns, moist soil and slight mist in the air.

While other sections of the trail just take your breath away with the majesty of it all.

As I pulled into one of the shelters, Old Orchard shelter, I was pleasantly surprised to find friends waiting there with Trail magic. Butterscotch had been cooking up a storm, with hamburgers, sausages and a yummy capsicum stirfry dish.

The food and the company was much welcome and made me realise how much I missed the  comradeship with my hiker families – I have been hiking on my own for a while now. Butterscotch was putting on some trail magic as he had had to get off the trail for a while but still wants to be a part of the trail and the hiker community.

The trail, it’s hikers and the hiker community including those who support the trail is indescribable as there is nothing to compare it to in every day life. Once you have been around it for long enough, I can see it will be hard to break away from it.

A good example is the shuttle driver who dropped me off after Damascus. He hiked the trail 17 years ago, after completion he packed up his belongings and moved to Damascus where he began working in the Appalachian Trail community.

I’ll nero in Marion to resupply and send my winter gear to Betty Crocker (who has had to get off the trail) has kindly offered to hold my gear until I need it again. This is excellent and means I won’t have the cost nor the hassle of bouncing the box for the next couple of months. 😊


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