Gypsy Dave shuttled us up the mountain. He’s a cool guy who thru hiked in 2003 (the “wet” year). Then after his hike he became a truck driver (“I just couldn’t take anyone telling me what to do anymore”), then moved to Damascus because he loved it…super nice guy. He told us that it seems like the men get weaker and the women get stronger as the trek goes on. I hope that is true 🙂
Techie was at the drop off spot (we saw him yesterday hiking up the Virginia Creeper trail). Saw HandStand waiting for a ride back down the mountain.
My new shoes are ok so far; it takes me a while to get them tightened correctly (they have some weird pull laces instead of traditional laces). We’ll see how they go. Lots of ups today but they were pretty gradual. There were so many section hikers out today I thought it was Saturday!
Saw Smiley at Buzzard Rock – he is going 5 miles further than we had planned. He was trying awfully hard to talk me into pushing further but I’m not having it. This is the one section of the hike where the AWOL guide says “take your time on this scenic section of the trail”, and so I am going to follow those instructions!
Lots of great views today – the top of Whitetop Mountain and then a nice spruce forest when going up Mount Rogers. It is amazing how the scenery and ecosystems change from mile to mile.
SAW PONIES OMG SO CUTE!!! There were six of them grazing right on the trail about a half mile before the shelter. They are “wild” but not afraid of humans at all. I wasn’t expecting to see any ponies until tomorrow! Gypsy Dave said that the ponies were used in (mining? or logging?) this area, and when the industry shut down the companies started killing the horses. The folks who had been working with the horses for years didn’t like that very much, and so they made a sanctuary for them.
Got to the shelter and there was a black pony there, licking the legs of a kid sitting on a rock. (The ponies LOVE salt). There is an entire gaggle of Boy Scouts here. Lucky for me, they camp in tents instead of sleeping in the shelters. The scouts are polite and inquisitive – one Boy Scout even took our picture!
Techie, KFox, Titan, and 2 section hikers are here. One of the section hikers, BoJangles, did a thru in 1999. The other one is kinda sketchy – had to ask him not to smoke in the shelter – but am trying to ignore him and go to sleep.