Follow the Adventure of a Lone Hiker Tackling the Appalachian Trail – Update 17: Petting Wild Ponies

Another week, another update from Colorado, who is hiking the massive Appalachian Trail.

In this series, we’re following along with a lone hiker on the AT and in update 17 we find out how big Virginia is and catch a glimpse of some cute wild ponies.

Catch Up on Colorado’s Adventure Right Here

Going by the trail name Colorado, a friend of our esteemed publisher is tackling the length of the Appalachian trail, from north to south. The trail begins in Maine and terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains of Georgia, a distance of about 2,200 miles. It usually takes hikers five to seven months to complete the journey.

It may not be the exact type of off-roading you’re used to seeing on TFLoffroad, but getting into the wilderness under your own power is certainly one of the most enjoyable ways to do so.

So enjoy the latest update from the trail, and stay tuned for more.

Hello once again from the AT! Actually, it’s a day off the trail and I’m currently in the cozy confines of my cousin Scott, who was gracious enough to pick me up in the gloom of darkness last night and bring me in to civilization. A good meal, a shower, a comfy bed – what a treat. And on top of all that, he was nice enough to mow the lawn for me – what a host!

Thank you, Scott. And I’m really sorry I can only spend two weeks here!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Tennessee –
Virginia is a big state, with about 500 miles, nearly 25 percent of the AT, passing through it, from near Harpers Ferry in the north to Damascus in the south. Until two days ago when I finally crossed into Tennessee, all of my AT hiking since early September last fall has been in Virginia. So long a time, in fact, that I was able to establish residency here. The downside is that now I have to file a Virginia state tax return. 

The past two weeks in southern Virginia were wonderful. Beautiful rolling terrain, good trail conditions, decent weather, trees budding out, a few flowers starting to bloom, and just a handful of people on the trail. There was one day with a little snow and a couple of nights that dropped below freezing, and fortunately I had just enough gear to keep from freezing myself. But hopefully the coldest nights are now behind me.

For most of the first two weeks since getting back on the trail, I was consistently passing about 5-6 northbound hikers each day. These were some of the early starters who began their treks in Georgia in February. During each of the last two days, however, I passed about 30 NOBOs. So the so-called “bubble” – the big bulge of around 3,000 hikers that start their thru-hikes in March – is approaching. I was told that 400 hikers started on March 1 alone. March 15 and April 1 are the other wildly popular starting dates – what a zoo. But for me, it’s a lot of potential people to talk to as we pass, although it will create competition for good tent sights. All in all, I will be happy to push south beyond this mass of hikers. 

The Grayson Highlands-
This is some of the more interesting terrain the AT passes through in southern Virginia. The area is a state park inhabited by feral ponies, descendants of ponies introduced there in the 1960s to keep invasive plants from becoming overly established. The ponies roam the highlands and are friendly enough to walk right up to you to get petted. 

The area is also home to Mt. Rogers, the 5,722’ state high point of Virginia. There are no spectacular views from the densely wooded summit, so you won’t see this panorama on many calendars, but Mt. Rogers became the 5th state high point I have crossed so far on the trail. 

Trail Magic Extraordinaire –
One of the legendary trail angels is Fresh Ground, who sets up an elaborate buffet from a van. He moves around from day to day, so no one is guaranteed to come across him. But I did! It was a late afternoon, I was tired and hungry, and suddenly I stumbled into his camp, with him grilling up burgers, hot dogs, and french fries, boxes of snacks and coolers of drink on hand. It just doesn’t get better than that on the trail. As the notable trail saying goes, “the trail will provide,” and somehow it always does. 

Once I pry myself off of Scott’s couch, I’ll only have 428 miles left to go. That doesn’t sound very far to me now in the scheme of things, but there is still work to be done, so I need to get right back out there. A writer in a shelter log book eloquently said it best: “I better get going, because these miles aren’t going to walk themselves.”

True enough, but darn if this couch isn’t comfy.