After leaving out Whitetop Mountain on Monday, we were approaching the Grayson Highlands. It was completely beautiful. It's like nothing we'd ever seen before. It felt like a whole different country. Every couple miles brought something so different than the last ones. There's even a spot with free-range wild ponies that we were all so excited about. Sure enough, it was awesome. Coming over a huge rocky hill to peer over roaming ponies is something we'll never forget. Everyone needs to hike those 25 miles of the AT. Every camping spot was perfect and hiking was mild. Things couldn't get much better at that point despite the occasional showers.
We got to a 'swimming hole' campsite just in time to get stormed on until dark. Bummer. Fortunately, we have what I believe to be the largest tent of all thruhikers this year, and invite Patch and Sully to come hang in our mansion tent. It's heavy but spacious. It's a blessing and a curse on the Trail. It requires a lot of flat ground and weighs me down, but fits us all in so well. I couldn't imagine changing that in the middle of the game. The Snuggie is working out okay except that its been getting cold at night immediately making me miss our sleeping bags. But we're making it.
We got to Partnership Shelter that contained not only showers but a visitor center and nearby Marion where hikers could order pizza to be delivered to them. So we did. It was fantastic and reasonably priced. We ate and continued on in order to have a smaller mileage day into Atkins where we had reserved a cheap motel for the 5 of us(dogs only $5?! Sweet).
We reached Atkins where we had a mail drop waiting. Unfortunately, the post office was about 3 miles away. Everything was pretty far. We had to pay for a shuttle into town for food necessities. We stocked up at Walmart. We ran low on our last couple of days and we were way hungry. Not enough tuna, jerky, crackers, or other lunch snacks. We supplied a lot this time. The weight is worth it. We are eating so so much. We have to and often. It's hard to hike hungry. It's also hard to eat healthy. We got donuts and almond joys and donut sticks and pop tarts and cookies. Anything for a little energy and satisfaction.
Atkins has 3 things within walking distance. Relax Inn, which is where we stayed, a gas station(with beer), and a restaurant called The Barn with good prices and food but only one or two servers who double as the cooks. We ate there 3 times with our hiker appetites in full effect.
Caveman caught up today before we left Atkins and that's awesome. The group is back together. We didn't pump out many miles today as Patch was feeling too well. However, tomorrow should be an 18 miler to make up for some town time. I'm looking forward to it.
We are loving the Trail right now. It's so nice to not rely on shelters and setup camp at old sites along the way, make a fire, and play some guitar. It's all so freeing. A different place every single night.
We received a prepaid Verizon phone thanks to my mom. So, yes, I now have two phones, but also, yes, I can get a hold of people when I need to. Thank you, mom. Good thinking even though it's extra weight.
We don't really know what's next except Dismal Falls in Bland and a big city, Pearisburg, next Thursdayish, where, if you'd like to send us something, we'd be more than happy to eat it.
10 o'clock, Hiker's Midnight even though it's Saturday. Time for bed. Here are some pics of fun times and reasons you should hike the AT.
We walked up a minute after this hiker coaxed a baby deer into his arms. No telling where the mom went but it couldn't have been more than a week old. It could just barely walk.
An awesome sight, indeed.
Rhododendron Gap in almost full bloom. So pretty.
Closing in on the ponies
Chaser loved em
They chased him
We are just below Bland
Reverie talking to a Southbounder in tall weeds
- Spiral, Reverie, and CamDog