Day 50 – Penultimate Hiking Day!

Thomas Knob Shelter

Holy Cow there is only one more day of hiking on this journey. 15ish miles tomorrow and then Damascus.  I don’t know where to begin this entry.  I’m feeling bittersweet about approaching the end, and now having completed the penultimate day of hiking, I’m just chillin’ next to an awesome fire. I’ll start here and recount backwards I guess.

Today was a really nice 12 miler. The morning was frigid. I mean really freakin cold, as they have been for the last week or so.  By the way, I do not like this super cold and super windiness of October in the mountains.  Well it started cold but warmed up and turned out great for hiking.  We camped last night in a pretty rare ecosystem, near the trail to summit Mount Rogers, which is the highest point in Virginia. The campsite was spectacular, with an incredible view of the mountains, valley, and one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.  Our site was nestled in a grove of Spruce and Fir – both incredibly rare and at risk on the East Coast.  Actually that is part of what makes the Mount Rogers wilderness area such a special place in Virginia.

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I love signs like this…let the land heal!

There are only about 5 of these Spruce-Fir forests remaining on our planet, as they are native to the Appalachian Mountains, and all of humankind’s environmentally unconscious activities have led to the destruction of this habitat.  The two trees are the Fraser Fir and the Red Spruce, and they grow thogether on these high mountain tops (remember, East Coast standards) giving the area a very magickal fairy and snow-elf sort of vibe.  The aroma on Mount Rogers sent me reeling into nostalgia for the Fir forests of Oregon and in the same moment, a previously unknown sensation of being in one exact and miraculous point in time – now.

So when we dropped our packs at camp we went ahead and climbed Mount Rogers as the afternoon was turning into evening.  With no pack weight we felt like sprites gliding up the mountain.  This hike was one of the most special and important parts of the journey…as we had climbed to the top of Virginia, my homeland, Turtle’s homeland, and we had spent much of the same day sharing ideas for starting movements and changing the world, and it’s safe to say we were (as two individuals and as a unit) feeling on top of the world.  We want to take our mothers there in the Spring.

Before getting to the Mount Rogers area we went through Grayson Highlands State Park, quite an interesting landscape for Virginia. I hate comparing VA to other places, because it is so unique, but this area was arid, rocky, and hilly, with stunning panoramas and glimpses of steers and wild ponies.  We took a scenic blue blaze detour that had us scrambling to the tops of rocky outcroppings for the next big view.

The wild ponies up there are fat from grazing and stealing from hikers.  The night before we hung a pony line instead of a bear bag, because we’d heard wild stories about ponies chewing through tents and ripping packs off hikers to get food. Yet another reason people really need to STOP FEEDING WILDLIFE.  It’s not cute. It creates an unhealthy appetite for the intense flavors (humans obviously should be eating differently too, but that’s another story) of human food, and much like human people, bears, ponies, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and others will pretty much do anything to get the FIX.

These ponies were pretty tame and we didn’t get any hostility from them. Nonetheless, Orange and Turtle became the “Pony Patrol.” Which will be the name of our band if we ever start one…

Much Love,

Orange

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