Hiking the Appalachian Trail is every thru hiker’s dream, but it takes more willpower, physical stamina, and mental fortitude than I could have ever imagined. I finally went for my first section hike on the Appalachian Trail last weekend, just outside of Damascus. We started beyond Mt. Roger’s and traversed through the Grayson Highlands, covering a distance of about eighteen miles over two days.
To give you an idea of perspective, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is about 2,200 miles long. But its not its length that stops so many aspiring thru hikers in their paths — its the grueling rocky trail, the constant rise and fall in elevation, and the sheer magnitude of mountainous terrain. This is not “just a walk in the woods” but requires careful planning, strategic packing, and unavoidable suffering.
Cheers to those determined thru hikers who submit their bodies to the brutality and exhaustion and make it out no worse for the wear on the other side. I have more respect for you than ever before. And even after my rude awakening on the trail, severe hip bruising and blisters from a too-heavy pack, I know I will be back. The magic of the historic Appalachian Trail is magnetizing in its own right.
Wild Shetland ponies while passing through Grayson Highlands. More than 100 wild ponies roam the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
Our camping spot for the evening, just a couple miles past Mt. Rogers. There were longhorn steer, wild ponies, birds, and puppies of all kinds — it was a zoo in its own right.
At one point, things got up close and personal.
This was the trail up to the summit of Mt. Rogers. It was like walking through a fairy forest.
Right as the sun set down over the horizon. Surrounded by wild ponies and steer.
This particular herd had about eight members, including two adorable little foals. The picture above is one of the mares.
Our rocky terrain for the majority of the trail. Actually, this was a decently sloped spot.
The views while traversing across Grayson Highlands Sunday morning.