May 11 - Wise Shelter (500.0)

- Hermes and his new pack horse
This was a day of contrasts, especially after the first shelter, between what was around the Trail, and the Trail. The first shelter was 12 miles away, and included an unexpectedly long, hard climb up Whitetop Mountain. It wasn't raining any more (it had during the night) but the Trail on the way up was covered in fog. Up, up, up then into a clearing that wasn't; it was covered in fog. Couldn't see the views, so continued on.

Start next section and see a family, including a college age son. He recounts going through a field yesterday and finding himself between a bull and some cows. The bull put its heads down toward him, and his fast thinking mom blew her trail whistle. The bull acted startled than ran around the family to rejoin the cows. He said they warned us about bears, but not bulls.

Sound financial advice, that.

The anticipated tough climb up Mount Rogers didn't materialize. The ascent was gradual, and then the Trail avoided the peak altogether (yeah!) and veered off to the shelter. The views here are amazing, long distances preceded by grassy fields. Have some second thoughts about pushing on, but we need the miles and decide to continue.

Just before leaving a couple arrives from where we are about to go, and tell us of photographing a young horse just up the Trail. I've been waiting for this, there are wild ponies around here somewhere, maybe we will get to see them.

We cross into a field through a wood contraption (a stile?) that allows us to pass through, but is too tight a turn for livestock. We almost immediately see four ponies with a foal, which Hermes approaches. The ponies continue to graze but the foal comes right up to say hi, even following Hermes back to the Trail.

We see another group of ponies further on, and then the contrast begins. On one hand, we have sweeping views, wild but tolerant ponies, and great looking large scale rock formations. On the other is the Trail itself, which has turned into varying versions of rocks and stones. This makes it difficult and painful to navigate, it's almost inexplicable why the Forestry Service leaves the Trail this way. You trip on them, they turn under your feet to twist an ankle, you need to carefully choose while moving from rock to rock or risk a slip, you have to brace yourself with trekking poles to get down from large ones. So I'm trying to admire all around me, but feel compelled to keep my head down to prevent injuries and moving to get out of this area.

So one of the most beautiful sections of the Trail so far, marred by the Trail itself.
At the Shelter we hear similar reactions from the other hikers.

We will still try to do the 20 miles tomorrow, but understand that can be impacted by the Trail conditions ahead. 


  1. What a great photo! So easy to think your trek is more glamorous than it is when you see a shot like this! Very cool.

  2. Sorry, Jeff. The above comment is mine. I forgot and responded while logged into Tom's account....thus the "Unknown."


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