Location: Old Mill Inn, Damascus, Virginia
After spending the night in Marion, VA, mom drove me back to the trail crossing where we had met. I left all of my overnight gear with her, and I only carried snacks and water for a twenty mile day hike over the Grayson Highlands. I enjoyed walking with a light load across the picturesque landscape of the highlands. The ridgeline has been cleared of trees, and herds of cattle graze in the tall grasses at high elevation. I encountered some of the wild ponies that inhabit the mountains. Most I observed at a distance, but one came quite close. I noticed a brown and white pony on a path that intersected the AT. I spotted the pony before it spotted me, so I stepped off the trail and into the bushes at the intersection of the two paths. I remained very still, and waited for several minutes as the pony inched closer and closer. Soon the pony realized something amiss and would walk no further, so I stepped out of the woods. It kicked a bit, but slowly turned and walked away. The back of the pony did not stand much higher than my chest. I expected ponies to be horses, but they are in fact miniature.
Twenty miles passed quickly today with the light pack and entertaining scenery. Mom did well to find the road crossing at the end of the day. When she picked me up, we drove to Damascus to stay the night at the Old Mill Inn on the edge of the river that runs through town. We may have been the only people staying in the hotel that night. Most of the doors had been barred, and the lobby had been sealed by security gates. We ate dinner at the Baja Burrito, where I met Pi and Laces. I had met Laces a month or so earlier in Vermont, but I had not met Pi. They have hiked several months together, and they plan to finish the rest of the trail together. Pi received his name on his first day on the trail, which was 3/14. Originally he began the trail as a northbounder, but he suffered an injury in NC that forced him off the trail. He spent several months in recovery, and then he travelled to Katahdin, where he would start hiking again. His flip-flop will be finished in a valley on the NC-TN border where he originally left the trail.