Midweek with uncle Avery, and while there were no more pony sightings, today brought quite a bit of fascinating fauna. The day was hot, somewhere in the eighties, and this led to our first introduction to the timber rattler. It was fortuitous that we had recently learned so much about snakes from Wrong Way, as we knew that the timber rattler, while highly venomous, is quite a mild mannered snake (as compared with the copperhead, which–while much less venomous–is much more aggressive). Read More
We woke up early and had earl gray tea and bagels with cream cheese, then packed up to make it the eight miles in to the shelter by the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Visitors Center. The shelter has free showers for hikers, and a 50 cent public transit ride into the town of Marion, VA for resupply. Uncle Avery hung out in his hammock with a book; Orion curled up underneath him; and we, the smelly hikers, took a shower and caught the bus to Marion for lunch and grocery shopping. Read More
We had a leisurely morning; Cartwheel and RobinHood piled into their uncle’s hammock for some snuggle time, while All-In and Mama Bear enjoyed with several cups of tea and fried bagels with cream cheese. We watched the wild ponies graze in the distance. Then, once the hikers who stayed a couple miles back started cruising by, we figured we better get a move on. Read More
Up for a scenic sunrise, then on to hike through the Grayson Highlands and see the wild ponies, then on to meet up with uncle Avery (Mama Bear’s youngest brother), more wild ponies, a scenic sunset, and yet more wild ponies strolling by our tents and hammocks as we drift off to sleep. Read More
Trail pancakes for breakfast, then on to some beautiful trail. Large, trout-filled brooks; woods and meadows covered in wildflowers; swimming in streams; dog-napping in the afternoon by dancing butterflies; a steep climb to buzzard rock for a scenic dinner; then a campsite out of the wind for the night: a typical Sunday on the Appalachian Trail. Confirmation that you should follow your dreams. Read More
At 5:30 in the morning, Cartwheel declared that she needed to pee and. climbed over me to get out of the tent. I rolled over and went back to sleep. It turns out that she was really sneaking out to pick me a bouquet of wildflowers to fill my birthday morning mug (a plan she had conceived the night before).
The morning broke clear, promising to warm up with the sun rising over Watuga Lake. We were a half mile north of the shelter, and the kids were excited to beat Mowgli (a known early riser) onto the trail. Cartwheel led the way and was up, packed and ready to go by 6:45. Her start was delayed a bit as she found it necessary to rouse Mama Bear to cook her breakfast. Read More
Because we had been counting on the closed hostel for some needed resupply, we decided that dad would speed ahead eight miles to walk to the Bear Mountain Lodge camp store a half mile off the trail. Of course, as soon as it was decided by the parents that dad would hike faster than the kids, it was decided by the kids that they would keep up. And keep up they did, pausing only to pick some chives by a dilapidated barn. As soon as it was discovered we were low on food, RobinHood declared that he would catch a fish and forage a salad for supper.
The thunderstorms were ferocious over night. We were thankful to be camped six feet into Tennessee because tornadoes were predicted in North Carolina, and we took comfort in nature’s recognition of political boundaries. The kids woke up at two in the morning and counted the seconds between when the lightening lit up the tent like a glow lantern and the thunder crashed. It went from thirty-two seconds, to twelve, to six, to instantaneous; then it finally moved on, and everyone drifted back off to sleep.
Toasted blueberry bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, then we hit the trail. We had a slow start down to the stream where we filled up water, then our science teacher friend Mowgli caught us from behind. The kids swung in behind him, started chatting, and set a record-breaking pace. In addition to being able to walk on his hands, Mowgli has the very rare ability to carry on a conversation while going uphill. Read More