The alarm went off at 0530 but Duffy’d been up for at least a half hour, and I’d been awake since he got up…and so begins another adventure!
We had leftover supper for breakfast, plus coffee from the percolator I use at home. I didn’t feel much like eating, but the coffee was delicious.
Weather was overcast, and it was nearly light by the time we got to Lone Wolf’s truck in Damascus for the shuttle to the trail head. It was a nice drive – I like listening to him talk. He told us the blackberries and blueberries should be ripe up on the bald!
Duffy and I hit the trail at the Hwy 603 trailhead at 0725. It was wet, kinda chilly – especially after the weather we’d had in Jax that past month! There was rain in the forecast, and this area already had more than ‘normal’ for this time of year. OhBoy.
From my journal:
Sure is pretty! We climbed steadily, mostly gentle switchbacks, for quite some time. I got pictures of mushrooms and ferns – it was like Middle Earth come to life – and a few tremendous trees…just lovely.
I saw my first AT shelter – Old Orchard Shelter. Cute little thing. It was occupied, and there were a couple tents nearby. The man at the shelter told us it rained all night long. We suddenly realized we were up and about early – it wasn’t even 9am! I took a picture near the compost privy, too, but left its use to whoever wanted to fight the large spider on the lid.
From my journal: We stopped a short way up the trail from the shelter for a drink and snack. and a look at the map. We were making excellent time.
Contrary to the guidebook warnings, there was lots of water. Parts of the trail resembled what Duffy called ‘babbling brooks.’ Other parts more closely resemble bog or marshland – and I know a swamp when I see one, even without gators. ^_^
We reached The Scales – a corral and latrine building – around noon-thirty and had a wonderful lunch, with our shoes off. The sun came through for a little while, and I nearly dozed off but was prevented from napping by the arrival of a VERY friendly couple. Tew were about 10 years my senior, I’d say, there from D.C. to do day hikes in Grayson Highlands State Park. The woman asked about my ‘skirt’ and we chatted for a few minutes, before moving on.
True to Lone Wolf’s word, there were blueberries and blackberries. Blueberry TREES – along with bushes and blackberry brambles – covered the bald. They were so yummy…Duffy was in heaven!
The couple from D.C. and another couple passed us – must not be blueberry fans…but that was fine by us!
Around 2 we filled the water bottles. The trail was muddy and rocky and boggy…my feet were wet and sore and my collar bones had been rubbed not-quite-raw.
Then…the trail got worse!
We agreed to ‘see’ the next shelter, take a long break, and then decide about moving on – but we couldn’t find the shelter, so we stopped at a little campsite on the banks of Little Wilson Creek. After a short rest, we got the hammocks and tarps up and had supper. Homemade dehydrated spaghetti was a REAL hit, and my canned barley beef soup was tasty, too.
I took off to ‘find a tree.” Before I ‘got settled’ I noticed Duffy, acting strange and kinda pacing around camp…but he wasn’t coming my way so I did what I had to do and went back to camp – JUST IN TIME to see, there beyond my hammock, a small herd of wild ponies! There was a red roan, a dapple gray, and 4 sets of mares and foals – red and gold, black and white pinto, brown and white pinto, and bay. We stood and watched till they all grazed out of sight. WELCOME to Grayson Highlands!