We are definitely getting up before dawn these days. Today we almost needed headlamps to pack up. We headed through a field at about 8 and found a cooler of Cokes, so we each had one while we watched the sun coming over the trees. Then up and down the hills til we got to Hurricane Mountain Shelter. A beautifully stained log shelter built in the last 10 years, perfect spot for lunch.
While we ate, John and his dog Abby rolled up, offering us all his snacks for his hike. Turns out that our Cokes from earlier were courtesy of him. So we chatted a bit then he moved on, and the Highwaymen came up. They hiked 18 miles by 1 to catch up to us! We hung out for a bit then it was our turn to head out. On the way down the mountain I caught up with John and he offered to make us lunch tomorrow, since there was such a crew of us. Apparently he does this for Northbounders a couple times a year, but rarely sees so many SoBos at once. Pretty sweet!
We had a big climb from there, getting up to 5000 feet. Soon after we got out of the trees and into some scrubby highlands, lots of views all around. At the end of the day we got right to the border of Grayson Highlands, a park full of wild ponies. We set up camp and were soon greeted by a small herd including a very cute foal. Megan was excited and got right up close to them. So maybe not that wild, really, but still cool.
We shared a fire with some nice backpackers, and eventually the Highwaymen before going to bed a bit late. We don’t really have to rush tomorrow though because we have a lunch date less than 10 miles away.