Ponies! Need I say more? Not really. Just look at his fluffy face.
And another. Because ponies are adorable.
"But why ponies? I thought you were in the woods?" you might be asking, and fair enough. I've just come over Mt Rogers (the highest peak in Virginia) and through an area called the Grayson Highlands. This stretch of the trail is considered by most hikers to be one of the best parts of Virginia's 554 miles of the AT (a full fourth of the entire AT is in the state of VA). One of the reasons this part is so spectacular is because large sections of the slopes of Mt Rogers and the surrounding mountains were once cleared by loggers and then used for cattle grazing, creating open meddows with astounding views of the surrounding countryside. After the area became park land, however, the cattle were removed and the brush started rapidly reclaiming the tops of the hills. Realizing the views were worth preserving, a grazing program was introduced, and dozens of ponies were released into the area. They're considered wild, because they get their own food, water, and shelter with no assistance, but most would agree they're pretty tame and I'd venture a guess that they get plenty of handouts from visitors. I had to literally push this one away after the first photo...
Ponies aside, if you could tear your eyes away from the cuteness overload, Mt Rogers and the Grayson Highlands had plenty else to look at as well. The views the ponies were there to preserve were definitely spectacular.
I got really lucky with the weather and had nice, clear skies the entire time I was up there.
Along with the views, my birthday passed while I was on the mountain. I hiked down into the actual state park of Grayson Highlands the day after and met up with my mom, who brought me a wide assortment of all the goodies I've been missing on the trail: chocolate fudge, a caramel apple, pound cake, and... can you believe it?... chicken salad and real bread! It's amazing the things you really miss eating when you realize you can't carry them in a pack. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday gift. Thanks mom! You're pretty alright! I'm sorry for anything I said in my teens!
That's all for now! Oh alright... One more pony picture. Look how cute and chubby he is...