Hey all! So we are in....hang on...Troutdale, VA. We've managed to bypass the rain pretty successfully ever since leaving stormy Damascus. Right now we're at Jerry's Kitchen where the coffee is served in a huge white mug and the cream flows from a tiny silver pitcher. The weird part is that the New Kids On the Block have apparently reunited and are performing on the Today Show. So that's what is happening in the real world?? Great, now I'm going to have "The Right Stuff" in my head all day. We are going back to the wilderness soon.
The past few days have brought us through the Grayson Highlands, and we're glad to be done! This area has a lot of memories for us. In January a couple years back Dust and I took a winter trip in this section that ended in us calling Dad to come get us. This past January Dustan and Justin spent the coldest night of the year up here. So we were a little anxious about making it thru this section. It's full of rocks, balds and wild ponies. No, I don't think the horse in the last post was wild but these ponies pretty much are. They are overseen by a group of pony lovers, but otherwise they roam free. I wish I had time to post pics, but I will do that later. These ponies are sandy blonde, splotchy red, old and craggly, young and tiny (yeah - we saw about 6 babies!) and we even got to pet a few of them. Apparently over the years the ponies have become accustomed to salt on the hikers' hands so they will just meander over to you and start licking your hand. I loved it. The whole time I sang "My Little Po-NY!" And I took so many pictures I thought Dustan was going to leave me there.
Yesterday as we hiked, Dust and I discussed what it would be like to be a vegetarian. We run into lots of them out here on the trail and so it's something we've both had on the brain. We've always said that we could give up meat pretty easily compared to sugar or dairy or something. So anyway, I told him that during some of my free thinking time (i.e. hiking) I thought it would be cool to write a book called The Day the World Stopped Eating Meat - a sort of fictional hypothesis of the outcomes on our society if we all became veggieheads. So we were talking about how the world can't live on meat efficiently, and how you'd have to get really creative with dinner, etc. and then - we came to a road crossing and someone had taped a business card next to the blaze that said "2.7 miles - Best Burger on the Trail." We ended up in this little greasy spoon called Jerry's Kitchen and ate the best burger in the world. Bacon cheeseburger, to be specific. The timing was pretty ironic, but boy I'm glad we're here!
We ended up staying the night (the rainy night, which always feels great when you time it right) in a small hostel connected to a little church and it was awesome. We hand-scrubbed our hiking clothes and hung them out to dry, took a shower, played Connect Four and met a really neat guy named Brian, a former lawyer from Chicago who is riding his bike from Yorktown to Oregon on the TransAmerica Trail. We drilled him. (Check his blog here). It was so refreshing to meet someone other than a hiker so we asked the poor guy a bazillion questions. In the end, all of us agreed that during the short time we've been "out in the wild" we've been amazed at the kindness of other people. Lately some pretty hairy stories have been circulating concerning violence on the AT, but when you experience the genuine hospitality of others - Keith at Goose Creek Cabins in Georgia, Curtis at Standing Bear Farm, Bob and Pat Peoples at Kincora Hostel, Jerry here in Troutdale, even Carolyn in her pickup who let us throw our packs in the back and toted us here - it reminds you that not all people are shady characters. Brian said it well - it's like an antitdote for all those other stories you hear.
Soon I will mail the memory stick that's full home to sis and she can upload tons of pictures. Til then, we are back on the trail (skipping Trail Days this year) and will be plodding our way through VA. The Homeplace is listed as a great place to eat Jo - so we will be in touch as we near the area. And Bethany - I'll keep you posted on Shenandoahs. We have had no cell service since we left home. So can someone who reads this blog call my mom and tell her I miss her, the Mill Creek Girls, Trail and Bridge? Because she doesn't have internet connection back there in the boonies. :)
Send mail if you want to:
Dustan and Betsy Balkcom
Pearisburg, VA 24134
Please hold for AT thru-hiker
One more cup of coffee, then back to the trail. It's 14 miles today to Partnership Shelter.
Love, Brahma Bull and Sweet Potato