Friday, March 13, 2009

Wild Horses Couldn’t Keep Me from the Top of the World, But One Bit Me on the Way

A herd of wild horses lives at Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park near Mount Rogers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

May 6, 2007. There had been signs, of course. “Do not feed or harass the ponies.” Good enough. I was content to take pictures from a distance. So it was entirely thrilling and every little girl’s dream when the ponies caught sight of me and came trotting right up. Wow … I must be special, they must really like me, I thought. My mistake!

A real cutie representing the wild horses welcoming committee moved in close and grabbed my jacket pocket with his teeth. Nothing in there but camera batteries. Apparently, he was looking for an apple. Apparently, many people disregarded the signs and brought snacks for the ponies. So the horses were not only used to handouts, but demanded them.

Perhaps thinking I was hiding a treat, the horse began tugging at my jacket as though trying to take it off me and steal it, the better to rummage through my pockets at his leisure. Eventually he gave up. I took a picture of him, as shown below. Maybe not the best angle, but then, I was trying to avoid the business end of his teeth.

“Careful … I bite!”

I decided to saunter back down the trail the way I’d come and head to the safety of the parking lot, even though this meant I wouldn’t get anywhere near the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It was then that I met a feisty little old German lady, her American husband, and their dog. They looked safe enough, so I decided to walk with them. “The horses been giving you trouble?” The woman bent down, picked up a piece of wood in one hand, and tapped it meaningfully against the palm of her other hand. “Here … If they come close again, I’ll drive them away with this stick!” Her pronunciation of the final word came out sounding like “shtick.”

She then proceeded to walk at lightning-fast speed along the trail, with her husband, dog, and me struggling to keep up. I admired her excellent physical shape. Her husband was having trouble keeping the pace because he was hobbling along on a broken foot. The dog had a tough time due to being a small little thing whom the horses had a habit of chasing around. I had trouble because the elevation was about 6,000 feet, and I don’t breathe well at any hint whatsoever of high altitude.

The injured husband, by the way, was going all out to prove how manly he was. When the wife would ask whether the hike was getting to be too much and should we turn back, he would gruffly insist that we all keep going. Plus, he made sure to choose the hardest, rockiest portion of the trail, on purpose! When I discovered that this couple’s plan was, along with “climbing two or three mountains that day,” climbing a very steep forbidding one right in front of me, I told them I’d wait for them down at the bottom.

Waiting all alone down at the bottom started to feel scary, even if I was on a well-traveled portion of the Appalachian Trail. So fortunately, another couple with a dog came to my rescue … Or so I thought.

This second couple was just as quirky and unusual as the first. They were younger. The man was a lawyer, the woman some sort of accounting type, and the dog was a certified bloodhound. They explained that they had lived right in the area for many years. So I found it quite surprising when the man disappeared on up the trail and his wife started acting like she was lost. It was then up to me, who had never been on the trail in my life, to point out the trail marker and encourage her so we wouldn’t get lost.

Eventually though, we reached some sort of summit at Massie Gap near Mt. Rogers. Here’s a picture of me sitting on top of the world.

The above photo of me was taken by some guy I met on the Appalachian Trail along with his wife and their bloodhound named Birddog. He was kind enough to welcome me to North Carolina even though we were in Virginia. :-)


Montanagirl said...

Great photos and an even better story! You're quite gifted in both regards.

Jane said...

Yes, welcome to North Carolina. Great pictures - love the horses as well,


Deer Passion said...

Love the pic of you.. Beautiful scenery and an awesome photograph to remind you of all the memories!

Beth said...

I've always wanted to visit Grayson Highlands, having heard of the wild horses there. But I had no idea that they bite! Yikes. But you certainly got some wonderful photos out of it and a great post!
I enjoyed looking at your other photos, too, especially the Narnia ones. I really want to try Turkish Delight someday. :-)

Thanks for visiting my blog---I've very much enjoyed yours.

Deedee said...

What a great blog! I'm so glad I have found you now. I love horses too. Thanks for your comments on my blog earlier - Yes, I am Catholic, and I would be honored if you would add me to your prayers.

EcoRover said...

Wow, didn't know Virginia had wild horses. Great pics of them fuzzy little ponies! Wild or domestic, I've heard there are "good" horses--but I ain't met one yet!

CountryDreaming said...

Montanagirl: Thank you. Your words really mean alot to me!

Jane: *lol* You know, someday I'll have to make North Carolina my actual vacation destination. Normally I end up driving through it on my way somewhere else, wishing I had more time to stop and visit.

Deer Passion: Thanks very much for the compliments! I'm also grateful to the lawyer who took my picture up there on the trail.

Beth: The Grayson Highlands are well worth it ... I even went just before everything started blooming, and it was still pretty. Turkish Delight, so I hear, can only be had if it's specially imported. But perhaps I can arrange something for you. :-) I look forward to seeing more of your fine writing and photos in your blog.

Deedee: I look forward to getting to know you better, too. Your name is now hereby added to the prayer basket!

EcoRover: The wild horses of Virginia came as a surprise to me too. I had just stopped off in the parking lot at Massie Gap because I saw it was full of cars, and had no idea what the big attraction was. Glad curiosity got the better of me that day. I'd say there are good horses as well as bad. I even like the bad ones. As for the good ones, even they can spook and therefore be dangerous.

Annie said...

What a terrific story c.c. I especially liked the German lady since she reminded me so much of a dear friend of mine, also a very strong and active older German woman with a "manly" but go slower husband. The only thing lacking was the little dog.


Mary said...

Great story! LOL! Love the pony photos! Gotta watch those brazen time bring an apple (for yourself, of course, so as not to disregard any signs) Love the hiking story! Glad you made it to the top!

Janie said...

You met some interesting characters on that adventure, starting with the snack-crazed ponies and ending with the fellow who didn't know what state he was in. LOL. I'm directionally challenged (without GPS or compass help), but I can at least get the state right.
I love your comments on my blog. They're always so poetic!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Interesting story, CD... I've been on Mt. Rogers (not sure it's the same one) near Marion, VA.. We drove up there and I don't even remember there being any hiking trails, nor horses. I remember seeing alot of dead trees near the top.. But that was MANY years ago.

Your pictures are gorgeous. I love to sit on a big rock on the top of the world and just enjoy the view. We have views like that at Mt. Nebo, Arkansas--where we just were. Unfortunately, as you know, the weather didn't cooperate as much this year while we were there. BUT--all in all, it was a great trip.

Hope you have a great week ahead.

CountryDreaming said...

Annie: Thanks for stopping by! Your friend sounds like a richly rewarding person to know. You're lucky if you have someone like that who lives close enough to you so that you can get together and share adventures on a regular basis.

Mary: What they really oughtta do is put signs up for the horses saying "Do not bother or rob from the human tourists!" :-)

Janie: Funny thing how you can venture forth into the great outdoors, and have the most entertaining part be all the interesting people that you meet along the way in your quest to get away from it all and back to nature.

Betsy from Tennessee: Yeah, sadly there were plenty of dead trees. Seems there was some sort of blight affecting them. Hope the forest will recover. And Mt. Nebo keeps sounding more attractive the more you talk about it.

John Theberge said...

Great story, I wonder if the little German lady beat up any horses?

Teresa Mallen said...

Wonderful photos and an entertaining story! I love how shaggy the wild horses are. My Dad taught me to look at how a deer's coat changes in thickness and colour depending on the weather and the season. I grew up on a dairy farm and interestingly enough, cows don't bite like horses do. They will kick if frightened but they never attempt to use their mouths. Some interesting trivia for you. :-)

CountryDreaming said...

John Theberge: She just may have, actually. She mentioned something about how the wild horses liked to chase her little dog around for sport, so she would beat them off with a stick.

Teresa Mallen: The ponies do look loveable with their unkempt shaggy coats. Thanks for the tip about cows. Should I ever chance to meet some along the Appalachian trail, I'll be ready.