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.
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. :-)