Then Again: A Grayson Highlands Thanksgiving

I haven’t been writing much! To be honest, there’s only so much to say about my fourth trip around the Standing Indian loop.

But I’ve been doing some neat stuff. First, a Reddit meetup at Standing Indian.

Then later, a trip to Roan Mountain with Foggy and French Dip. (Do you remember French Dip? We met in Pennsylvania in May 2017, and walked all the way to Connecticut together. He’s the best!!)

And then a trip to Max Patch with Foggy and French Dip.

And this past week, a Thanksgiving to remember in Grayson Highlands!

I had intended to make another video or at least a blog post. But. All the best intentions…. (is that even a saying?).

I met FD in Damascus on Thursday morning. We left my car at the library lot and drove up to some random VA road to start our hike.

There were ponies.

I went to bed Thursday night with a full phone battery and a full backup battery. I woke up Friday with a dead phone and a dead charger. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I’m blaming the weather. Batteries do not like the cold!

So anyways, I spent the week on like 20% battery, which any millennial can tell you is a living nightmare.

But here’s what I can tell you:

FD forgot his spoon and made chopsticks out of two sticks. I had a Korean MRE and it was maybe the best meal I’ve ever had on trail (thanks Lee!!).

We walked through the Highlands Friday with ponies and sunshine, then camped down at Elk Garden Friday night. We were expecting a lot of wind, so I pitched my tarp low and wide.

It was great for wind! But it was not great for ice, which came around 1am. I knocked what I could off the tarp and tried to go back to sleep.

You know how people say to choose a campsite carefully and be sure to avoid widowmakers? I don’t think those people spend much time in the south east. The whole trail is widowmakers! I lay in my bivy under my tarp, watching the trees above me sway.

The wind was like a train, and it seemed intent on doing some damage. I spent some time praying. Something like, “God, please keep us safe. If I’m about to die, though, can you give me a pit of my stomach warning? I’ll get up and run if you want me to. Is that this feeling? Am I anxious because I don’t have enough faith or is this part the anxiety you give me so I know to get up??? I really can’t tell, God. So maybe just keep us safe??”

My prayers worked well enough, because I slept for a while longer. Until 3am, when the snow and ice had almost collapsed my tarp entirely. I got up to brush it off. My ridge line stake wouldn’t hold in the wet, rich, forest soil, so I grabbed my bivy, abandoned my tarp, and ran down the trail to a bathroom. I slept inside until 7am, when a loud pounding on the door woke me up. I opened it to FD’s face.

We hurried through breakfast, cold and getting colder. The hike up to Buzzard Rock was a Christmas wonderland. All the people out shopping for presents, and here we were strolling through a forest covered in snow and ice, Christmas trees everywhere!

It started raining as we went back down towards the valley. We hit a shelter around 12:30 and, as we munched on our lunches, decided to call it quits for the day. We hadn’t had a single break all morning, and this was supposed to be a sip sip trip! We set up inside the shelter and started on our first cup of tea for the day.

Sunday morning came upon us slowly, and with it the temperature slowly crept up too. When we finally got out and about, we had a lovely sunny day for our hike into Damascus.

We planned to hike to the Virginia Creeper and then just stay on that all the way to town. Neither of us had any food, so we kept up a pretty good pace for the entire 12 miles. It’s always a treat to walk beside someone. And lucky for me, FD had a great long story that lasted pretty much the entire 12 miles. There’s no better way to hike than with a good friend and a great story!

We got into Damascus, grabbed some lunch, and then I drove FD back up to his car.

I missed my family, for sure. But being in the woods and just releasing my hold on everything from back home is the most relaxed and free I’ve felt in a long time.

I’m thankful for FD and our friendship.

I’m thankful for woods and weather and ponies and bathrooms.

And I’m thankful for you!!

Miles: maybe 40 total?

MVP: Korean MRE and jalapeño cornbread

LVP: ridgeline stake, but I really can’t blame it.

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