Friday, August 4, 2017

Nature School :: The Pony Place

We visited Grayson Highlands State Park yesterday, fueling ourselves along the way with spectacular views and lots of wild berries.   If there were a more perfect Summer day to see the sights and walk the hills, I don't know of one.

The climb out of Massie Gap is about a mile, with switchbacks, and has never been my favorite.  I'll admit that all those sweet (yes, really!) blackberries helped me along, too. We had this clump of rocks as our first destination.  Maps of the park don't seem to be very detailed, but I would call this part of Wilburn Ridge.  

It was a nice walk, truly, and I kept us going with lots of stops to rest or pick berries.  The mood was light, nearly all the time, and that helped.  You can see Roan, below, preparing to hide in a clump of goldenrod.  He thought that was the greatest thing.  Speaking of goldenrod--I saw the first of it blooming yesterday!  Fall is in the air!

Here we are looking toward the proper Wilburn Ridge.  Having hiked the whole Appalachian trail in Washington, Grayson, and Smyth counties, this is one section I am not so keen on repeating.  I'd include walking over scree near Damascus and running the ridges near Glade Mountain on that list.  It's the coming downhill that's hard!

Willow called this her John Muir Spot.  I'd agree; it was pretty wonderful up on those big rocks.

I'm happy to report that there are not a lot of mountain ash, or rowan, berries this year.  That predicts a colder Winter, according to folklore.  Last year's prediction was quite correct, so I'm hoping this year will be, too.  The holly trees also have a lot of berries this year, down here in the foothills.

The children call these little pools on the rocks "fairy ponds."  Wouldn't it be interesting to be a small person down in a big, stony landscape like this?

I had a zoom lens yesterday, so you can see way over to where the Mythic Ponies are.  I remember my first visit to see them in elementary school.  I think it was sixth grade.  One came right up to me and nibbled on the button of my denim jacket, leaving teeth marks in the metal.  People are big fans of seeing them, though I like the place itself more.

Roan swallowed his apprehension and said that we should walk over to see them, so we did.  Every person we met mentioned them to us, such that it got to be humorous!

We had to take more breaks, one right under a lovely hawthorn tree.  The shade was so nice and cool, and there was a good breeze much of the time.

At last, quite close to the park boundary, we finally met up with some ponies.  We all sat in the grass and watched them for awhile, taking care to give them some distance.  I know that's not always the case, but we know enough about horses to be cautious of them (like Sal's mother in Blueberries for Sal).

Our walk back was quicker than I anticipated--Laurel left us in the dust!  This big walk has shown me that we can take our hike down to Buzzard Rock very soon, since it is shorter than yesterday's.  Maybe that will be Nature School next week!


  1. What a wonderful place, Brandy! Your photos and words made me feel like I was there. And, my, that pony is so beautiful. I do love your nature school! How lucky your children are to get to experience nature with someone who loves it. I think of all the children who spend nine long months in school all day and then all summer at day camp with nothing and I just feel sad.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I feel sad for children in schools, too. I think it would make some big changes in us as a people if we made time for experiencing the wild places around us.