Last weekend after a series of unfortunate events hubby and I decided to end the camping trip we were on a day early and come home Saturday evening. This left us with Sunday as an unexpected day at home with no plans.
We decided to take the 2 plus hour drive past the state line into Virginia to hike around in Grayson Highlands and along the Appalachian Trail. I’d long been wanting to get up there and take a shot at trying to find the wild ponies that live on the bald. The small horses were put on the mountain in the 1940’s or maybe the 1970’s (the history of the origin is a bit murky depending on the source you read) to prevent reforestation of the highlands. In truth this really makes them feral and not wild, but the general public accepts the term “wild” for them, as that sounds much more romantic.
I’d heard mixed reviews on the likelihood of seeing the ponies. Some online sources made it sound like it was pretty much a given that if you hiked up to the top of the bald and walked around long enough at least one herd of these tiny beasts would appear. On the other hand, I have friends that have been up to find them several times with no luck.
We did get to see them. In fact, I couldn’t have scripted our experience any better. Our sightings and interactions built on each other with each one getting better and better.
As we hiked up to the bald our surrounding views were incredible. Beauty and mountains no matter what direction you looked. Interesting boulders and rock mounds dotted the landscape all around and I found myself forgetting that we had come up there to look for small horses. The scenery alone was worth the trip. Then, as we crested a rise, far across the landscape we saw them. They were far enough away that we had to study the distance a bit before deciding that yes indeed our objective for the day had been met.
It was cool and I was pleased, but being that I had brought my camera and all I was really hoping for a bit closer look at them. At least in telephoto lens distance. I had imagined these amazing images of wild ponies set against the mountain backdrops. This shot was was merely a few dots set against a green opening. We hiked on…
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came a Momma and baby barreling down the trail. Nearly knocking us over on a mission to somewhere. I grabbed the camera to start clicking away as hubby warned to get out of the way of another one coming.
Fulfilled, I couldn’t ask for any closer than that, we hiked on…
We came around a bend and there they were; a band of 5 grazing on a hillside. A stallion known as Fabio and his four mares. As I took pictures two in particular became more and more curious as they inched closer. It was more than I could’ve hoped for.
We finished our hike and decided to loop back to our car. On our return trip we got the best surprise of all, standing in the middle of the trail was Momma and baby. He kept an eye on me and we waited for him to run off but, instead he came right up to me and started nursing on my leg. The rules are that you don’t touch them….they don’t specify what to do if the horses touch you, so I, of course, allowed it until he naturally had his fill of me.
We then watched the pair for a bit. Momma grazing while baby nursed, grazed, explored, rolled and napped.
It was such a special day.