With the year being off to a cooler than most in recent past, we haven’t seen as much wildlife as I think we will once the weather warms. While we have yet to see any bear, we knew our chances to see our largest wildlife yet would be pretty good just a couple days out of Damascus as we hit Grayson Highlands State Park.
The park is open meadow and rolling hills with herds of wild ponies that roam the area. We were headed to a shelter for lunch when we passed over a hill and saw a pony walking slowly towards us along the trail, eating the tall grass beside the path. We were careful to be quiet and not disturb it as we took out our camera to take pictures before moving on to the shelter. The pony showed little interest in us and even less fear at our presence, but we didn’t know how little fear the ponies had of people until later that day.
We saw a number of ponies from a distance, including a group with some foals. Coming into one gap, the hill extended up and there were probably a dozen or so ponies grazing, some along the path and others off the path. As we climbed the hill towards them, the first ones we came across didn’t run away. Instead they took an immediate interest in us, coming up to us begging for food before figuring out that we weren’t sharing and losing interest. We had several other similar encounters, including one where Christy was trying to take a picture of a pony and another came up and tried eating her trekking poles. The ponies were so used to hikers and people feeding them that they would sometimes notice us and come from grazing off the trail over to us with hopes of receiving a handout.
In the evening, Fidget and Dot Com were nice enough to meet us and bring Christy’s new shoes that we ordered for her (her old ones were worn out and her feet had expanded a full size). They also brought some fresh produce to share (a real treat on the trail), and we had fun eating dinner with them again before they headed home for the night.