Miles Today: 16.7
Mile Marker: 501.7 Quebec Branch
More rain today. I played the wait it out game this morning and half lost half won. Every time I thought I had a break in the rain I started to pack up. Then just as I got ready to get out of my tent and put it away the rain would start again. I finally got a break long enough to get out, wipe off some of the water, and start to put my tent away. Just as I was shoving the main body of the tent in the stuffsack it started to pour. I got it strapped to my pack and headed over to the shelter (the log building that is dry where I should have slept last night) to wait out the rain again. After 15 minutes it stopped and I headed out. It then rained for the next 8.5 miles. I got to a trailhead for lunch and sat down under the sign with an awning and the park information. Just as I was finally in a dry spot the clouds parted and the sun came out. I moved out from under the awning and basked in the sun while I ate.
The terrain was muddy and incredibly rocky. It made very slow going today. I also had to cross over the last big mountain in Virginia. The mountains won't get up to 5,000 feet again until well after I've left Virginia. Later in the day I made it to the Grayson Highlands where there are wild ponies roaming around. A few times I had to wait for them to move off the trail or bushwack around them. They are completely indifferent to your presence, but I still gave them their space so as to avoid a possible kick to the head.
I also crossed the 500 mile mark today. I haven't been particularly excited about 100 mile markers since the first 100, but I have been anxious to get to this one. I was pretty excited when I finally hit the marker today. Most mile markers aren't officially marked, so hikers make their own signs. Because the 500 mile mark happened to fall in the Grayson Highlands one clever/disgusting (I'll let you decide) hiker used horse droppings to construct the marker. I thought it was hilarious. In their defense, there wasn't much else around.
The rain, mud, and terrain really threw off my schedule today. I ended up not having enough daylight to get the last 1.7 miles I wanted to do today done. I was also quite frankly out of steam. I was able to find a small spot I could pitch my tent right after I cleared a no camping area. I quickly threw up my tent and started making dinner. My hope was to get dinner cooked and my bear bag hung before the rain rolled in. I didn't make it. Now I am having to eat in my tent and will have to hang my bear bag in the rain. I prefer to eat away from my tent to avoid food smells from lingering. The last thing I need is some small rodent or something larger thinking they need to chew their way into my tent to get food that isn't here.