Cory: Our last stop in Virginia was Grayson Highlands State Park. Lots of people told Mom that we should go there because the park has wild ponies.
Lark: I didn’t see any wild ponies.
Cory: There’s a reason for that. Remember how for the last seven months you have been telling everyone that you would kill a deer or a buffalo or even a bear? How you are “one with the wolves”? Mom was afraid that you might hurt one of the ponies.
Lark: Well, I might have. If given the chance.
Cory: And that is why we had to stay in the trailer while they went to Wilburn Ridge where the ponies live. The wild ponies are called Virginia Highlander Ponies. They were actually bred by a man named Bill Pugh who was looking for a small horse who could traverse the mountain ranges of southwest Virginia. He wanted something that could graze alongside the sheep and cattle on the grassy balds.
Lark: Grassy balds? What the heck is that?
Cory: The meadows that have large rocks in them found high up in the mountains.
Lark: Rocks again.
Cory: The Virginia Park Service uses them now to help maintain the High Country keeping the vistas open and clear.
Lark: So, these “ponies” just roam around, and no one takes care of them?
Cory: After Mr. Pugh retired, a group called the Wilburn Ridge Pony Association took ownership of the herds and manage them. The group rounds up the ponies each year, making sure that they get veterinary care. A few are auctioned off each fall, but most of them are released back into the park to do their jobs. The ponies are really popular with visitors. Mom was excited to see them.
Lark: I bet.
Cory: Mom and Dad hiked up Rhododendron Trail for a mile and then, partway on the Appalachian Trail to where the ponies were. There are about 100 adult ponies living in herds of about 10-20 ponies with one stallion per herd. Mom and Dad got to see one herd scattered along the trail.
Lark: I know, I know. Mom was really excited.
Cory: She was. Especially since there was a black and white colt, too.
Cory: Seeing the ponies is not all that people can do at Grayson Highlands. There are a lot of trails to hike, mountain bike riding and climbing. The Rock House Ridge Trail was fun. It takes you past some big rocks…
Cory: To see down into a valley. There were a lot of Christmas tree farms below. It was really pretty.
Lark: And full of rocks.
Cory: There was also a meadow area called the Homestead that had pioneer houses and barns in it.
Lark: Historic Preservation, my favorite.
Cory: And up on top of the park near the Pinnacles is the Visitors Center. There is another overlook to see into the valley. Most of the trees had already lost their leaves for the Fall so we could see way down below us.
Lark: You hit on all my favorites, rocks, historic buildings, and falling leaves. Oh boy.
Cory: Well, I enjoyed it.
Lark: Good for you.
Cory: The park is very dog friendly.
Lark: Unless you are a wolf.
Cory: If you take your dog to see the ponies, make sure they are on a leash and keep them away from the ponies unless they approach you. The ponies are very friendly and curious. Some people even say that they “kiss” dogs, but it is really just touching noses with them.
Lark: I’d like to touch a pony’s nose and then, grab it by the throat…
Cory: Stop! I can’t bear to think about it.
Lark: Well now, if there was a bear, that’s another thing all together. Why go for a pony when you can hunt for bear?
Cory: Just go away.
Lark: Fine. Hey, what happened to that park map?
Lark: Just want to look at it again.
Cory: No. Just no.