Virginia

19 September 2015

What does it mean to be wild? Is to be free of human contact and influence? Is to be outside of society, unbridled by customs or social systems? Wildness is not easily contained in a definition. By it’s very definition, wildness is not contained by anything. So when I heard about the “wild ponies” of the Grayson Highlands, I became skeptical.

 

After capping Georgia and Tennessee the previous day, I awoke with excitement and drove north to Virginia. The highpoint was buried in a pine grove along the Appalachian Trail. En route to the summit, hikers passed through a few miles of grasslands occupied by a herd of Shetland ponies. These “wild” animals roamed freely in the park and drew the admiration and interest from many passing by. I was no different. My eyes fixated on the stout animals as they grazed, the wind toying with their flowing manes. But as people incessantly snapped pictures and extended their hands to touch the noses of the gentle beasts, I was saddened. As if the fence surrounding the park wasn’t enough to rob these ponies of their freedom, the human contact rubbed away any residual wildness. It was disappointing. But it was not worthless. For while the portrayed purity of the place was just a portrayal, the hike was enjoyable. The ponies may not have been wild, but their presence was appreciated. Capping Virginia will remain positive in my memory.

 

Mount Rogers. 5729 ft / 1746 m. 25 May 2014.

 

Virginia