Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009 Old Rag Dogs


There was practically no ice with the exception of a couple of 10 foot patches on the Saddle Trail and the mud was not too bad. A big difference from last week when the Saddle trail had a half mile of tricky ice and the fire road above the fire road intersection (aka PO junction) had three inches of boot sucking mud.

The dog on the left is one of several Old Rag Dogs. They live down near the the lower Old Rag parking lot and love to walk the trail. They know their way home so you do not need to worry about them in that regard. They sometimes adopt groups of hikers probably based on an intuition about who might provide treats or maybe just because they like you. In the warmer weather there are various crevices up under boulders that they like to get into and take a nap. Some of them are extremely sound sleepers and often will appear dead. They most likely are fine so you need not worry about them. In the event that you can tell they are actually hurt they usually have their owners contact information on their collars. Last year when a lot of hikers expressed a lot of unneeded concern the Rangers persuaded their owners to keep them at home. I consider them old friends and always enjoy saying hi to them when we cross paths so I am hoping that they are not forced to stay home when the crowds return. That said, it is probably best for them to stay close to home.
Long hours at work found me needing to sleep in even longer than normal so I had an even later start than I normally like to. It was a great day with partially cloudy skies and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. After dark there were a few snow flurries for about an hour and then the skies cleared again. The moon did not rise until around midnight so I was long gone before it came up.
For those not used to the range of winter conditions on Old Rag you should be aware that these range from making the trail impassible - to passable but more dangerous - to very passable but far slower to negotiate - to clear and dry. Warm dry conditions can change to wintery blizzard conditions during the course of a day.
If you are starting in the afternoon it is good to bring a light. If you do not have a light and it becomes so dark that you can not see it is best to stay put on the trail and wait for help. Especially if you know that someone at home will alert the park when you do not make it home. If you are on the trail you probably only have to wait hours. Once alerted the searchers will cover trails and fire roads first. On the other hand if you; bushwhack off the trail, are out of earshot, and become non-ambulatory it could take days to find you. If you know you have misjudged and then meet other hikers ask if they have lights and if you can join them so as to be sure to get out. If I happen to see you late in the afternoon and I know you do not have a light I can often loan you a low cost light that you can leave at a designated spot for my retrieval once I get out.
Cell phones have either very spotty or no service on the mountain. In an emergency plan on someone needing to return to the Old Rag or White Oak Fee Station's emergency phones. If you are injured high on the mountain and are non-ambulatory expect up to six hours for first responders to show up from the time someone goes for help.


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