Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 21, 2009 Equinox

Sunset 10 minutes from the summit.

Fly Fishing Shop
On my way to the mountain I made a side trip to Murray's Fly Fishing shop in Edinburg Virginia. If you are interested in fly fishing this is a great resource for supplies, advice, and lessons. Their website is at:

A couple of patches of ice still on the mountain.
As weather warms, crowds and their associated litter returns to the mountain. Winter not only had far fewer hikers on the trail but most seemed to practice Leave No Trace ethics as well as pitch in with picking up for others.
Many thanks to the many hikers who during all seasons help by bringing out more than just their own stuff. (Note: If you pick up broken glass make sure you protect yourself. I started carrying a "sharp stuff" bottle/vault in my litter bag after I accidentally cut myself when my hand pressed down on a sharp bottle shard in my litter bag while I was in the rock scramble.)
The Park Service has a duty to strike a balance between laws that encourage protection of the wilderness and laws that encourage public use of the same wilderness areas. Appropriate use is desired and encouraged but misuse must be controlled if not eliminated. Litter is a visual assault on those that follow. Throwing something over a rock, into a crevice, far off the trail does not mean it is out of sight. A student studying things off the trail, a park visitor seeking a little off trail solitude, a curious hiker exploring, a botanist or biologist looking for a specific species, a back country camper or a climber are just some of the examples of people who go places you think are out of sight. There are individuals who will notice changes at the same level of the changes you would notice in your own backyard. It is also good to keep in mind that this is home for hundreds of other species whom we owe respect.
Usually I try to keep in the Don't Worry Be Happy mood but there are times that I let my imagination toy around with a plot for a horror short story in which there is a wilderness stalker who practices various forms of harsh vigilante justice on abusers of the back country or maybe a whole town complete with a hanging judge who enforce a bizarre set of extreme local litter ordinances or some bizarre future country where they decide to have an open season on adult litterers (they have to be taller than 5 feet to be legal) or the back woods toilet paper covered Bogey man who gets revenge on the tissue paper litter bugs. I have a very active imagination so the list goes on but you get the idea.

The Mountain Laurel are showing green sprouts.
Ridge Trail about an hour before dark.
Equinox and the days are getting warmer but there was still just a little bit of ice to be found on the Mountain. Next weekend is an ORMS training weekend sponsored by NPS so no patrols on Old Rag next week.
The one unusual thing on this circuit were the number of the little black Pine Voles I scared off the trail after dark. I estimate they were less than a quarter the size of house mouse, have very dark grey fur, and are very quick to disappear in just a blur of motion when they were surprised by the light of my headlamp. One actually stood still for the shortest of a partial second in a freeze frame before vanishing in a blur. I must have seen around 5 more tiny blurs after that as I came down the Saddle Trail. I wonder if this evening was unusual or if I was just more tuned to picking up the blur of their escapes after that one had given me the briefest of glimpses of him standing still. It appears that in their panic they are ad libbing their escape routes because when they choose to escape in your direction of travel you can see them do a lot of direction changing, jumping, and sometimes falling off the rocks but it all happens so fast you can not register the specifics of their actions. Their physical prowess would probably be amazing and at times funny if you could watch them on a slow motion replay.


  1. It makes me sick to think people are leaving that trash behind in the park. I am glad you are showing that pic and many thanks are owed to you for carrying that out.

    There should be heavy fines if one is caught leaving trash behind, I'm talking a $5,000 fine. How hard is it to carry your own trash out of the woods?

  2. Andy,
    It is both amazing and disgusting..You would be shocked to see what folks leave... and the quantity...
    Why not join the Old Rag Mountain Stewards and help make a change?

  3. I just may, thanks. And yes, I have seen many times, first hand what "day-users" leave behind. I won't call them hikers because hikers take more care and appreciate nature for what it is.

    email me from my website:

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    For anyone interested in Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS) it is a very worthwhile newly formed endevour. There is a link to its site on the top right of my blog. There are also lots and lots of other groups who help with Old Rag, many of whom I am not even aware of. During the ORMS off-season I patrol for a PATC subgroup called the PATC Trail Patrol. PATC also has subgroups that do trail maintenance work on Old Rag(see earlier post). There is at least one Virginia Naturalist chapter doing an Old Rag project. I have run into other groups on the Mountain doing pick up days or service projects. I have come across web posting describing groups or individuals doing Old Rag service projects. I am sure that for every one of these I know about that there are many others I do not know about.

    When I look back at my young teenage years I will have to admit that before I knew better I committed my own disrepectful acts.

    Some of the trash is truly accidental. For example last year the ORMS volunteers reunited one bag with a $500 plus camera in it and another bag with the groups car keys in it with their thankful owners. I have picked up numerous unopened water bottles and food items not to mention finding expensive clothing or equipment.

    There are many who just do not know any better.

    There are some that know better but may have a good reason(survival).

    There are some who know better and just do not care. And yes, there are probably some who purposely do it because it satisfies some warped appetite.

    Obviously we will never completely eliminate litter but if we can educate a few to be better and enlist a few to pitch in with the pick up efforts then hopefully we can keep the NPS from needing to add regulations or restrictions.

    Besides I am still hoping that some day I will be allowed to enjoy the thrill of hunting offenders with an environmentally friendly paint ball gun and Ghilley suit.

  5. Well put. Spending my last 18-years as a deputy sheriff (Henrico), by nature I want to hunt the offenders down and throw the book at them. You have wisely demonstrated that there could be other reasons why foreign objects are left out in nature, from forgetfulness, to items misplaced, and perhaps out of necessity. It appears keeping an open mind is advantageous some times. I, on the other hand, tend to quickly draw conclusions, right or wrong.

    The Stewards seem to be quite an admirable group. I just may give it some thought of joining, the major obstacle for me would be the distance required to travel there from Richmond's west end. Another obstacle which cannot be overlooked is helping to raise my 4-yr old boy.

    I'll give it some thought.
    Andy (

  6. I volunteer for both PATC Trail Patrol and ORMS. PATC Trail Patrol is far more low key than ORMS but it still requires some training once you are trained you set your own times and agenda for PATC Trailpatrol. ORMS is a little more intense but one of its goals is too try and be inclusive. For example, I am sure if someone was not able to hike the trails we would find some very worthwhile ways for them to participate in ORMS. I think ORMS is going to be on the mountain twenty weekends this year and some members will only be on the mountain for a small number of those weekends. There is a link to the ORMS website on the top right side of this blog. Based on your interest I would encourage you to contact ORMS and see if it does not make sense to join and help in anyway that you can. I will be doing either a PATC Trailpatrol or an ORMS patrol on almost every weekend. Your always welcome to either arrange to meet me or just introduce yourself on the trail and I would be glad to share my patrol or just a part of my patrol with you. I am qualified to provide PATC Trail Patrol training for all its training requirements except CPR and Wilderness First Aid. (I need warning so I can prep if I am going to do this.) I can do informal introductions/mentoring about what ORMS does but you would need to coordinate with different ORMS members to get any official training. Also my email is if that is a better way to communicate for you.

  7. Oh I forgot to add that the invitation can include your 4 yr old son or any other members of your group.