Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009 Dark Encounter Tales Of Rescue

Pileated Woodpeckers are fairly common on Old Rag. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Pileated_Woodpecker.html They can be a little bit shy of humans though. They like to make long rectangular holes in their search for bugs like the one next to the blue blaze above. Most of their holes are not this big. In fact this one almost looked like the start of a resting or nesting cavity that was never finished. I have seen an old punky thirty foot softwood pine reduced to nothing but a pile of splinters by three Pileated Woodpeckers over the course of a couple of weeks. If the wood is rotten and full of good bugs they can really make the chips fly.

Saturday, February 28, 2009 Rescue Tail and Dark Encounter

It was cool but trail was dry and ice free. On the way up encountered husband of women who had help rescue a hiker who had dislocated his shoulder in the middle of the rock scramble a couple of Sundays before. She had a Rescue Blanket she used to help keep victim warm and she stayed with the victim until they got him off the mountain. Another passing hiker had a cell phone and could call the injury in so responders only took 3 hours to get there. Even with the Rescue Blanket it was a wee bit cold for the victim but all ended well.

Low on the mountain I encountered a young military recruit with a close relative having a kind of get in shape hike before reporting for duty. He was pretty sure he was going to Afghanstan. This is my third encounter of a hiking party consisting of a relative and a recruit sharing an adventure before deployment. I think I would find some strength and peace of mind from having been able to do Old Rag with someone close to me before shipping out.

I did not get to the top of the crux of the rock scramble until it was deep dark. I did not see the alleghany wood rat http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/information/?s=050081 that I had seen the week before but there must be several hundred feet of crevices for him to hide in right in that area. As I usually do, I stopped to look down at the beginning of the rock scramble in order to see if any hikers were coming up. Since it was deep dark I was just telling myself that I was foolish for even looking when what to my wonderous eyes did I see but some lights bobbing over the top of the first false summit and entering the rock scramble. I decided to wait to make sure they got up all right. Being a dark night I thought about hiding up in the little cavern at the end of the crux with my light off and then greeting them with a loud deep bassy WELL HELLO THERE or maybe a FEE FI FO FUM but I realized that would not be a good idea so I gave them plenty of advance warning as they approached from below. It turned out they had no problem getting up through the rock scramble even with two dogs that they had to lift over the vetical parts. We all enjoyed a beutiful veiw of the valley lights at the next false summit. They were planning on camping near Byrds Nest.
Saw another large camping group near the junction of Weakley Fire Road and Corbin Hollow Trail on my way out.
Earlier in the day I saw Jr. and heard reports of a second local dog who looked like him but was older.
As I was approaching the summit it started to sleet a little. The air was cold enough that the top of the deep mud on the Old Rag Fire Road was frozen. The mud underneath was not frozen yet so the crust would sink a little as you walked on it but at least the mud did not suction onto your boats. For those of you who encounter this mud when it is three inches deep (it will suck a low rider shoe right off your foot) take comfort in the knowledge that once you get to the fire road intersection that the Weakley Fire Road will be hard pack.



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