Monday, August 31, 2009

Sat/Sun August 29/30 2009


A busy upper lot just before the start of my Saturday circuit of Old Rag.
Turned out to be a pretty day.

Nice clouds.

The upper Ridge Trail had some pretty flowers. This is a great shot of the species but truth be told I took this picture on a back-road near Woodville on my way to Old Rag. I believe this is Giant Sunflower.

Earlier I had said that I believed that flowers contained in these two pictures were the same species. I believe I was wrong. I think that the flower above is a Giant Sunflower and the one below is a Woodland Sunflower. The flowers look very similar but the one above was growing over ten foot tall in a road side pasture the the one below was under a sparse tree cover and was only about 2-3 foot tall. The following shot was taken just below the Skyline Wall on the upper Ridge Trail. While not as prolific as the riot of flowers on the Giant Sunflower plants there were several hundred of these flowers along one fifty foot section of the trail.

These little tiny ants were having a feast on a dropped Goldfish cracker.

Sunset from the summit of Old Rag.

OOPS in the picture below it would seem a Girl Scout must have missed the Leave No Trace lessons. Her mirror case and lots of little broken pieces of mirror were litter items I picked up off the trail. Actually the individual who dropped this item was probably not aware that it had been dropped. Subsequent individuals who saw it and or stepped on it probably should have picked it up.
Even rabid practitioners of LNT make mistakes. Often they are individually unaware of their mistake. At other times there is a collective unconsciousness that their current behavior is unethical. For example, were the first climbers up Everest doing anything unethical when they left empty oxygen bottles or even dead companions high on Everest? Today, climbers of Everest are judged with a different standard. Twenty years from now the standard will be different than today's. Do you consider the early human artifacts left on the Moon or Mars unethical behaviour? Yet there will most likely come a time when it will be considered inappropriate to just willy nilly leave junked space vehicles on the Moon or Mars.
It is not unusual for individuals new to the outdoors to either not understand or not be good at practicing proper outdoor ethics. Yet with time, these novices will often turn out to be the best practitioners and strongest advocates of outdoor ethics.
We all continuously impact the resources we cherish. The most we can hope for is to lessen the amount of that continuous impact and to make sure that the benefits received warrant the cost. Starting a forty acre wildfire deep in the Alaskan wilds may be appropriate if it is the only way to save a human life. With hind sight would it not have been better to clear cut Mt St.Helens before it disappeared? Despite my good intentions this blog will have unintended negative consequences for Old Rag. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? There are an infinite number of grey scale variables to be weighed. I have come to the conclusion that it is usually best not to get too judgemental of your own or others decisions/actions related to these complicated questions.
Before finally getting to the picture below, it should be said that I believe that despite the many mistakes made by inexperienced scouts and their volunteer leaders, that in the end the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts organizations and their members provide overwhelming good toward the advancement of outdoor ethics.
On my way out in the dark under headlamp I encountered a very pretty young Copperhead crossing the Saddle Trail. When I first came upon him he was sitting on top of this rock right in the middle of the trail. By the time I got my camera out he had slipped behind the rock. Double click picture to zoom in and see his little head peaking up.

A better head shot after he moved on up the bank on the side of the trail.

You are a good looking little guy. Glad I did not step on you. Bye, bye so long farewell.

Sunday August 30, 2009

I only did an up and back to the first false summit. Looking up the rock scramble just before sunset.

Some pretty orange mushrooms spotted on the way out. This orange reminds me the Old Rag Mountain Stewards will be on the mountain next weekend wearing their orange tee shirts with the Old Rag Trillium blaze. You can obtain one of these tee shirts by joining the Old Rag Mountain Stewards.

Sunset from near the no camping sign on the Ridge Trail.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Saturday&Sunday August 22,&23 2009


Looking at Old Rag Summit from first false summit and start of rock scramble.

Looking towards Etlan from the first false summit.

After Saturday's rain mushrooms were popping up on the forest floor.
AMANITA mushroom

Started fairly late on both days. I was still recovering from the trip to attend my uncles funeral. On Saturday it started raining just before I arrived at the fee station. Because of the rain I decided to hike up the Ridge trail until I met a downward party whom seemed confident that the Ridge trail was clear of hikers. About halfway through the switchbacks I met three hikers who said that they were pretty sure there were no parties behind them but several heading up who had all said they were doing the circuit and would be going down the Saddle Trail and fire roads. I turned around at this point and went back to the upper parking lot and hiked up the fire road to the fire road junction. Those coming out said all seemed fine.

I was still tired so I decided to head up the Ridge Trail with the thought of doing the circuit but by the time I reached the first false summit and start of the rock scramble it was fairly late and I just did not feel up to pushing on. I hung out at the start of the rock scramble and watched a few parties come down. The last group said that the Ridge Trail was clear when they came down. The parties they had seen on the summit were all going down the Saddle Trail and fire roads. I returned to the upper parking lot where I saw the last hikers to pass me going up the Ridge Trail coming out on the fire road. Typical advice given, some liter picked up, no emergencies or medicals.

Robert Britland Taylor, Jr. 11-21-1931 08-14-2009

In memorium and celebration of the life of my uncle Robert Britland Taylor, Jr. November 21, 1931 - August 14, 2009.

Drove to Milford Massachusetts for my uncle's funeral. Robert Britland Taylor, Jr. was a my mother's oldest brother. He grew up in a modest home in Milford Massachusetts with his parents and eight brothers and sisters. He lived his whole life near his home and Trinity Epsicopal Church was the site of his baptism, confirmation, marriage and funeral. He enjoyed and was very good at singing, cooking and loved entertaining his friends and family. He was one of those individuals with huge hearts hidden behind a serious demeanor. He was a man of tremendous strength who demanded responsibility and participation of himself and those around him. While on the surface he was all business once you got to know him you realized he had a heart as big as all outdoors and that despite his discipline he liked to enjoy life. He fought for his country, was a retired Chief of Police of Hopdale Massachusetts, owned operated or helped with a couple of restaurants, and even in retirement worked as a truck driver. Thursday and Friday consisted of driving to Milford Massachuesetts, calling hours, visiting with relatives, funeral, reception, and driving back to Woodbridge Virginia.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Saturday August 15, 2009

Nice hot but not too hot day. Mat, Mark and myself did a meet the Trail Patrol hike.

Mat and Mark at the beginning of the first false summit.

Photostich sometimes does some strange things.
One of the Old Rag Dogs in the middle of extreme rest.
Another Old Rag Dog hanging out and getting lots of attention from hikers who think they are lost or abandoned and probably going to die. These dogs live across from the lower lot and just decide to go walk about. I have seen them go up and down the trail two or three times in a day although those are usually cooler days.

Some call this Whale rock and I call it Atlas rock because people like to pose for pictures that make it look like they are holding it up. The other party that arrived as we got ready to move up the trail took the classic hold up the rock picture.
While not long Mat and Mark got to experience a little bit of a line at the Chute.

We had to render a little aid to a hike whose shoes both blew out. A little bit of duct tape allowed him to keep his soles from flapping completly off his boots
Great hike. Gave out the typical assistance in the form of time and distance, dog explanations, and asking people to be careful not to break themselves. No fire rings and only light amounts of litter. No medical assistance needed.
Great day on the mountain.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Injured Leg Helicopter Rescue

Injured Hiker on Old Rag Rescued By Helicopter

Watch the video here:

Well it looks like they are willing to use the helicopter for more than just time critical injuries but do not count on it. A liter carry from remote parts of Old Rag can take 10-15 hours from time of injury.

A hiker was air-rescued from Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park Tuesday August 11, 2009. The injured hiker, a 34-year-old Pennsylvania man, fell off a boulder while hiking by himself on Old Rag Mountain. He appeared to have fractured his leg during the fall. He had a GPS and his cell phone allowed him to call for help. Be aware that cell phone reception is very spotty to non-existent on Old Rag. Emergency phones are on the side of the fee stations. If you are lucky than one of the volunteer patrolers or back country rangers who cary park radios and have various levels of first aid training will be available to help. I would guess that Old Rag averages less than 3,000 man hours of patrol a year and almost 90 plus percent of these hours are probably concentrated on weekends and 50% are concentrated on the 20 most popular weekends when there are multiple Old Rag Mountain Stewards spread across the mountain at the same time. (Note: There are 8,765.8 hours in a year and around 2,736 hours on weekends and holidays during a year). If you are going to be alone you should at least have someone who can call on your behalf in the event you do not make it home. Of course if you stay near the trail you are pretty assured someone will be coming by eventually (fairly quickly on weekends but not so quickly on a winter weekday). The man gave recuers the GPS coordinates of his location so they didn't have to spend anytime looking for him. If you do not have a GPS but do know a nearby blaze number see picture of one of these on my blog post the park communications center can translate it to GPS coordinates. Two medics and a pilot with the U.S. Park Police's aviation section lifted the hiker to safety.

Monday, August 10, 2009


On Saturday, August 8, 2009 I arrived in the late afternoon so I only went up the Ridge Trail to the first false summit. Sunday, August 9, 2009 my disk was acting up so I decided to do an up and back to the Summit on the fire roads and Saddle trail. While enjoyable hikes both were very hot and humid. On Sunday the fee station thermometer was just below 100 degrees and the Old Rag dogs were hanging in the lot and not hiking the mountain. Nothing significant to report from a trail patrol standpoint. While the hikers were clearly feeling the heat all seemed to be doing okay and the crowds were relatively light.

Looking towards Mt Robertson from the view point just above the CCC stairs on the Saddle Trail.
Brokenback Run and the metal bridge on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009 Great Summer Day

Partly cloudy, very humid. mid eighties on the mountain, nineties at the fee station. One of those days that when the air got saturated with humidity as evening grew cooler.

Country Roads
Got to the fee station about 10 minutes before it closed. I had done some sightseeing on the way out by using some of Virginia's back country roads. I plan on taking the roads less traveled to get to Old Rag more often in the future in order to get a better feel for the countryside between Woodbridge and Old Rag.

Relatively quiet day. Seemed like about 150 cars in the lower lot. In the upper lot I met a hiker coming down the fire road who had started early in the morning and had already done (if memory serves Stony Man and Robertson). His plan was to finish with the Old Rag circuit for a total of 17 miles and over 5,000 feet of vertical. Since he was already a little spent he decided to stay with me. Of course I hike extremely slowly with lots of breaks since my main goal is to reach the summit around the end of the day. My goal is to maximize the amount of time I spend on the mountain. Being a NASA contractor and a good conversationalist my impromtu hiking partner was great company.

I did not have to pick up much liter. I had to break up a fire ring for the second weekend in a row. No medicals and the typical advise was dispensed.

The Wily Old Rag Dogs Got Loose And Went Walk About
I and the fee station rangers had a warning that all three Old Rag dogs who live at home down near the lower lot had gotten loose. The dogs were a popular discussion topic with hiking groups on the mountain this day. Hikers are often concerned for the dogs welfare. The dogs sometimes compound this since they have learned that looking tired, hungry, and thirsty elicits treats. One group was bringing one of the dogs down on a make shift lead. He had a sore on his flank which his owner had warned me about. His owner is treating this with iodine. The hiking group was very concerned but relieved to learn the whole story and to know that they could let him go once they reached the parking lot. Daisy was hanging out under a bunch of rocks just before the rock scramble. As we approached her she barked and growled very loudly. I know she is shy and I bet someone had thought they needed to try and pick her up over some of the rocks. From my encounters with her having anyone try to grab her while she was cornered in the rocks would have greatly agitated her. She let me coax her out from under the rocks to within about five feet of me and at which point she lay down but she would not let me get any closer. She appeared fine. I have never figured out how the dogs get down from some of the trickier places I have seen them get to but they always seem to get down with or without help.

No medicals or separated parties. No rock climbers seen.

Photos offer higher resolution if double clicked.

My climbing companion for most the day.

Looking down the Ridge Trail from the Summit. (stitched from four shots)
Looking West from the summit. (stitched from three shots)

The picture below is an Old Rag deer near the fire road junction.
My Lyme Encounter
While they certainly feed the tick population, deer are not carriers of Lyme. It is the rodents which are the reservoir for Lyme.
I am learning a lot more about ticks and the diseases they vector since I had what appeared to be a tick byte and a large rash on my back. Not a bulls eye rash but it turns out some people who get Lyme doe not ever have a rash and of those that have rashes many are not the classic bulls eye rash. I got this byte and rash even though I take precautions and use Deet on my skin and Permithrin on my clothes.
Just to be cautious I am on 20 days of Doxy. I am probably being a hypochondriac but have had plenty of what might be Herx reactions so am wondering if I may have also been carrying a stealth infection. I guess I will just have to watch myself over the coming months. My problem is I will not know if my symptoms are just due to old age or if they may be the result of a low level stealth infection. I wish they had a good test which could actually tell you for sure if your body was clear of infection. I understand they are working on one.

Yet another great Old Rag day.