Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday After Thanksgiving

Sunday November 29, 2009

Warm clear weather changing to slight overcast with very light sprinkles.

I did not get back from my trip to my parents for Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family until a little after midnight on Saturday. I got a slow start Sunday morning and then I found that I had a flat from a nail induced slow leak. By the time I got the tire repaired it was around 1PM. My oldest daughter Sarah and I were still able to fit in an abbreviated Old Rag trip. We arrived at Old Rag around 3PM so we only hiked to the first false summit where we watched the sun set and then returned under headlamps. Even though not the whole circuit it was still a great trip.

As we were about to start our hike we met a multi-generational (4) family of about 40 folks who said it was their families 43rd annual Thanksgiving weekend family hike of Old Rag. Pretty impressive tradition which started around 1966 when Lyndon Johnson was president.

The moon was bright enough that you could actually walk slowly and carefully without your headlamp. Of course having the leaves off the trees helps a lot with the moonlight.

Sarah checking out one of the remaining charred trees from the forest fire.
A picture of me at the break spot just before the No Camping Beyond This Point sign.

Sarah enjoying the sunset from the first views of the eastern valley. (Double click then click once on the picture for highest resolution.)

A very late dusk picture looking up the Ridge Trail from the first false summit.

Sarah and I on the first false summit just before we started back to the car.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trail Patrol Again Sat. Nov.21, 2009

Trail Patrol Again Sat. Nov.21, 2009

I am back to doing PATC Trail Patrols until sometime next Spring. Because of this I shifted to a little bit later schedule knowing I wanted to do a long slow circuit that landed me on the summit around dark.

I have purposely taken and posted pictures taken from the same spot over the last several weeks so as to provide a reference for the progression of fall color changes. My September 27, 2009 post shows this view of Old Rag in full summer time green and the October 11, 2009 shows this view just as the colors started to change. This one shows it with just about all the leaves off the trees.

I was surprised to find the lower lot was fairly full. At least a tenth of these cars were from two Scout troops that were doing a fairly large day hike and overnight.
Some of the Scouts who had finished their day hike of Old Rag and were picking up their packs before hiking back up the fire road and setting up a campsite along Brokenback Run. For a second weekend in a row the streams were high with lots of cascading water.

Looking back at the first false summit around 17:00. Not much light left. Only saw one party on the mountain after this picture and they had lights. Most were down off Old Rag by 17:30 when lights would have been needed.

Just below the Chute at around 17:00

The Summit at around 18:00. It is amazing how early it becomes dark now. On my way out I spoke to a nice group of campers at Old Rag Shelter. About half way between the metal bridge and upper lot I could see the lights of the boy scout camp site several hundred yards off the road. There was one report of a hiking party late to return from an Old Rag hike but it resolved itself. The litter was not too bad and I did not have any medicals. I did not see any illegal open fires or dogs.
Sunday was my first day in five or six weeks that I did not have a scheduled work or volunteer activity. The downtime was welcomed.
Next week is Thanksgiving and I will be voyaging to Central New York to have dinner with the extended family at my folks home between Cazenovia and Hamilton New York.
The Finger Lakes Trail which did not exist in my youth runs east west just a few miles from my parent's house. The Finger Lakes Trail is part of the longest current hiking trail in the US called the North Country Trail which runs from New York to North Dakota. I find the network of trails being created and maintained by hundreds of passionate local hiking groups amazing. Each stand alone segment is a tremendous resource. String a number of those segments together and before you know it you have a long trail. Then people realize it would be neat to interconnect the long trails and suddenly everyone has a passion to make that interconnection happen.
Link for Finger Lakes Trail:
Link for the North Country Trail:
Link for neat map of many of the US Long Trails:
(Start of Humor Tag)
I used to think that the efforts of all the local trail organizations were spontaneous. Then the Bureau of Land Management took down a web page detailing the many interconnected long trails. I wondered what their motivation was? This caused me to ponder about the fact that the International Appalachian Trail seems to be a well kept secret? Yes and what about all those aliases used by hikers and the fact they are always trying to leave no trace? The interstate highway system funding was partially justified for military logistic reasons maybe the same is true of our national hiking trails system? I bet that just about all military bases as well as any well known non-disclosed locations would be found to lie within a few days hike of one of the existing or planned trails? I bet those seven Leave No Trace principal actually have hidden meanings? My little ember of gnawing suspicion is now growing into an outright bonfire.
(End of Humor Tag)
Of course information about the International Appalachian Trail can easily be found at;
Have a great Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009


Saturday and Sunday, November 14 &15, 2009
ORMS (Old Rag Mountain Steward)
weekend 2009

Great weather on both days but as you can see from this photo the colored leaves are almost all down. The Ridge Trail was very wet because of the tremendous amount of rain from the three days before.

While not overflow level crowds it was still very busy on the mountain this weekend. The next picture was taken during Saturday's preparations. Congratulations to Tony for earning his ORMS shirt.

A look back at the first false summit from near the cave.

A better shot of some hikers leaving the first false summit.

I have been seeing quite a few walking sticks lately.

A shot from the summit looking off towards Skyline Drive. No leaf color in this photo.

Huge apologies to ORMS members including myself for not getting any photos of the following activities from this weekend but I at least want to note them. All of the photos above were from Saturday when we had Jeremy, Ann, Valerie, Tony, Michael, Emily, and myself. We ended up only needing to deal with getting one non-ambulatory hiker off the fire road.
Valerie hosted a wonderful end of season overnight with tremendously good food and drink. Several of the guests brought gourmet dishes to supplement the fare. Imagine that, super Stewards by day gourmet cooks at night. Savory lasagna, soup, basil lemon cake and chocolate (sweet potato) fudge just to mention a few of the cornucopia of culinary delights. There were animated, competitive Scrabble and Phase 10 games played with lots of laughs and I would guess some itching for a rematch.
Sunday was the day of a MEGA Scenario. Chad, Ben, and assorted fruits played victims in the rocks while Andy observed as safety officer and evaluator. Scott, Tony, Valerie, Ann, Michael, Emily, Maria, and myself were severely tested with a loose simulated baby named Melonheart who was crawling around on a ledge 10 feet below a rock high point. A second patient was all broken up on the ledge ten feet below Melonheart and momma Chadlette was hysterically screaming for help before going unconscious from insulin shock.
Lots and lots of lessons learned. Considering our current level of training we did well but there is nothing like a challenging scenario to put a laser focus on things you still need to learn and skills you need to improve.
When dealing with emergency response there can always be a victim/patient that is beyond your ability or resources to save. You can not let perfect be the enemy of good and at the same time you need to guard against harmful unintended consequences.
Training and protocols attempt to carefully think out and provide directions that define what to do in advance of emergencies but it is impossible to even come close to defining everything responders will see. This is especially true when there are multiple injuries in an environment with very limited resources. The individual responders must often rely on their best judgements?
For example, suppose that while sitting on Old Rag Summit you hear about two incidents one being that hikers saw someone take a tumbling slide down the front face of the the first false summit and another that there is an unconscious hiker near the CCC stairs and there is no additional information. Furthermore assume you have only two Stewards and one radio. What is your response plan?
The air over Old Rag hosted a pair of falcons and a two-seater ultra-light.
The sweeps across all the mountain trails found hikers in need of help getting out to their cars but these incidents were fairly simply resolved. Then it was time for pizza.
It was a GREAT 2009 for ORMS. Here's to an even better 2010.
As much as I enjoy my solitary PATC Trail Patrols on Old Rag, I will miss my ORMS weekends. I am already looking forward to the ORMS Wilderness First Aid training at the end of March.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nov 7&8 Crowds, Medical Assists, Training

Saturday and Sunday November 7 and 8, 2009
Great weather both days.

The Old Rag Fee Station's neighbors opened the pasture to aid with overflow parking on both days. Keep in mind they charge for parking and this charge is on top of the park boundary entrance fee so on any day that has the potential to be super busy it is best to plan to bring extra money (at least $10 per car).

Leaves are completely off the trees at the higher elevations. Trees at lower levels still have colored leaves but not for long.

The Stewards meet early in the morning to establish their plan of action

Here is a rare shot of the neighbors pasture open for parking. This is usually only required on two or three days in the fall of the year when all the various factors align to create overflow crowds.
Looking back at the first false summit from just before the cave. (Double click for higher quality).

A couple of new Old Rag Mountain Steward (ORMS) volunteers on the Ridge Trail.
On Saturday there were two different but overlapping medical incidents. It helped that one of the injured parties could cautiously self ambulate. It was determined it would be best to litter the other party down off the mountain. Both responses went smoothly and the individuals where off the mountain long before midnight.
Sunday's Stewards first action item was to carry the SAR equipment and reset supplies up to the SAR cache. After returning the gear we got in lots and lots of great training at Byrds Nest Shelter.

After training everyone headed for the summit. We enjoyed a little summit time before splitting up with some going down the Ridge Trail and some going down the Saddle Trail.
For the next couple of months sunset will be happening between 4:30 and 5:30. Weather can change rapidly on Old Rag. You can be in tee shirt weather one hour and needing to bundle up for freezing rain or snow the next. Keep in mind it can take 2-3 hours to get from the summit to the Nethers parking. Unless you are experienced with hiking in the dark and are well prepared (headlamps, backup lights, warm cloths) you should probably plan on leaving the summit between two and three. If you have a light that needs to be held by hand my recommendation is that you take the Saddle Trail down. The Ridge Trail requires use of both your hands at times. If you accidentally drop your light it could possibly break or fall into the inaccessible void. Add a little cold rain, a slip that results in a twisted ankle, and imagine what a fine mess you'd be in then.

Friday, November 6, 2009


The following link goes to Shenandoah National Park's page offering videos and podcasts:

Lots of great content

The following links take you directly to a great Hiking Old Rag Mountain video they can also be reached indirectly via the link above. :

High Quality 23 MBytes
Low Quality 2.3 MBytes (dial up users)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009
End of Daylight Savings Time
Almost Full Moon, rain turned to partly cloudy.

The next three pictures are of the brand new moldering privy located at Old Rag Shelter or where the ends of the Saddle Trail and Old Rag Fire Road meet. For those who pay attention to such things, it was located outside the Congressional approved wilderness area. A very high percentage of Old Rag acreage is enclosed designated wilderness area. If you are curious these areas are designated on PATC maps. As with all your back country visits it is best if you use toilet paper designed to be biodegradable. This privy is designed so as to create an environment for natural decomposition of human waste. Please follow the instructions posted in the privy and especially do not put anything in the privy that either can not break down like metal, plastic, diapers or glass or might be toxic to the organisms being used to foster decomposition like baby/wet wipes, or perfumed toilet paper.

The following link will take you to the Appalachian Trail Conference's(ATC) Backcountry Sanitation Manual which has a lot of information concerning all the various ways for trail maintainers to manage waste including a lot of information about moldering privies.

However it got here a lot of work and planning went into making it happen.

I was told and believed it was assembled off-site and delivered by helicopter. Repeating this story to my weekend companions I was told that I was most likely the victim of a favorite hiking pastime in which naive folks are told creative tales. Clearly a helicopter lift would never have been approved because of the associated noise pollution. With the Weakley Hollow Ice Road not being available for a couple of months the privy was most likely delievered; silently by para-glider or by the Nethers 20 mule team.

Please follow the instructions posted on the privy.

Because of the rain there were probably only about 50 hikers on the mountain today. Last Sunday we had close to 2,000. Because of the light crowds we decided to do some extensive first response training. The following pictures show us neatly putting the equipment away after several hours of practice. The Shenandoah Mountain Guides are great at coming up with pertinent but challenging scenarios. On this day Jeremy invented a great scenario and Ann, Bob, Scott and Tony got in some good hands on practice and learning time.

For ORMS members and anyone interested in learning/practicing knots the following is a good resource: