Sunday, December 26, 2010


OLD RAG SEASON'S GREETINGS 2010Music and Lights At Bottom Of Post

Not many cars in the parking lot

No snow in this picture but the summit had fairly heavy flurries and constant 30 MPH winds with an occasional gust that may have been 40 plus MPH. I was happy with the wind but not enough snow and the temps were unfortunately above zero probably in the low 20's. It still qualified as a Winter Wonderland though.

The first and last of the videos below are a 2010 Holiday Greeting from Byrd's Nest Shelter and the middle video shows a few seconds of the 30MPH winds found on the summit the afternoon after Christmas.
Even with the snow, cold and high winds the Old Rag ravens were acrobatically playing in the summit winds. It is a lot of fun to watch these noble creatures. I am humbled by their ability to survive and play in such harsh conditions.
My fingers got a little frost nipped just during the two minutes I had my gloves off in order to fuss around with the camera. Parts of my face got a little frost nipped as well. If this keeps up I will need to find my old face mask or use this opportunity to shop for a new improved face mask.

Having frost nipped fingers brought back memories of working on tractors and snow removal equipment in near zero weather. You would optimize everything so as to get as much done with your gloves off as you could. Once the gloves came off you would do as much as you could until your hands could not take the cold anymore and than you would spend five minutes warming them under your upper arms or between your legs before continuing with the repair. You would repeat this painful process until the repair was done.
It was while driving tractors out in very cold windy weather that I learned how to steer using my legs so I could periodically warm my hands under my upper arms. While you can not take sharp turns it is amazing how long you can drive a slow moving tractor without needing the assitance of your arms.
Safety Notes:
Always keep safety in mind. With a lot of stuff I post please keep the "Do not try this at home." warning in mind. Being a long ways from a heated house or car in harsh winter conditions is a mortally dangerous place for the unprepared if the wrong cascade of unlucky events happens.
Even with hands firmly at 10 and 2, hurtling down the road at 55 plus miles per hour can often be the most dangerous thing we do on our outdoor forays.

Background music played on an I-Phone with songs sung by Perry Como and Andy Williams.
The lights are from a Rave light show house.

I also bought 30 sparklers hoping they might be allowed in the park (since they are allowed in Virginia) but...... SPARKLERS and other FIREWORKS are not allowed in the SNP.
I was happy the way the RAVE LED LIGHTS worked out and my little niece and nephew are happy that they got to use the sparklers in their back yard while their parents, grandparents, uncle, cat, dog and backyard wildlife looked on.
While the music on these videos is direct from my I Phone speakers I have been having a blast with my new noise cancellation studio headphones that I have been using with my I Phone. I originally got the headphones so I could have my own music mix for my skating work outs. They are great for this because if you wear them over your ears they silence the rink's music but it turns out that if I wear them around my neck (not over my ears) while hiking I can still hear nature's sounds and the music at the same time. One of the nice things about winter with its noisy winds and lack of hikers is that I can sing along and not worry about disturbing others peace.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Saturday December 18, 2010

Saturday was overcast, temps in the 20's and no precipitation. I cut my Saturday short and did not go Sunday so that I could bake for and then attend a cookie swapping party.

This will be the first time making and baking cookies for me. I am reminded that during my teens the younger Gilmore brothers nicknamed me Cookie Monster. Not exactly sure where the nickname came from but it seemed to stick for a few years.

As I sit here writing and waiting for my next batch of cookies to finish there is a wonderful blue sky here in Woodbridge Virginia and I have a strong desire to be out on Old Rag working on one of my Old Rag winter project lists. Top on the list is mapping where I get cell phone reception and where I do not. I will share this information on a future blog once I have a chance to collect it and double check.

The next shot is taken from the spot near the winery that I take pictures to compare seasonal changes. The amount of snow is the obvious change for this week.

The parking lot had more cars than last week. It is getting into that time of year when you probably want to have a shovel in your car just in case you need to shovel a parking space. It is always a good habit to park your car facing out and downhill. This way your battery is easily accessible and you are less likely to be blocked in by cars who park after you.

Here is a shot of the large blowdown from two weeks ago. It was fixed last week but I am just getting a shot of it this week.

The Weakley Hollow Fire Road had about an inch of snow. If you had cross country skis you probably could have skied on it if you were willing to scrape over a rock now and again.
Wilderness First Aid Not Just Useful On The Mountain
My WFA training has been coming in handy at the skating rink the last couple of days. There was a twenty year old young man who fell and badly injured his shoulder two days ago. Then last night there was a another young male who fell and really bonked his left temple area. He suffered about a three minute loss of consciousness, was dazed and could not find his feet or understand who, what, where or when for about ten minutes. There were no signs of clear fluid in his ears or noise. After about fifteen minutes his orientation had came back and he started developing a large bump on the side of his head. The big bad symptom was that his left eye was unilaterally fixed and dilated. I and the rink management both suggested that 911 be called but his party insisted on self transport to the Reston hospital ER which was only about a mile away. Just before they were about to leave I overheard their conversation which indicated they might be considering blowing off the trip to the hospital. I had to step in and try and impress them that it was really important for them to have their friend looked at by doctors at the ER as soon as possible. In my opinion the amount of time he had loss of consciousness warranted an ER visit without any additional symptoms but I told his party that the unilateral blown left eye was a huge concern and required prompt diagnosis at the ER. I hope they took my advice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Surfing the Artic Fun Pushing The Envelope

Surfing The Artic Fun Pushing The Envelope

The old link that used to be on this page was on Carbon Leaf's site and included their music in the background but they have taken down their post so I posted the above new link. If you had visited the old post and like the music check out Carbon Leaf.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Snow

My first snow on Old Rag. Of course I had to do a little first snow jig. Having my studio headphones and some awesome music along helped.

Rain in the lower elevations that changed to snow, wind, and temps in the high 20's as you got higher on the mountain. While I had my microspikes with me the ice was not quite bad enough to warrant putting them on but I did have to be careful about foot placements.

Zero avalanche danger. Unlike places as close as the DAKS or Whites or many of the mountains just a quick plane ride away you will probably not need any knowledge about avalanche safety on Old Rag until the approach of the next ice age.

Not a very busy day on the mountain.

I made sure this leftover fire would be safe at Byrds Nest.

It looks like the footers have been put in place for some upcoming remodeling at Byrds Nest.

Looking down towards Weakley Hollow from the first slab above Byrds Nest.

A fairly rare picture of me.

A picture of Rick L.

A video of the winter like conditions on the summit.

Upcoming Solistice Sunsets Getting Later

Overcast and cold (high 20's low 30's) all day. No precipitation through late afternoon. Anita and I had had a leisurely up and back to the first false summit. Had good conversations with the Blue and White crew who took care of a big and small blowdown on the Ridge Trail after doing their earlier work in the Mt Robertson, Corbin Hollow area. Also had a good conversation with Mel Ellis on the way back to the car. I do not know what I was thinking. I should have gotten a picture of the maintenance team for the blog. Oh well I will get a picture of some of the work they did and post it on an upcoming blog. The Blue and White crew are so awesome that even blowdowns three to four feet in diameter are usually removed within a week of when I report them. If you run across them and they are not too busy have them show you some of their tools. They own and use some of the highest quality hand saws and axes that money can buy. I am sure you have seen a super high quality knife that will cut effortless through a sheet of paper well this team has an ax that can do that.

Evidently this was one of those days when Skyline Drive was closed and we received some of its refugees who decided that if they could not do the hike they planned off of Skyline Drive that Old Rag was a good alternative.

Either lady luck or some supreme power decided to return a name tag that had become separated from me during an earlier trip. It had been hiding in the leaves in Mel's ditch until he had decided to clean his ditches on this day. What a quirky set of coincidences.

Unlike my usual trail food, Anita treated me to some good sandwiches on the first false summit.

If you are a friendly reassuring presence and get into friendly conversations with folks it is amazing how much information you gain about the goings on across the whole mountain without needing to be physically all places at once. A lot of parties that I catch up to later in the day are amazed that I know about an earlier part of their hike. "Heard you banged your knee in the Chute this morning" Incredulous hiker "How did you know that?" me in answer "Oh the hiking party just behind you. You know the three older gentleman one of whom had that funny stocking cap on told me all about it."

On this Saturday there were a number of the classic Scout Troops either doing day hikes or overnights. It is a lot of fun seeing the youngest troop members who are doing their first hike on Old Rag and perhaps getting their first exposure to a rock scramble and some cold weather camping. For many, Old Rag will be where they first caught the outdoor mountain adventure bug.


Hey for those who like to follow Helios and his steads this is a fun time of year. The earliest sunset of the year is already behind us. From this point on the sunsets will be a little bit later each day. The winter solstice follows around ten days later and the latest sunrise for the year will follow about ten days after the winter solstice. You might think they would all occur on the solstice but because of the interplay of a couple of different celestial motions they are spread out the way they are. If you are interested in a more detailed explanation that might make your head hurt a little check out the following links:

Friday, December 10, 2010



Hey folks responsible risk is one of those subjects where differing opinions abound. We as a society decided to collectively work to send humans to the moon. Many would argue that this was a terrible decision based on the risk and cost.

Winter conditions are with us and this requires us all to have a much more sober approach to our back country activities.

Around here winter means it is off-season for the park's staffs. Area parks have at best extremely reduced staffing levels.

A back country camping site that is a football field distance from a fire road or Skyline Drive can suddenly have its shortest approach be miles away from the park boundary after an overnight ice or snowstorm closes Skyline Drive to traffic.

During winter it is a good mental exercise to do your risk reward safety planning as though you or your party can only depend on friends and family for rescue. Is what you are doing worth doing if in an emergency friends or family would have to drive from home, tromp into the back country and get you out? If the answer is no than it is time to rethink your plans. Whether it is good Samaritans, volunteer SAR organizations, or professional responders, winter conditions mean emergency responses will require substantially greater effort and risk and the availability of far fewer resources. If you would not expect your loved ones to rescue you then you should not expect complete strangers to. In reality they will but it is not responsible for you to make plans with that expectation.

During the winter the number of good Samaritan's who might just luckily cross your path is going to drop by as much as a factor of one hundred.

Your time distance equations need to be drastically rethought. That half hour stroll on the fire road in the summer may be a two hour herculean struggle in waist deep snow.

It should always be a part of your routine to have thought through your emergency planning. This is particularly true in the winter. Safety margins are critical. Cold can be a very stealthy but lethal danger. As long as you are walking your exertion furnace can keep you warm but what would happen if you suddenly could not walk had to wait over night for help and the temperature dropped another fifteen degrees?

How about this mental exercise. With what you are about to wear and carry on your day hike could you sit under your fully running shower at home for fifteen minutes then walk out into your back yard and either make yourself comfortable or at least survive for 24 hours?

If you are from snow country and new to this area please realize that six inches of snow here will mean almost nothing will be able to move on the roads for a day. Two feet of new snow and it will be days before the roads are open. Residents do not routinely own snowmobiles so snow bound roads mean no one is going anywhere. I would not be surprised to learn that in the whole city of Washington DC there is not one snowmobile available within the emergency service departments.

I can go on but I think you get the idea.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010



At least for the immediate future it has been determined too dangerous for me to patrol for the organizations that I normally volunteer for.

Of course I will still be hiking and having fun on Old Rag and blogging about it.

I will just be doing it as a regular citizen/hiker.

My personal agenda will still include:

1) providing helpful advice to hikers,
2) being a good Samaritan,
3) educating folks about resource protection issues,
4) educating folks about cultural history issues,
5) providing helpful hints about Old Rag and outdoor skills,
6) sending personal e-mails (not Trail Patrol reports) concerning trail conditions

Once it is considered safe for me to officially patrol again I will do so.

In the meantime this is just a post to make it clear to everyone that my activities on Old Rag for the immediate future have no official volunteer organization imprimatur.

I am still processing a gazillion (not necessarily mature) emotions on this one:
1) I never liked filling out all those reports.
2) I guesss its just me, you, and nature JR.
3) You can not reach me so I will have to call you when I can.
4) No radio--three pounds saved more privacy less noise.
5) Finally I will have some better fashion options for hiking.
6) Yee Haa! I no longer need to keep close track of when it gets dark and I can enjoy the stars and moon on dark sacred nights.
7) Five feet of new powder. Minus 25F. 30MPH Winds. White Out. Come On Real Winter Of My Youth Visit The South And Lets Have Fun Dancing Like We Used To!
8) I bet there are some good spots for grain shovel or toboggan races if some of these slabs get enough snow!
9) "Do you ever feel already buried deep, six feet under screams and no one seems to hear a just got to ignite the light and let it shine just own the night like the Fourth of July...........Boom Boom Boom even brighter than the Moon Moon Moon" Katy Perry Firework

The SNP truly has to be very concerned about the risk that a volunteer takes on under its official imprimatur so I know this decision makes absolute organizational sense.

On some levels this is no different than when you have a friend who decides that an activity is not their cup of tea. Each organization and each individual needs to make decisions about what is fun, worthwhile, and or safe based on a very complicated set of things that are unique to them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

PATC 1on1 Training

Sunday December 6, 2010


The high mountains had a light dusting of snow and the temperatures where in the 20's with a fairly good breeze blowing most the day. If you zoom in on this shot you will see a few signs of snow high on Old Rag.

This is a picture at the end of the day of One-On-One training for PATC TP (Trail Patrol). During training there is a lot of sitting around talking so your exertion furnace gets turned off a lot and you can get pretty chilled. The good news was the student already had many years of Forest Service training and could have easily taught an advanced version of the class. Training was mostly given to go over PATC TP history, paperwork and culture.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sarah Skating & Short Day

Saturday December 4, 2010

Managed to get a couple hours of intense skating training in Friday night. Even though I was able to push it to the limit my limit at the moment is probably at 30% of peak capacity so I have my work cut out for me to get back at least into good shape for my age.

My oldest is an Olympic hopefull speed skater, is damn good on hockey skates and competed as a figure and ice dancer until she was ten when soccer(one year George Mason), distance running (medaled as a Junior Olympian) and american football(high school varsity boys starter all four years of high school) took over her sports focus. Her ability to oxygenate (VO2max) has been scientifically measured by numerous of her various sports trainers (rowing, running, swimming, cycling) and it is up there near record levels. Her resting heart rate is around 40.

In any case, her old man at least likes to be able to keep up with her for a few laps as we laughingly dance and weave dangerously close through each others skate lanes and maybe even jostle each other a little before I have to collapse from lack of oxygen and she sails on for another forty or sixty laps. I will be elated if instead of three laps I can get it up to ten or twelve before I have to collapse. (Of course this will mean I will have to be in better cardio shape than probably 98% of twenty year olds and may be beyond my reach at 56.)

Since I had put in such a hard workout and got home about 11:30 the night before I decided to sleep in late and just do a slow amble up to the first false summit and back.

The next picture is of a major blowdown and is posted for trail maintainers. The notebook on blowdown is shirt pocket size.

It was a little chilly and overcast.

Here is the classic picture looking up the rock scramble from the first false summit.

This picture was taken so as to show the beginnings of some of the mountain's ice flows for those interested in that type of thing.

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 28, 2010 End Of Fall For The Park Staff

Sunday November 28, 2010

This was the last day of 2010 that the SNP staff will be working the boundary stations. I am already looking forward to the first day they are back in the Spring.

The leaves are completely off the trees and everything felt very grey. Because of the open canopy I was able to see three Pileated Woodpeckers in the middle of the Ridge Trail switchbacks. Seeing Pileated Woodpeckers is one of the pluses of the winter months. These birds have a very distintive call which can be heard on the Cornell site provided below:

The next two pictures are of a couple of the SNP employees about an hour before they would be closing up for the day and the year.

The drive back from my parents in Cazenovia/Erieville NY had me getting home to Woodbridge VA pretty late so I slept in and arrived at the mountain around 1PM. This is pretty late considering how early it gets dark these days. Not only that but between visiting with the SNP staff and using quite a bit of time to unpack and repack my pack in the upper lot I did not start up the Ridge Trail until around 2PM.

It was clear but below freezing on the mountain. Lots of hoar frost and ice flowers in the switchbacks on the Ridge Trail. At this time of year the sun is so low in the sky that the shadows are long even at noon.

Looking up the rock scramble from the slab with the first good views of Etlan.

Looking back at the first false summit.

Looking down at the first false summit from just above the Chute.

Looking out at Etlan from the slab above the Chute.

Twilight from the summit. The air was crisp but calm. About thirty degrees Farenheit and no wind.

At the Byrds Nest Shelter two very friendly hikers were preparing dinner. They shared their fire and some good conversation for about a half hour.
At the beginning of the day I was in the upper parking lot for about forty minutes. As I prepared my pack for the day I saw about 60 hikers come through. Once I hit the Ridge Trail I only saw about 30 additional hikers all day. Quite a change from the multiple hundreds of just a few weeks ago.

There is a section of the Saddle trail just after the first switch back below the Byrds Nest shelter where it is not unusual for a couple hundred feet of the trail to be completely coated with several inches of ice. This ice has started to form. It is still very small and easy to navigate around as seen in the next picture.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quixotic Cosmos

Just an FYI for my readers. A while back I spoke of an AHA moment to create at least one sister blog to deal with subject matter that while related was at best an awkward fit for Old Rag Patrols. Well......I started my first satellite sister blog,

Quixotic Cosmos
Mirthful Musings on Confused Enlightmentment

By the way Trebor Kool spelled backwards is Robert Look.

It will be a fun place for me to explore creative, aesthetic, epistomological, existential and theological thoughts.

There is link for it on the Old Rag Patrols' blog list and in turn a link on Quixotic Cosmos for Old Rag Patrols.

Sunday November 21, 2010

The following is the shot from near the Sharp Rock Vineyard that I post for folks to get a sense of seasonal conditions on the mountain.
The next couple of pictures are of the first false summit in the sun.

Unlike Saturday there was not a huge crowd. The parking lot was only two thirds full and at 11AM more overnight camping groups from Saturday seemed to be spilling out of the backcountry then there were day hikers heading in.
My extremely slow journey with lots of long breaks 4-5 hours from upper lot to summit had me looking down at the first half of the rock scramble from the top of the chute around 4PM. The chute was empty of upward bound hikers so I decided to amble to the summit to catch the sunset and moonrise.
While on the summit a frantic hiker approached and said that while he and his girlfriend were hiking down the rock scramble she slipped and fell and they thought she may have broken her leg. Off we went to do an assessment. Upon examination, it was discovered that she could slightly weight her injury. With the help of a couple of hiking poles and bandage wrap she could slowly move on her own power. Our group decided not to go down through the rock scramble. We headed back up over the summit and out down the Saddle trail. It was determined that a Park Law Enforcement Ranger would be available to give her a ride from Old Rag Shelter back to her car. Folks do not assume this will be possible. If there is something more significant than your injury going on in the park you will need to either wait for resources to become available or get yourself out under your own power.
It was interesting that as we were heading up towards the summit a group of around 40 headlamped hikers out for a moonlight stroll passed.
No ice on the trail this weekend but you should plan on that starting to happen any day now. The chute is an interesting problem when it is wet and even more intereting when it is coated in ice.
Another highlight of the day was coming across a bunch of my ORMS buddies who had been out doing some filming and climbing. I agreed I would look for them at Rudy's after I got the patient out.
Upon getting the patient out I learned that their cars gas tank was on empty and they needed to know where the nearest open gas station was. Folks during the day the nearest gas station can be twenty miles away. If it is late at night it may be 30 miles away. I agreed to shadow their car to the nearest gas station in case they ran completely out before gettting there.
After making sure they got gas I was able to join my friends at Rudy's for two slices and a beer before heading home.
Think through your layered clothing system so that you can be in a short sleeves during the warm or heavy exertions parts of your day and all bundled up toasty warm on a cold windy summit. Keep in mind that an injury which prevents you from walking under your own power may mean that it will be hours before any help arrives. Are you and your party prepared to stay warm just sitting still on the trail possibly past dark while you wait for help?
It is best to think of Old Rag as a self rescue zone because unless you are willing to wait the two to four hours it may take for significant help to arrive on scene self rescue will be your option.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday 11/20/2010 HUGE CROWD

Huge crowd overflowing lot. Long shadows of late afternoon. Even at noon the sun is low in the sky.

Anywhere else a great sunset but on Old Rag it was in the lower 25%.
On the other hand the full moon was wonderful. Strong sharp distinct dark moon shadows. Since I no longer need worry about snakes I walked the whole way out under just moonlight. It was serene.

The moon and lights of Culpepper from the summit.

Wonderful day lots and lots of backcountry camp sites spotted off in the woods along my hike out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday 14, 2010 ORMS FUN DAY

SUNDAY 11/14/2010

The next five pictures are from Steward Kristan

The next four pictures are from Steward Karen

From the summit looking towards Graves Mountain

Saturn and the Moon from the summit.

The following two pictures are from Steward Dwayne

I heard designs on a reality show WOMEN OF OLD RAG personally I think Andy's Angles would work better.

Another great Old Rag sunset.


The soul of a great route. Alpine Journal's publishers would never agree but I think this one should be in the next edition.

Check out Old Rag Mountain Steward's, Silver Spring Wanderer's, Horizontal Tread's, and Shenandoah Mountain Guides' blogs for even more great pictures and text about the weekend.

Today was an ORMS Fun Day. A reward for all our hours of service on the mountain.

(SHHH! don't tell but our hours of service are usually fun too.)

Like all kids, young and old, we wanted it all. On this day we had a HUGE agenda planned. Well we only got through the first part of the agenda but it was FUN!!! Just the first part of the agenda took us past nightfall. We are hoping to get the rest of the agenda done at some future date.





Note: "OUR" is an interesting word, it can reflect a person(s) claim to an object but it can also indicate an objects claim on a person(s). In this case I use the word to indicate the later. Like all of the National Parks, Old Rag is yours too.

For me, the day's kick-off theme song was:

I'M COMING OUT by Diane Ross and The Supremes
It had been a long time since I had listened to this song but it is an awesome upbeat piece of music.

I took the liberty to write a verse that reflects the day's CELEBRATION OF ADVENTURE .

We’re coming out
We want the world to know
Got to let it show
We’re coming out
We want the world to know
We got to let it show
The time has come for us
To break out of the shell
That We’re coming out .
We’ve got to show the world
All that we wanna be
And all our billities
Ther's so much more to us
Somehow, we have to make them
Just understand
We got it well in hand
And, oh, how we've planned
We’re spreadin' love
There's no need to fear
And we just feel so glad
Everytime we hear:
We’re coming out.

We are always looking for new friends to join our fun and noble cause. Come out with us. If you're interested contact the head of the Old Rag Mountain Stewards, Andy Nichols.

Note: There is a link for the Old Rag Mountain Steward Blog on the right side of my blog. Just go to the web site and follow the links to communicate directly with Andy to join us. Spring Training Weekend 2011 will be upon us before you know it.

The part of the agenda we did get done was climbing the first pitches of what I will call the Heddleston-Tooley 2010 ORMS route up the western slabs of Old Rag. Check out the pictures of a few of the pitches. Many thanks to Chad, Jeremy and anyone else who had a hand in designing this wonderful route and the day's adventure. Chad and Jeremy along with Ben's help put in a very artful day of setting and removing fixed lines while guiding/teaching/training/ their nine ORMS friends how to self belay or ascend on the fixed lines.

Starting on Middle Sunset ledge. We went past Frigid Air (Trad 5.8) and then down around and over to:

Once a long time ago Old Rag was 30,000 feet tall. At around 1.3 Billion years of age its pretty short now but it is still a real mountain.

A class five move and arguably the crux of the days climb.

Arriving on Old Rag Summit after dark (with some rain it could have been an epic) we put in a quick call to Rudy's to make sure our pizza's would be waiting.


Rudy's is a great hiker friendly pizzeria just a short block from Route 211 in the center of downtown Sperryville. For the B&B or wine tasting crowd the following link should provide some ideas. If you are both a very busy professional short on time and a hiker/adventure seeker/ nature lover/ climber of any skill level, staying at a great B&B and hiring the Shenandoah Mountain Guides to put together a personally tailored day in the mountains is a high powered way to a great experience.

At Rudy's Jesse performed an acrobatic move in order to get the day's whole band of explorers on film.
Post Script
One of the day's highlights was watching falcons harass a raven. We feel lucky when we see one falcon on this day there was a flock of free flying falcons.