Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another Busy Spring Saturday
Clear and Cool

Before you come to the park please visit the Park's web-site and view some of the very informative pages about how to plan and prepare your visit to the Park. I have a link to the Park's website over on the right side of my blog. If you have pets look for the Park's page all about bringing pets to the Park. If you are going to be backcountry camping look at the Park's pages on camping. Weather forecasts for the Park can be very different than even for towns just a few short miles away because of the elevation. The Park posts weather forecasts for above 2,000 feet on one of its pages. The Park offers all kinds of wonderful interpretation programs. The details of these programs can be found on the Park's website. If you are going up Old Rag you should check out the great podcast the park has about hiking Old Rag on its web site. has a great website reviewing many of the local hiking trails. There is a link to its Old Rag Mountain Hike over in the links section of my blog.

Once again another very busy parking lot.

Forsythia still blooming.

Next two pictures are looking back on the first false summit from below the cave.

If you know where to look you can see a hiker and a pack at the top of the Chute

Looking down towards Etlan.

One of the last snow patches.

Pictures of blowdowns for the trail maintainers.

Another Old Rag summit sunset.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Fever Mid 70s

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pictures offer higher resolution if clicked on.

Lower lot filled to capacity.


I would not want to run the risk that my car could be towed and not where I left it when I finished my hike. Keep in mind cell phones do not generally work in the parking lots. I have no idea what the details are concerning the impound lot but it would not surprise me that it might be miles away, closed at night and accept only cash payments (not many nearby ATMS) to get your car out.

They have recently changed the sign about towing. Check out the picture of the same white sign pictured below on my July 3, 2009 blog entry. It used to say you could not park on pavement or you would be towed and now it just says that you can not park or you will be towed.

Park officials would rather use their time providing hikers friendly outreach and interpretation not dealing with parking infractions.

Of course I understand that you have that special need(s) which requires that you ignore the rules but you will only have yourself to blame if you are towed.

Daffodils were coming up along the road to the trail head.

Skunk cabbage is sprouting up at Bartender's Spring.

Looking up the Ridge Trail from the first false summit.
Some hikers returning down the Ridge Trail rock scramble.

Hikers in the chute.

Looking towards Etlan from just above the chute.

Looking down the Ridge Trail from the summit.

Sunset on Old Rag (Better have headlamps with backups if your watching this.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 Old Rag Dogs

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The dog below is named T-Bone. He lives close to Old Rag Mountain and he went missing two weekends ago. His owner's name is Darrell Clark and he can be reached on 540-987-3103 or 540-987-9110. If you see T-Bone or if you were a hiker who happened to pick him up thinking he was lost or abandoned please call his owner. His owner was planning on getting him ID chipped and or tatooed but because T-Bone was so young he had not quite gotten around to doing it yet.


There are quite a few local dogs that one may see when hiking on Old Rag Mountain. They are not strays and they are not abandoned. They have owners that care a lot about them.
The area around Old Rag has no leash laws and dogs are allowed to roam free as long as they are not getting into any trouble. Many of the local dogs spend most if not all of their time outside and are very comfortable doing so. Like any dog, they might decide to roll in the mud or perfume themselves by rolling on some old rotting carcus. Just because they; look dirty, smell like an old dead animal, are sleeping under some boulder way up on Old Rag or sleeping next too your car at the Old Rag Contact Station (even late at night) it does not mean they are lost or abandoned.

Often their local owners will have put special tags on their collars had them tatooed or ID chipped for easier identification. In some circumstances they may be a hunting dog and have a radio tracking device attached to their collar. Often times they will have special tags with long messages embossed on them about the fact that they are local and know how to find their way home. That said, keep in mind that tags and collars can fall off and the lack of any of these does not mean that they are lost or abandoned.

In the past many of these local dogs have been taken to shelters or turned into the Shenandoah National Park by well meaning hikers thinking they were lost or abandoned when they were neither lost or abandoned. Unless they are clearly badly injured or dead please allow them to find their own way home. If you do take them make sure you put in a report with the Shenandoah National Park so that if they have owners trying to find them they will have a way of contacting you and getting their dogs back.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010 Snow Be Gone




Torrential warm rains and the snow is almost all gone. On Saturday the runoff was so high that the Hughes River was over the top of Nethers Road between Peola Mills and Slate Mills Roads.

The white in the pasture in the next picture is a fence not snow but the small white patches on the mountain are the last vestiges of this winters snow.

What a strange bittersweet feeling I am having about the passing of the snow. It can be such a pain and so much fun all at the same time.

Time to think about putting away the micro-ice-traction devices, snowshoes, skis, ice climbing gear and winter layers for future winters or travels to distant lands.

Those with a strong adversion to cold and snow can celebrate and prepare to exit their hibernation.

I am really looking forward to seeing the unfolding of Spring but......... I will certainly celebrate the first snow flakes I see drifting to the ground next fall.

The contact station is open. For those who have never noticed there is an emergency phone on the side of the contact station closest to the sign and truck in this picture. This phone connects with the 24X7 park communications center.
A couple of small sections of the trail had water running on them.

This picture is taken at the spot lots of folks take a break at the No-Camping Sign. Notice that the snow is GONE.

Looking up the Ridge Trail you can see some minor remnants of snow. Even the remnants will probably be gone by next weekend.
The general rule is there are no open fires allowed in the park.   In actuality there are some circumstances where fires are allowed.   You should check with a Ranger or a SNP publication for the rules concerning when and where you can have a fire.    If you are looking at a publication make sure it has been fairly recently published because the rules do change sometimes.

Someone decided to have a fire right smack on one of the large granite slabs where a lot of folks like to take a break so we will now need to be assaulted with this ugly blackened rock. Eventually the rain will wash it off but it can take a long time for the black to disappear.

Worse than the black spot, the heat from the fire caused about a quarter inch of the granite underneath to exfoliate off the slab. I am not sure how many years of erosion this would equate to but I would not be surprised if it was measured in thousands of years.

Looking down towards Etlan.

Just above R20 and just before the rock scramble. Notice that the snow in last week's picture is all gone.

Looking up the Ridge Trail from the first false summit.

Just a few drizzles on Sunday afternoon but the brooks where all high from the prior day's rain and snow melt. It is nice being able to listen to and watch the burbling water.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010 Spring Melt

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This was a special trip because I had the company of Anita Tang who is an avid hiker and world traveler. Like many others she enjoys the fact that Old Rag provides a taste of the mountains within an easy driving distance of the Washington, Baltimore and Richmond areas. Thanks to her I had great company, enjoyed some shared gourmet food, and was able to have a couple pictures taken.

The snow is disappearing fast. The lower lot was almost completely free of snow. The upper lot still had snow but it was not deep. Around a third of a mile of the Weakley Hollow Fire Road was completly bare. The Ridge Trail had a couple of very short sections were bare ground was showing. The snow on the rest of the trail was packed down enough that you could walk on top of it, Some spots on the trail were getting to be icy but most walking was on old corn snow. It was still true that many of the places that during warmer weather require the use of your hands were so packed in with deep snow that you could just walk up a ramp of steep snow steps without needing to use your hands at all. At the beginning of the rock scramble when you drop into the nine foot deep dyke there is a big block of stone that is a key foothold used for lowering yourself down into the dyke. Normally this block of stone is about five feet above the bottom of the dyke but on this day it was only about a foot above the top of the hard packed snow. You could still manage to negotiate the chute by just walking up a steep ramp of snow without needing to use your hands. It was so unusual to be able to do this that it made me a laugh with giddiness. Anita had said that on her prior week's circuit she had found it so unusual to be able to just walk up the Chute's snow ramp that she went back down and up it again just for the fun of it. While on much of the trail you only had a few inches of hard packed snow under your feet there were still rare places where wind drifted snow meant you were standing four or five feet above the ground.

Trail Conditions Change Very Rapidly Day to Day With Snow
On this circut almost all the snow still offered some purchase. We spoke to a group of three trail runners who had been able to run the whole circuit in sneakers. That said some parts of the trail were getting icy. It is hard to know if the snow will change to sheets of ice or when it will have melted enough that it no longer makes it easy to walk up ramps of snow stair steps as opposed to needing to do short sections of vertical climbing.

Some type of micro ice traction devices are still recommended they will make your hike more pleasurable, easier and a lot safer.

From the corner of Peola Mills and Nethers Roads.

From Nethers Road near the intersection of Sharp Rock Road.

Contact Station parking lot's snow mostly gone.

Rest stop at the No Camping Beyond This Spot sign.

Snow on the first false summit.

Looking up the Ridge Trail from the first false summit.
A rare picture of me at the slab with the nice views towards Etlan just above the chute.

Three shots from the summit right after sunset stictched together.
There was still significant snow in places. The emergency cache at Byrds Nest is located near and under my poles in this picture.
Another rare picture of me standing on snow that has buried the emergecy cache at Byrd's Nest shelter.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Trail Maintenance and Reports From Others


While I was at training over the weekend PATC Trail Maintainers were as busy as beaveres and completely took care of the five blowdowns that I had reported the week before. A majority of the trail work done on mid-Atlantic trails is provided by volunteers. These groups are always willing to welcome new volunteers. While this post will highlight the efforts of some specific groups keep in mind there are many such groups that lend their hands to these efforts.

If you are interested in helping to maintain old or create new trails Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) is one of the organizations that presents numerous types of opportunities to volunteer. The following link takes you to the page on PATC's website that has an overview of the various PATC maintenance crews. While folks with woodsman skills are always welcomed do not be concerned if you have never used a saw or an ax. As long as you are willing to help and willing to spend a little time learning PATC will teach you all that you need to know.

If you catch the trail maintenance bug and want to get involved doing more advanced trail maintenance activities PATC is a great place to find experts who can mentor you. If you explore some of the trail crews posts you will see pictures of some very impressive projects.

Old Rag is often worked on by one of these maintence crews called the Blue and White Crew whose website can be found at:

Of course there are numerous other ways (SAR, Trail Patrol, headquarters help.....)you can volunteer. PATC's lead in page for volunteering can be found at:

The following pictures were supplied by two PATC volunteers who cleared a way through the blowdowns I had reported on my Patrol Reports on the prior two weekends. I am always amazed at how fast any trail problems I report get fixed on Old Rag.

The following picture is of Dan Dueweke, PATC District Manager with what is a very impressive saw which was used to clear many of the blowdowns.


The following picture is of Patrick Wilson, PATC District Manager with a picture of an ax that was so sharp that its cuts left the wood shiny as displayed in the picture below his.

The above pictures were taken by Dan or Patrick.

The following picture of the Byrds Nest Shelter on the Saddle Trail was taken by A. Tang last weekend. She reports that while the snow still presented some additional work the trails were in pretty good shape compared to their condition on the weekends just after the big snow. The lower lot had been plowed with lots of parking spaces available. There are also some good recent trip reports for Old Rag or nearby hikes like White Oak Canyon on Hiking Upward