Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday July 24, 2010 A YEAR OF EXTREMES

Saturday July 24, 2010 A YEAR OF EXTREMES

In the following picture the Old Rag Boundry Station's thermometer was in the shade but it was still showing 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Just five-six months ago we were snowshoeing and skiing and now we are seeing record breaking highs.

Thank goodness for the Park's new PSAR (Preventative Search and Rescue) program. It would be extremely valuable in any conditions but especially so in the extreme heat we have been experiencing lately. This year's "HIKE SMART" PSAR team comprised of Rangers Todd Sager, Derrick Austin and Casey Mikus are pictured below. When not responding to actual emergencies they offer helpful advice to park visitors in the hopes that emergencies can be prevented.
The rangers in the boundary contact stations also perform PSAR duties. The map, slide show, thermometer, and weather report on the contact station door along with all their helpful advice keep folks safe. When they are on duty it is absolutely worth it to check in with these rangers. They can go over your route, provide maps and offer all kinds of safety and interpretive information.
With the weather being so hot I thought I would provide a little guidance about a tiny but deep-enough-to-cool-off-in wading hole near the end of your hike. It is in Brokenback Run just below the old upper lot. Look for an informal trail between the big boulder and the PATC Trail Overseer sign. Since this can be a popular place please try and be careful about limiting your impact.

FUNGI AND INSECTSOld Rag has a wealth of fungi species and some can be very colorful. If you look closely at the mushroom pictured below you will see a beetle (I believe it is a firefly) on this one. I have recently started to become more aware of the insect life on Old Rag. At one point on this trip I saw four beetles rumbling in the middle of the trail. I did not see any obvious thing nearby to fight over but it was clear they were fighting over something. One beetle finally prevailed and the other three took off into the leaf litter. Ten minutes later and further down the trail I heard a fairly loud noise in the leaf litter. Thinking it must be a small rodent of some kind I waited to see what was making the noise and a GIANT! black beetle about the size of a small vole emerged. When I put my headlamp on high I can see all kinds of pin point but bright insect eyes glowing back at me. Upon close inspection they are usually revealed to belong to a spider. Fireflies Photuris pyralis are still around but their numbers are greatly dwindling. Of course then there are the countless species of ants, termites, ticks, gnats, flies, bees, wasps, butterflies, moths ........

OLD RAG DOGSThe Old Rag Dogs who live at the base of the mountain love to go walk-about up on Old Rag. Their owners have been really good about keeping them at home this year but the Old Rag Dogs are passionate about their mountain and very wily so every once in a while they still manage to sneak in a hike up into the rocks. Below you can see one of the Old Rag Dogs Canis lupis familiaris catching a nap in the shade of the rocks just before the start of the rock scramble.
The blue blaze you see in the background is R22.
The Old Rag dogs have been up and down the mountain hundreds of times and know their way home. They are country outdoor dogs so they may be a little dirty from running around outdoors. They have owners that care a lot about them. Please do not mistake them for being abandoned. It is a terrible shame they can not talk because if they could I am sure they could spin some good yarns over a campfire and a few beers.
Looking back at the first false summit from just below the cave.

Looking down on the farms near Etlan from the slab just above the Chute. I am always amazed at how small everything looks even though it is only a two to three thousand feet and a mile or two below.

Slow down you move too fast you got to make the evening(morning) last.
Got no deeds to do,No promises to keep.I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.Let the morning time drop all its petals on me. Life, I love you, All is groovy.
-The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" a song by Simon and Garfunkle
With slight poetic liberties on my part.
On one side of the summit the sun was going down and on the other side the moon was coming up. It is a special treat to hang out on the rocks on a quiet balmy summer evening with a gentle breeze. A time to just absorb the evening's smells, sounds, and soothing restorative energies.
Balmy summer evenings bring back memories of my youth when as young boys of nine to thirteen a group of neigborhood boys would take Gilmore's (a family with nine brothers) tractor with a huge flatbed wagon way up into the highest point of their hundred acre apple orchard to sleep on the flatbed under the summer stars. This spot was on the top of a hill in the Cherry Valley country of Central New York. At about 2,200 ft. it provided a fifteen mile view of rolling ridgelines. The sky was dark and the air clear with thousands of twinkling stars, a very distinctive Milky Way, shooting stars and on rare occasions displays of shimmering green Northern Lights.

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