Monday, August 30, 2010

Saturday August 28, 2010 Neighbors and Hornets

Saturday August 28,2010
Some History, Neighbors and European Hornets

I took an extra 20 minutes to take the roads less traveled on my way out to Old Rag. The next shot is nothing but an example of the view out my car window as I travelled along a back country road.

On my way home from Old Rag I passed this sign many times before I took the time to stop and read it. For those who are curious here is what it says.

With Fall 2010 approaching I thought it time to once again start up the leaf condition shot.

I was surprised to see a family from my neighborhood. This was the first time up Old Rag for two members of their party. I was able to overlap and share a few Old Rag fun facts with them for about a quarter mile of their trip.

Another Old Rag Sunset.

European Hornets Vespra crabro L.
I had parked in the old upper parking lot and got to my car in the dark. When I arrived at the car I place my pack on my car hood and then slid into the driver's seat in order to grab a Gator Aide I had left on the passenger seat. While taking time to down the Gator Aide I decided to turn on the car and its lights. After a few minutes I got out of the car and decided to do my end of hike stuff when I noticed there were around four humungous (2 inch) hornets that looked liked supersized yellow jackets flying around my car's hood. One of them made a hovering flight right for my forehead. Waving my arms around and backing up into the parking I ducked its approach only to suddenly see it flying strainght at my face again. It suddenly dawned on me that it was attracted to/ attacking my head lamp so I turned it off and the threat went away. As long as I did not have my head lamp on the gathering hornets did not seem to be concerned with my presence but they clearly did not like the bright lights of my car and with every passing second another hornet seemed to join the swarm. Even though I tried to hurry, by the time I was ready to leave there were over thirty European Hornets flying around and landing on the headlamps of my car. When I opened the door of my car one of the swarm flew into the passenger compartment to attack the cab light. Since he was fixated with his attack on the cab light he was easy to take care of. It turns out that this particular species is known for beign attracted too and or attacking lights at night. I did not get stung but based on their size they looked like they could deliver one heck of a sting. Check out the following links for additional information and pictures:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Saturday August 21, 2010 Shrooms & Phobias

Extreme Shrooms and Phobias

Warm humid high 80s partly cloudy up to mid-afternoon followed by overcast and light sprinkles followed by late evening clearing and a three quarter moon.

The SNP staff at the boundary station is changing. Look for new faces, new personalities, and new styles. The elite Old Rag Boundary Station alumni grows a little larger.

Awesome mushroom specimens seen on this circuit.

Sometimes I am guilty of over photoshopping but not on this next photo. It truly was this very bright almost neon orange. I wonder if this mushroom is photo-luminescent at night?

April joined me up to the first false summit but her schedule required her to head home early. After saying goodbye to April I slowly made my way up to the summit which I left shortly before sunset and traveled out via the Saddle Trail and fire roads with about an hours worth of pleasant conversation with various back-country campers.
On the way up the rock scramble I ended up helping a group that had a member who was both extremely afraid of heights and determined that they were going to complete the hike despite their intense fears. This hiker bravely struggled with their phobia and many panic attacks as they negotiated their way up the scramble. Their intense panic attacks were complete with very rapid heavy breathing which in turn would lead to dizziness. With a tremendous amount of courage, discipline, patience and a strong will to succeed this hiker made it to the summit.
About half way down the Saddle Trail I ran into a group who had started way too late in the day to complete the hike during the daylight. One member of their party was having absolutely terrible quadriceps cramps which was slowing them down even more. They did have a couple of lights in their group but some members of the group were extremely nervous about hiking out in the dark. I decided to stay with them on their trip out. They provided good conversation and company.
One member of the group was borderline panicked about the dark. The walk out turned out to be an early House of Horrors experience for this hiker complete with arm grabbing blood-curdling screams whenever an acrobatic bat snatched a bug a few feet in front of our faces. Then there were the sharp inhales and whispered "What was that?" whenever there was a noise outside our lights' cones of illumination. It was good for this person that this was NOT one of those nights when a random illumination of the woods reveals ten or fifteen bright pinpoints of light from the eye-glow of spiders. Of course suddenly coming across a big fat Copperhead that slithered across our path just eight feet in front of us on Nethers Road by the blue barrel provided the perfect grand finale for this hikers fearful hike out.

A picture of April just before she had to head home earlier in the day.

Lots of Woodland Sunflowers (Hellianthus divarcutus)
I am always a sucker for a big healthy Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio claucus)

Allegany Chinkapin, Chinese Chestnut, American Chestnut or Hybrid? I believe it to be an American Chestnut but am not completely sure. I will know more once its burrs begin to split this fall and may send a leaf to the American Chestnut Foundation for confirmation.

If you are a woodland critter that makes part of your living from foraging nuts it appears that it is going to be a good mast year.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saturday August 14, 2010 Dancing Clouds

Dancing Clouds Moist Air

The day was very cloudy and relatively cool. While it sprinkled a couple of times there was generally very little percipitation. The low level clouds were slipping past the Skyland/PATC Wall and the summit in this picture. It was a fee free weekend and the parking lot was 9 tenths full.

Lots of information and guidance provided but no SAR responses required.

Woodland Sunflower Helianthus divaricatus

Chestnut Oak Quercus prinus

Wild Foxglove Aureolaria flava Gerardia
With a bumblebee inside one of the flowers.
This plant gets some of its nutrients from Oak Roots which it parasitizes. Like the Lady Sipper which relies on a symbiotic relationship with a delicate soil fungus neither survives transplantation. Even if it could survive transplantation taking wildflowers from the park in any form is illegal, terrible woodland ethics, and very destructive.

The cloud cover was low. There was warm moist air rising from Weakley Hollow. The moisture laden air was turning into wispy dancing clouds. The swirling intermixing cloud tendrils put on quite a fascinating and pleasing display for summit observers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Sharon a friend of mine at work loves to visit Skyline drive and shared this photo her partner took of two Timber Rattlesnakes (one dark phase and one yellow phase) engaged in either mating or a combat dance right next to Skyline Drive. Sharon is pretty sure it did not appear to be a combat dance so she is voting for mating.
Male rattlesnakes engage in an almost ritualized combat dance in which they do not hurt each other but rear up off the ground and then try to push each other down to the ground. Almost like a game of thumb wrestling. The winner gets to mate with the nearby female. Here are two links to a video but if you google there are others:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sunday August 8, 2010
Lots of Friends Great Weather

Normally air temps in the 80's would seem hot but following on the heels of the recent record breaking heat it almost seemed cool. I hiked with two friends from PATC Trail Patrol and two of their friends from PATC as far as the top of the chute. At this point I decided I would hang out and watch over the rock scramble from the chute for a few hours. After that I proceeded slowly up the Ridge Trail. I took numerous long stops at various view points along the way and had a long conversation with Michael Doyle and his climbing partner. Once I got to the summit I waited a couple hours for sunset and then headed out on the Saddle Trail and fire roads.


I blogged about this about a year ago but thought I would write a fresh post.
Speaking of rock climbing if you are a fan of rock climbing history than check out the blog about an upcoming Rock Adventure Film Diary being created by a young film maker story teller Director Oakley Anderson-Moore and Producer Paul Blair with lots of help from others.

They are operating on a shoe string budget so I sent a little money to help their cause and would encourage you to do the same. I have no idea how they are doing with their budget or how close to finishing the project they are but I imagine that even ten dollars would help with their goal of finishing the movie. My sense is that they are going to do a great job at capturing the essence of a passionate way of life for hundreds of climbers during the 60's and 70's. I am sure their film will record a lot of great stories and pieces of verbal history that otherwise would have been lost with the passage of time.

My 16 years of personal climbing adventures were on grades below 5.10 but I spent more than half my weekends rockclimbing and understand what it means to be passionate about the sport.

Raising my two daughters, advancing the application of computer technology, nature, climbing, and mountains have been my life's big passions so I am really excited about seeing the final movie.

Catherine taking a picture of Ellen and John with John in the foreground.
John, John, Ellen and Catherine on the first false summit.

ORMSer Liz on her third circuit just below the PATC/Skyline Wall area. She is preparing for an ultra-marathon The Mountain Masochist. Knowing I would post this on my blog she told me to give a shout out to all the ORMS crew whom she is looking forward to volunteering with in the Fall.

Liz's sharp eyes spotted these galls. I have not been able to get a definite identification of the insect that makes these but there were about 30 or 40 of them on this one plant.

A Red Admiral on granite.

I spotted this interesting collection of cairns on the way down the Saddle Trail.

A different angle on the same cairns.

Another great Old Rag sunset.

Twilight over Mt Robertson from just above the CCC stairs.

This Copperhead was crossing the fire road about two tenths a mile below Old Rag shelter.
Besides the friends pictured above it was good to catch up with the Contact station staff, my Old Rag friend April and Michael Doyle as he was finishing off a climb at the top of Skyline/PATC wall. It is always fun swapping stories with the folks I meet on the mountain and of course good old Toes (one of the Old Rag Dogs) greeted me at my car when I finished my hike.
For some reason this was a day for huge heel blisters and I got to help two hikers with mole skin and duct tape . Plan on being self sufficient on Old Rag but if you happen across a volunteer do not hesitate to ask us for help.

Monday, August 2, 2010



PATC Trail Patrol provides a regular training day a couple of times a year but since dual income professional families in Washington DC have very hectic schedules PATC Trail Patrol members who are willing can provide one-on-one training to outdoor enthusiasts who are interested in becoming new PATC Trail Patrol members.

I had the pleasure of providing a day of One-On-One PATC Trail Patrol training to one of our new probationary members this last weekend. All her family members are outdoor enthusiasts so I was glad they could join us for the day.

The next two pictures are of the Cuneo family and then one of me and my student for the day.

Even though I had the role of being an instructor I had the distinct pleasure of learning from the Cuneo's who are active hikers, climbers, outdoor persons with lots of knowledge, stories and experiences of their own. If you join any of the volunteer organizations I participate with do not be surprised that shortly after joining us you find yourself a mentor and source of new information and knowledge in regards to your own unique experiences, knowledge, skills, aptitudes or areas of specialization.