Monday, April 25, 2011

Sat&Sun April 23&24, 2011 Easter Weekend

Saturday and Sunday
April 23&24, 2011
Easter Weekend

The following picture is from the location near the winery that I have chosen to take pictures for the purposes of watching for the seasonal changes.   If you double click and enlarge this picture you will notice that the tree leaves are out in some places and not out in others.    Some of this is driven by elevation, exposure or soil conditions differences and some of it is driven by species differences.

The following is a picture of a lesson concerning early morning procedures.   Jeremy, Glen, Lizandra, Dwayne and myself were on this day.

The days lessons included training and practice on putting up various types of tarps as well as building fires.

I find that I have often learned best from my outdoor failures.   I failed miserably at making a fire but learned a heck of a lot and after making some minor equipment adjustments, practicing some more with my existing equipment and then with my new equipment I will be far more savvy at making a fire and will probably qualify as a strong intermediate fire maker.    The real experts can start with literally nothing in the way of matches, lighters, or carried tinder and still get a fire started by doing something like rubbing sticks together.    Getting to this expert level can take days of training and practice though.   For now I will settle for making sure I take good fire making supplies and train enough to be a strong intermediate fire starter.

On a personal development level it is sometimes healthy to have an ego crushing epic fail.   Reminds you that you always have a lot more to learn.   Builds character and you can never have too much of that.

The picture below is selfishly mostly for me.    It is a reminder of what will always be a very cherished memory of a fellow steward holding this object in front of their face, staring at it while turning it around in the air in order to see all its angles and then looking at me and with the most honest open mind quizzical look asking what is this?    Of course I could not see my own face but I know inside my brain I was reeling from an equally total sense of befuddlement over the meaning of the question.  A visual koan.  Seconds after this fest of mutual befuddlement, the light went on in the other stewards brain that it was a pen.   My befuddlement over what the steward meant asking "Whats this?"  turned to a conceptual understanding that they really had not realized it was a pen.    One of those random but very special moments that happens in life. 

I was thinking later that it is a shame that there was not a way to purposely cause and exploit that state of truly seeing an object with no prior preconceptions.   Once we surround an object with definitions we lose an ability to really see it.    I do not draw much but I have always been amazed that when I have had to draw something I "see" all kinds of things that I had looked at but not recognized.


Easter Sunday and the weather was wonderful.   Anita and I had originally been interested in a day on Old Rag but then realized we both needed additional rest.   Before either of us lost cell phone reception we were able to reach each other by cell phone to let each other know that we were both running really late but would meet at the Old Rag Contact Station AKA Old Rag International Parking and then decide what to do with the rest  of the day.    I arrived there at around 11AM and got to visit with the Contact Station staff and help direct traffic for a couple of hours until Anita arrived at around 1PM.     For me it was a very pleasant two hours.   

I spend a lot of time on Old Rag.    Out of 104 annual weekend days a year I spend over 70 on the mountain.   In the distant future when our society is so productive that we can afford to have 20% of our population working as full time research psychologists, I am sure my mental condition will be some sub-classification of a sub-classification of a sub-classification the definition of which will have earned someone their doctorate.    The good news is that I have no question that my Old Rag relationship is healthy.     I am old enough to have had my share of unhealthy crushes, limerances and obsessive love experiences and know that my relationship with my Old Rag mistress is not like any of those. 

If my strong feelings had a theme song it might be Glen Campbell's Gentle On My Mind.   Metaphorically I definitely keep my sleeping bag rolled up behind Old Rag's couch.

It was not always this way.    When I was first exposed to the mountain it felt like a  remote dangerous place full of adventure.  It almost felt like you might meet the Nazgul or Gandalf and Strider around the next corner.   

Now it is my weekend back yard complete with neighbors that I have known for years.    A comfortable relaxed place. A place for fun, exercise,  listening to the wind, enjoying nature and being a member of a small country community.   Even when totally alone at night in the worst of winter weather with wind blown ice crystals stinging my face Old Rag still feels like home.  But I digress.....

One of the benefits of having this level of familiarity is that the goal of doing "the hike" or seeing the summit is no longer first priority. Oh do not get me wrong the summit area is still a favorite place (especially at sunset) but I can spend two hours in the parking lot helping with parking, visitor instructions, and visiting with friends and do nothing more than that and life is still good, really good.

Anita arrived and we decided we did not have time for even a hike to Old Rag's first false summit.  I had wanted to check out the cliffs at Little Stony Man mountain so we decided to head up to Skyline Drive.    On Skyline we got to see a young bear just off the road sleeping in a tree.    

(If there was a song it would be probably be both a little upbeat and a little bluesy)

We finally got to the Little Stony Man parking lot and actually scored a parking  space.     Up the trail we headed.  We had thoughts of doing Little Stony Man, Bear Fence, Big Stony Man and then getting some good eats in Warrenton on our way home.

Well when your a Good Samaritan your plans often happily get changed.   About half way up Little Stony Man we ran into two wonderful women just a few days into an Appalachian Trail flip-flop hike.   Their trail names were Spicy and G. G. (Granola Girl).    They had dreamed and planed for years followed by several months of serious preparation and training and they left their northern mid-western homes to start what was planned to be several months on the trail together.   They had left Waynesboro a week or two earlier.   Unfortunately that impish little devil name Chaos that you see on the insurance commercials had jumped into their lives.   Spicy had very badly strained her knee near Big Meadows.    She was moving, (ambulating as we like to say in the response world) but every other step was  very painful and required immense amounts of will power to take.     I was wearing my Leave No Trace LNT trainers shirt and still had my name tag with the Red Cross, my name and information identifying me as a volunteer for NPS, PATC and ORMS.    I asked if she (Spicy) was all right?   Spicy immediately explained that she had badly twisted her knee and asked if I knew how she might connect up with a ride to Luray.

Sorry folks got to get to work.   Next writing installment to come and yes believe me I know I have a huge backlog of writing.   Not an excuse but just an explanation, lots of personal stuff requiring my attention lately.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 16&17, 2011 Spring Showers&Flowers RockFest2

Saturday and Sunday
April 16&17, 2011
RockFest 2 Spring Deluge
Spring Flowers


The Mid-Atlantic Climbers hosted their second service day in the park.

It was unfortunate but the weather was not cooperative with torrential rains and tornado warning on the day set aside for cleaning up litter.    None-the-less a few intrepid folks put on their rain gear and spent the day cleaning up litter.  

An early morning meeting as the teams prepare.

Since the photographers do not get in many pictures I thought I would get a couple of them.

Awesome zip-lock baggy rain gear MacGyver'ld over the camera.

Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS)
I ran down to my day with the ORMS which was all about plants.

A partial list of the plants we were taught to identify included; Sarsaparilla, Sassafras, Wild Geranium, May Apple, Trillium, Blood Root, Yellow Birch, Tulip Popular, White Oak, Sycamore, Fiddlehead Fern, Frasier Magnolia, Hickory.

The park called us and asked us to shelter in place while some weather with the potential to generate tornadoes passed over.

The CCC stairs on the Saddle Trail were a delightful miniature waterfall.

The amount of rain that had come down over the afternoon was second only to a day in 1996 and all of the brooks and streams were full to capacity and overflowing in many spots.

At a spot just past the Sharp Rock Road and VA 601 was under about three feet of fast moving water so you had to use Sharp Rock Road to get out to VA 231.   For a sense of the volume and force of the water check out this short video on You Tube:

Personal Hikes With RockFest 2 Volunteers and then by myself on Old Rag.

Old Rag as seen from Skyline drive early on Sunday morning.   After taking this 6:30 AM shot I went back to Pinnacles Research Station and helped the RockFest 2 folks with breakfast, take down and clean up.  

After we finished at Pinnacle Research Station I joined a group that were doing a circuit hike of Little Stonyman, Stonyman, and back on the Passamaquody Trail.   I  wanted to get to the Old Rag Contact Station before the Rangers left for the day so I only did an up and back to the top of the Little Stonyman cliffs and then headed down to the Old Rag Contact Station.  

The Redbuds are blossoming.  This is a good indicator that snakes will be exiting their  hibernaculums.

The Swallowtails are out.   This one was feeding on a newly blossoming Lilac blossom.

The Trillium have started to bloom.

Violets are blooming.
Red Dogwood blossoms.

Fiddlehead Fern
White Dogwood blossoms

This hiker kept me company for awhile.    Because of an illness he expects his remaining life is measured in months not years and he was making the most of his remaining time taking advantage of a wonderful spring day.

The view towards Culpepper andEtlan from the first false summit.
Looking up the rock scramble from the first false summit.

The view of the SNP Northern District from the First False Summit.

As I was driving out on Peola Mills Road the full moon was rising.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Climbing, Litter Tie In, Femur Traction

Saturday and Sunday
April 9&10, 2011
Climbing, Litter Tie In, Femur Traction
Spring Firsts

Saturday was misty and cool all day.    The following pictures show a little bit of climbing practice with the first picture being that of a short summit climb called Beginners Crack and the second picture being the lower moves on a new line that starts out hard and turns seemingly impossible.     A great little project that some day may go at a yet to be defined grade level.

Stewards Ben, Sean, Graham K, Sean, and Bob

Early Saturday evening we spent a lot of time at Byrds Nest Shelter  practicing litter tie ins and then testing them to see how well they worked if we treated the litter with patient like a giant salt shaker.    We were having so much fun practicing our tie ins that we missed last call for Pizza at Rudy's.


The picture below is of Steve H. one of this years boundary contact station Rangers.

Sunday's weather started misty and cool and ended gorgeous with the special treat of being able to see the remnants of the smoking mist swirling around under your feet down in the hollows.

On Sunday the Stewards practiced the various processes that would need to be gone through if we encountered a femur fracture in the backcountry.    It was a good practice session because we got to practice various ways to establish and hold traction depending on whether we were on Old Rag under ORMS conditions(multiple stewards, park resource back up, radios, and pre-cached medical supplies) or by ourselves with a friend in some other remote backcountry wilderness.  

Stewards Jeremy, Emily, Michael, and Bob

On the way out I was providing information on Old Rag,  Leave No Trace(LNT), wildlife, and backcountry skills to numerous groups.    One of the groups coming up the Saddle Trail consisted of about 60 folks from age one to 60 plus.   I had shared a couple of Old Rag fun facts with one of the women in the group and was about to move on down the trail when she encouraged me to give her a few more fun facts because she could use them for home schooling.     I immediately thought of one that could involve some math, units conversion, geology, and the wonder of deep time.   I rattled off my discourse about the fact that scientist tell us that Old Rag Granite is around 1.3 billion years old and that if you let one inch represent 2,000 years and then did all the math with unit conversions you would realize that you needed slightly MORE! than the whole circuit hike to represent the 1.3 billion years.    My visitor was suddenly looking very conflicted but was brave enough to share her thoughts when she said that she would not be able to use that  fun fact in her home schooling because she interpretted the bible very literally. Based on her bible interpretation, time did not go back that far.   She started to apologize for being so forward.    

As Gomer Pyle used to say,  "SURPRISE! SURPRISE! SURPRISE!"

I was able to say no, no, I had no problem with her views because my mother interpreted her Bible very literally did home ministry and provided the Eucharist to shut ins and my father was very involved with Prison Fellowship.

This allowed my new acquaintance to feel comfortable enough to steward me.   We had a great ten minute theological discussion and I received this neat 3X5 card pictured below.    If you hold it one way the red letters spell LIFE and if you hold it the other way they spell DEATH,    On the back there is a list of five passages from Romans which I will  make a point of reading and pondering.

I parted with the group by saying that I felt mountains were very spiritual places and that I hoped they found that to be true during the remainder of their visit.  

Awesome enlightening fun.

The next picture is proof of one of my many Spring 2011 firsts, Dandelions.   This encounter caused me to ponder on my love of Dandelions despite the fact that for some they are so despised that genocidal chemical warfare is justified.    

Like a moth attracted to flame Trebor Kool says:
"Dandelions are; tough, independent, pretty,  reproductively whimsical (airborne parachutes), great companions/additions for meals/salads and a major ingredient for fine w(h)ines.   With the exception of the last item, qualities that I find attractive in a woman."

Taraxacum officinale

Other firsts include my first 2011; Swallowtail, lower Berryhollow peepers in chorus, swarms of biting gnats, Red Bud in bloom down in the lower warmer elevations, tree leaves budding in the lower elevations, and greening of pastures.

Being a ORMSer has allowed me to learn so much about flora and fauna but also realize I have so much more to learn.    Keep checking on Silver Spring Wanderer's blog if your interested in learning about Appalachian wild flowers.

Upcoming Attractions
We have another full moon coming up.     The mid-Atlantic rock climbers are going to be sponsoring a SNP litter clean up service day called  ROCKFEST2 

and a large group of ORMSers will be dedicating several days training with the National Park Service at what is called Eastern High Angle Rescue Training (EHART).   Lady Gaga songs added to my I-Phone play list so it is available for future DJ requests.  

Friday, April 8, 2011



Monday, April 4, 2011

First Weekend ORMS 2011

Saturday and Sunday
April 2&3, 2011
First 2011 ORMS Weekend 

Apologies for letting my blog writing get behind.   I still need to backfill on the last couple of weeks but for those who tune in only when a new post goes up you might want to check out my sister blog written by my alter ego Trebor Kool.   Sometimes you are torn between bragging about unknown ice climbing, morel mushroom, and good fishing locations or keeping them secret.   Well Trebor had the honor of seeing an early unfinished cut of a low budget film Almost Alpine and could not keep the secret.  He wrote a reveiw on it over on Quoxotic Cosmos.   Check out the review.    The film is a climbing mockumentary being submitted to the Telluride and Banff film festivals this year.    Eventually it may be available for on-line purchase.  

I recently provided steaks for an ORMS pot luck dinner and will soon be providing bacon for a Rockfest 2 breakfast.    I am fortunate to have a wonderful country butcher available to me that is on my way to Old Rag.   Wilson Farms Meat Co in Catlett Virginia.     Not much to look at from the outside but they have some of the best slab cut double smoked bacon around.     The prices are posted on their chalk boards and transactions are cash only.   The staff are very helpful and knowledgeable folks.   I found it a very pleasant and unique experience buying meat at this butcher shop.   I am told that there are folks who drive from hours away just so as to buy their bacon.

Ben, Sean, Bob

A couple of the new NPS staff at the Old Rag contact station.

Howard Mo. and Hazel Me.

If you look closely you can see a little bit of green on the trees at the foot of the mountain.

There was a profusion of Spicebush blooming along Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

There is a local tradition of celebrating birthdays up on Old Rag.    The next two pictures show the celebration of a young man's (at heart) 79th birthday on the mountain.

This was his 30th consecutive birthday on Old Rag and was celebrated by three generations of the extended family some of whom had come from 500 miles away.     As a collector of  stories of rare animal sightings on Old Rag I got to hear about the year the family saw two Zebras at Post Office Junction.   Imagine that Zebras on Old Rag.

Looking up to Old Rag's two summits from Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

Sunday's ORMS crew Jeremy, Anne R, Craig T, Chris G, Bob L involved in the day's training a scenario, a hiker with a badly broken ankle.

Looking back up the Ridge Trail while doing a late afternoon sweep.

The daily routine of filling out our End Of Day Reports before heading either to pizza at Rudy's or home.