Monday, November 18, 2013

Cloudy Misty Wind Light Rain

Saturday and Sunday November  16&17 
Daytime Cloudy Warm Moist Air
Evenings Fog and Misty Rain 
There are times when Old Rag Mountain becomes cloaked in a very heavy fog/very light mist.   Daytime visibility can be greatly limited.  Nighttime visibility becomes problematic.  Once it becomes deep dark you can not use the bright settings on your headlamp because of your headlamp's reflection off the mist.  Taking your headlamp off your head and holding it down by your waist and setting your light on its lowest brightness should help. 
When I did these things on Saturday night my ability to see the trail was still marginal.  I had to be very careful, slow, and deliberate with my foot and hiking pole placements.  I could only see the barest of an outline of the trail.    Many times I would find my foot dropping 3 inches further than I expected or coming to rest at an unnatural angle.   I am not just familiar with the trail, I am very familiar with a large percentage of rocks, boulders, roots, water-bars, steps, trees, and other features on the trail.   Even with this knowledge there were times on Saturday night that I found myself a footstep or two off the trail.   I was not surprised when at the CCC Stairs I heard voices and saw the diffused glow of a couple of headlamps about 200 feet off the Saddle Trail.  Based on the hikers' conversation it sounded like they were trying to figure out where they were.     When I yelled out to them, "Are you were you want to be?" they replied with a question,  "Are you on the trail?"  My voice became their bell buoy/fog horn and my headlamp their lighthouse as they made their way back to the trail.     These young men made it back to the trail and I noticed that the clanging sound I had been hearing was caused by ice-climbing-tools.  They each had one in their hands.   They seemed puff-chested-flustered, like the person who trips but fluidly jumps up and says did you see that fake fall.    I decided to treat our conversation as though we were neighbors who had chanced upon each other during our evening strolls.   
The good news was that while the air was saturated with fog and very tiny rain droplets it was also relatively warm.  It was warm enough that even had the individuals had to emergency bivouac until morning, hypothermia was unlikely.  With colder temperatures hypothermia could be a very serious risk for the unprepared.  During warmer snake seasons, fog like limited visibility makes it even harder to be careful of where your placing feet or hands.  At these times it is good to have  hiking poles or a walking stick.  Besides the extra stability they provide you can use them to probe/feel ahead of you the way a blind person uses their cane. 
If your ability to see your feet gets bad enough you should probably stop. If you must continue it might be best to scoot along on your butt.   Once a climbing partner and I found ourselves in the deep-dark with no lights.  We were a half mile from our car on a very steep Adirondack mountainside.  We had lost the trail but we could hear the cars on the road below us.  We decided to blindly bushwhack our way slowly towards the road.    Suddenly we both found ourselves in free fall.   Luckily we only dropped five feet and were not hurt.  It could have just as easily have been a 20 foot drop!  The rest of the trip found us scooting along on our butts.   The neat thing was that on our slow way down we got to see some really neat phosphorescent glowing fungi.   
The most difficult navigation conditions I have encountered along exposed parts of the Old Rag Ridge Trail have been near (but not quite) white-out blizzard-like blowing (30+ mph wind) snow conditions.   The good news is that these conditions are incredibly rare on Old Rag (maybe once a decade).   When they do occur they probably only last for a few hours (not days) and they are generally localized to the highest and exposed portions of the mountain.   If you are going to place yourself at risk of potentially encountering these types of conditions, I would advise that you come prepared for the possibility you might need to shelter in place.  


A type of Umbilicaria I believe Umbilicaria-mammulata but am not sure.  Common name Tripe.  Notice that after 24 hours of fog and natural mist it is green color.  On a hot dry summer day it is grayish black.

  1. On Saturday night I came upon a rabbit on the trail just below Byrds Nest Shelter.    On Sunday night I came across the same rabbit sitting in the exact same spot in the trail but this time he had a little field mouse as a companion.    They both sat and stared at me for about 20 seconds before deciding to scurry off into the underbrush.
  2. On Sunday night I made a stop and sat on a boulder along the trail at the stairs just below Byrds Nest Shelter.   The wind was quiet and I could make out the outlines of the bottom of Weakley Hollow.  Continuing my hike I stopped and sat on a boulder near the trail by Byrds Nest Shelter and the wind was blowing at around 15-20 miles per hour and I was in a thick blowing mist.  The wind was loud enough that I had to shelter my phone and almost yell to be understood.     Upon return to the stairs just 100 feet lower and maybe 800 feet away I was back below the cloud-deck in windless perfectly still conditions.   The conditions were so radically different in such a short distance that it was as though I had walked through a portal between two worlds.

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