Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saturday December 7, 2013 Late Afternoon, Dusk & Night Hike Caterpillar Field Guide

It is fun for me to start up the back side of Old Rag Mountain late in the day.    On this Saturday the air was clear and very cool but not what I would consider cold.   Keep in mind that every one's bodies ideas about crazy cold, cold, cool, warm, hot, crazy hot are probably different.  

Wim Hof has a body that thinks 32 degree F ice water is cold but not deadly cold like the rest of us mere mortals.

For me a dry 30 degrees is something I consider pleasantly cool

My Saturdays evening hike was delightful sustenance for the soul.   I love the moods that late afternoon, sunset, early dusk, twilight, and dark put me in.    This was one of those nights when twinkling stars and carpets of valley lights elicited feelings that all was okay with the world.   It was fun seeing around 80 hikers on their way back down off the mountain.  As usual for Old Rag I had  lots of different human encounters.   Most days on Old Rag I am lucky and encounter the most wonderful folks.....

After it was deep dark I encountered a large group of around 20 40-60 year old equally mixed male and female hikers.   Sensing their presence long before they sensed mine I sat on a rock and turned off my headlamp and music so I could enjoy the sound of their happily twittering conversations.   Once they got close enough I turned my music back on.  It is fun to let them be be a little surprised when they come around a corner and run into a funny fellow sitting all alone on a rock happily listening to music as you greet them with a matter-of-fact neighborly "wonderful evening isn't?"

While not roped up, the males in this group looked technically prepared to be on an open ice field above 17,000 feet.   The females were bundled up for zero degree weather but did not have all the technical mountaineering accouterments of their male companions.    The important thing is that they all seemed very comfortable and happy to be engaged in their mountain social adventure.    About an hour-and-a-half latter I was leaving the summit after having enjoyed my own long solitude of wonderful music and valley lights when a single individual hiker with a good sized electric lantern arrived.   He was holding his lantern out in front of him like an old town crier.   We had a pleasant talk about the fact that the Ridge Trail's wetness was turning into ice and that for safety he had decided to go out on the Saddle Trail and Fire  Roads.   He was clearly dressed very warmly and seemed very comfortable and at ease.    I suggested that he check out the view of the valley lights from either the tippy-top summit perch or the larger sitting area just on the Weakley Hollow side of the tippy-top summit rocks as we parted company.    He passed me on his way out just before the Saddle Trail slab looking down on Byrds Nest Shelter.     Earlier in the evening I had chatted with a couple of hiking parties who did not realize they still had about 2 hours of walking to get to their cars. Their only source of light being their smart phone flashlight apps.    I gave both those groups good directions and some little emergency thumb lights.   The first group consisted of two young, wide-eyed, slightly fearful, girls.  Besides good directions I  tried to calm and reassure them.   Half an hour later I got to speak with a group of teen age males.  Very respectful but also showing a little bit of pride/bravado.  I tried to temper their hutzpah just a touch.      

Since I was going back to Berry Hollow and not down Weakley Hollow it was a little bit of a relief to realize the large party of adults and the single lantern carrying male would unwittingly providing good Samaritan sweeps down Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

D Cox had recommended I get Caterpillars of Eastern North America.   He has a strong personal interest in moths, butterflies and therefore of course Caterpillars.   You can see his web postings at:

I had mentioned him in an earlier blog posting which can be found by clicking on the label listing "butterfly identification".   He lives on the flanks of Old Rag Mountain and spends lots of time on Old Rag Trails and in the Old Rag off-trail backcountry.   I always have good time sharing information with him when we meet on the mountain.

Caterpillars of Eastern North America is a marvelous field guide.    It was written by David L. Wagner who clearly must have spent an obsessive amount of time on its 496 pages of exquisite text and over 1,200 photos.  

I would recommend it as a wonderful Christmas present for any of your naturalist friends who do not have it.

Sorry but my current point and shoot camera can not do the summit night scene justice.