Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where to Hike: Old Rag - VA

On a rainy, cold morning in November I roped Danny and Roger into a hike. We've hiked before. In fact the hikes we had taken together the summer before had been the very first hikes either of them had really been on. Since then we've made a pretty good circuit of the DC area hiking Great Falls, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Sugarloaf Mountain and even venturing out to Cunningham Falls. 

We chatted for the two hours out to Old Rag, passing through the tiny town of Sperryville Virginia where we realized we had lost service. Things get real when you suddenly don't have service. Minutes into our hike a light rain started. The humidity and the already mounting assent made us warm and we quickly shed our jackets and gave ourselves over to the rainy hike.

Old Rag is no Sugarloaf. The elevation gain from parking lot to summit is over 2,500 - topping out at 3,284 feet. As the rain streamed down on us and little by little we climbed higher the realization dawned on Roger and Danny. This was an epic hike. 

We sat down for a snack part way up. At this point the wind and rain had picked up. My sandwich was getting soggy in my hands as I took bites between blowing on my fingers for warmth. I had serious thoughts about turning back but left them unvoiced. The first to dissent brings the whole mood down - even if the mood is rainy and cold. 

We trudged on. The rock scramble is by far the most exciting part of Old Rag and as we got to this point the rain started to let up and we really got into it. The top looks so attainable and close from the scramble and a good 1,000 feet of elevation is covered in this portion alone. 

Danny surprised us by his agile ability to maneuver the rocks and we would often find him sitting on a rock waiting for us just a little ways ahead. 

And what do you get as a reward for your hours of struggle? 

Sunshine just peaking out of the clouds. 

What started as abysmal weather turned into one of the coolest vistas I've yet seen. The sun started breaking through the clouds and rolling towards us in patchy blankets. 

The clouds rolled so fast that soon they were gone and we were left with clear skies and the wind tearing at our jackets and ears. 

After lunch we started to hike down. If the side we came up was dark and rainy the side we came down on was the complete opposite. We felt like we had conquered the mountain and our rewards was warmth and sunshine. 

We hiked down through the Tulip Poplars and American Beech and made it back to our car in just under 5 hours. Record time for a 9 miles hike! Compared to the last time I hiked this - there were only two other people on the trail that we saw. We couldn't have picked a prettier time to go. 

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