Thursday, June 27, 2013

Conquering Old Rag

Last weekend, we took our third trip to Shenandoah National Park with a major objective: to climb Old Rag. The climb includes around 2,500 feet of elevation gain, unobstructed panoramic views, and rock scramble - lots of rock scramble. After our arrival in the park we headed to Skyland, our overnight spot, and then to Dark Hollow for a short hike to the waterfall. En route, we saw three of the six black bears of the weekend - a mother and her two cubs. Carter snapped a photo of one of the cubs in a tree below. When we first came across them (thankfully we were still in the car), the two cubs scampered up the tree while the mama bear took a good look at us.

The path to the waterfall was lovely, with many spots for photo ops.

The creek was crisscrossed with fallen trees, many of which had wonderful mushrooms sprouting from the trunks.

We made it to the waterfall and returned just before dark.

A few months ago, Carter received his great grandfather Bistak's telescope as a gift from his Aunt Cathy, and we brought it on the trip. The "supermoon" was supposed to be visible over the weekend, so we tested out the telescope on the pre-supermoon visible on Friday night. We were able to snap some reasonably neat pictures and will experiment more in the future. Unfortunately, Friday night was the only clear one, with clouds blocking our evening skies the rest of the weekend.

We got up early on Saturday to begin our 7-hour trek up Old Rag. The first few hours were wooded climbs along well-marked paths. Then the real fun began. The rock scramble had a few passages that were just right for Carter, but too small for Erik and Lea. Other areas had reaches that were too far for Carter and Lea, but not too bad for Erik. We had to figure out the puzzles of how best to climb, crawl, and pull ourselves up the mountain (occasionally passing Carter across crevasses). The climb is not really treacherous, but it definitely has some tricky parts.

We especially liked this area of the climb up the mountain. This section included a small cave and a path under a rock that had wedged itself in the gap.

Around four hours in, we reached the summit. We had a lovely lunch and spent time enjoying the views. The climb down was along a bridle path which was smoother. We finished the day exhausted but exhilarated. We all want to do more climbing!

However, our calves and quads had a different plan for Sunday. We strolled through the meadow (at the appropriately named Big Meadows) and encountered two playful fawns. Carter earned another Junior Ranger badge - the toughest one yet.

We'll definitely return to Shenandoah, but are also looking for new challenges like Old Rag.

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