Monday, June 7, 2010

Old Rag Mountain Stewards - Quiet and a Little Stormy

We spent Sunday volunteering on Old Rag with Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS).  The parking lot was only about one-quarter full when we arrived.  Often the weekends before and after major holiday weekends are pretty quiet in the park. Those hikers who did come out were pleasantly surprised to discover that the entrance fee was waived in honor of National Trails Day.  It was already in the mid-80s at 9:30 in the morning and thunderstorms were forecast in the afternoon.  Water is usually the biggest issue on really hot days, but most people seemed to be carrying a reasonable amount. 

We went up the Ridge Trail first and chatted with a few people along the way.  The summer wildflowers are starting to bloom, including Lysimachia quadrifolia (Whorled Loosestrife) and Penstemon hirsutus (Hairy Beardtongue).  The Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel) have peaked at the summit.  The understory of the forest has grown in much thicker since we were last out there, two weeks ago.  At the first false summit, we found a box turtle.  We took a quick picture and then left him to do his thing.

As we continued up the rock scramble, we could see the weather getting worse over Skyline Drive.  By the time we reached the summit, it was raining over Stony Man and Hawksbill.  We watched the storm make its way across Weakley Hollow.  All of a sudden, it started raining on the summit and then, thirty seconds later, we were being pelted by sideways rain.  We quickly put on rain gear and headed for the Saddle Trail, thankful that no lightning or thunder accomanied the rain.  Then it started thundering.  We picked up the pace, happy to be under the forest canopy again on the Saddle Trail.  We spent some time in Byrd's Nest Shelter doing some training.  The storm did not last long and we had a sunny hike down to the road.

Pictures (click to enlarge):

Lysimachia quadrifolia (Whorled Loosestrife)

 Asclepias exaltata (Poke Milkweed) - This is a favorite with butterflies.

Rubus odoratus (Purple Flowering Raspberry).  Raspberries (cherries, and blackberries, among other fruiting plants) are members of the Rose family (Rosaceae).

The box turtle we spotted near the first false summit.

Diervilla lonicera (Bush Honeysuckle)

The spot where the trail curves near the summit.  Note how much the understory has grown since I last posted a photo of this spot.

Amianthium muscaetoxicum (Fly Poison) - a member of the Lily Family (Liliceae).  It is highly toxic to both people and animals.  According to the Shenandoah National Park page on it, the Cherokee Indians used the bulb to poison crows.  My Peterson's guide to edible plants states one should wash one's hands after handling the plant.

Looking south from the summit towards Fork Mountain.  K. latifolia (Mountain Laurel) blooming in the foreground.

K. latifolia blooming on the summit.  The storm is approaching in the background.

The storm arriving.  I took this just as the rain started coming down.

After the storm.

 A juvenile garter snake just below the Old Rag Shelter.

Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (Oxeye Daisy) along the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

No comments:

Post a Comment