Monday, April 11, 2011

Old Rag Mountain Stewards: More Signs of Spring

Sunday was our first day volunteering with Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS) this year.  The weather started out cold and gray.  When we arrived, Old Rag was shrouded in fog.  The forecast was for 70 degrees, but at 10 a.m., it was not apparent that it would ever get even close to that warm.  We decided hike up the fire road since there were several large groups going up the Ridge Trail.  Shortly after we began, the clouds lifted and the sun came out.  It quickly warmed up enough that we were able to hike in short sleeves.

The flowers have just started to bloom along the lower fire road and the trees in the lowest part of the valley have just begun to leaf out.  We paused for lunch at Post Office Junction, enjoying the break in the warm sun.  As we hiked higher, those signs of spring diminished.  Above Old Rag Shelter, we had basically hiked back into winter, at least as far as vegetation goes. 

At Byrd's Nest Shelter, we did some training on traction-in-line splinting for broken femurs, which raised a few eyebrows among visitors stopping by the shelter.  Old Rag Patrols has a picture of the splint being set up.  After we were done with training, we headed up to the summit, where it was quite windy.  In spite of the sun, we needed jackets on the summit.  Clouds still filled the valleys east of Old Rag.  The crowd on the summit was pleasantly small, especially given the number of people out hiking.

We hiked down the Ridge Trail.  At the Chute, which is where the worst backups occur on busy days, I checked out an off-trail bypass that impatient people use to avoid the line.  The bypass crosses a fairly steep slope, which is now badly eroded due to the foot traffic that has crossed it.  It has been trampled enough that it appears to be part of the Ridge Trail, except that it is not blazed.  Next time we are up there, I will take some pictures and post them.  Later on, we also saw evidence of more damage caused by off trail travel.  This time it was switchback-cutting, which is also leading to erosion. 

Below the rock scramble, we hiked back into early spring.  The wildflowers reappeared and the trees has tiny green leaves which are beginning to grow.  It is wonderful to see the forest wake up after the long, cold winter.  All in all, it was a quiet, beautiful spring day on the mountain. 

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot) along the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.
Viola papilionacae (Common Blue Violet) along the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.
Antennaria neglecta (Field Pussy Toes) along the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.
Looking towards Hot Short Mountain from the Summit.
The spot where I always take a picture.  There isn't much green up here yet, other than the evergreen Mountain Laurel bushes.
S. canadensis along the Ridge Trail.
Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger) along the Ridge Trail.

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