Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Quiet Day on Old Rag and an End-of-Day Rescue

The rain promised a quiet day volunteering on Old Rag with Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS).  It was overcast and rainy when we left DC, but at least it was relatively warm.  Cold rain is my least favorite weather.  It brightened somewhat as we drove and by the time we arrived in the parking lot, it was just dry and cloudy.  Only a few people showed up to hike, but many of those that were there seemed a bit surprised by the weather.  One person actually asked if we knew what time the sun would come out and what time the thunderstorms were supposed to start in the afternoon.  If only I did!

We hiked up the Ridge Trail as a group so we could do training on plants and flowers:  one of my favorite topics.  The forest in the lower areas of the mountain is transitioning from spring flowers to summer flowers, so there aren’t as many flowers as there were a few weeks ago, but some of them are pretty interesting.  The spring flowers are out in full force higher up on the mountain.  

By the time we were approaching the first false summit, we could hear thunder and it had started to rain.  The Ridge Trail is very exposed above the first false summit, so we pitched a tarp in  a
sheltered spot and continued training while the storm howled around us.  We stayed there for about an hour, until the storm moved on to the foothills east of Shenandoah.  As we put away the tarp and started climbing again, we were treated to some amazing views of the clouds and the storm.  The rain cleared the air and the lighting was perfect:  Green leaves contrasting against the purple sky.  As we approached the summit, it became clear that another storm was moving in, so we didn’t linger.  

We had also been listening to a situation develop in another, nearby, area of the park.  A hiker was injured and would likely need to be carried out.  Our lead Steward called and asked if they could use our assistance.  It turned out they did want extra help, so, having finished our patrol, we headed to the boundary trailhead where we were needed.  The challenge with the carryout:  four stream crossings.  By coming from the boundary, we were able to assess the crossings before we met up with the team (who had hiked down from Skyline Drive).  The river was running high and fast due to all of the rain this spring and the safety of the rescuers as well as the patient was our biggest concern.  We scouted the best points to cross, tied safety lines, and helped safely pass the litter over the river.  By the time the patient was loaded into the ambulance, we had missed pizza in Sperryville, but I don’t think anyone was too disappointed.  We were glad to have been able to help with the rescue and to once again work with the awesome National Park Service team.  Old Rag Patrols has a couple of pictures from the rescue.  I didn't have my camera along at that point.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 A red eft along the Ridge Trail.  The eastern, or red-spotted newt has three stages of life:  They start out as aquatic tadpoles like other amphibians and return to the water as adult newts.  In between, however, they have a terrestrial juvenile stage, when they are known as efts.  More information can be found here.  This little guy was about four inches long.  
 Viburnum acerifolium (Maple-Leaf Viburnum)
 Orobranche uniflora (One-Flowered Cancerroot). 
 Medola virginiana (Indian Cucumber Root)
 Saxifraga michauxii (Michaux's Saxifrage)
 Thalictrum dioicum (Early Meadow Rue)
Rhododendron prinophyllum (Hoary Azalea)
 After the storm, looking towards the north.
 The storm coming over Stony Man
 The spot where I always take a picture.
 Photina pyrifolia (Red Choke Cherry) on the summit.
 Clouds over Weakley Hollow after the storm.
 Clouds to the south of the summit.

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