Monday, June 13, 2011

A Rescue on Old Rag and a Race

The hiking scheduler (me) and the cycling event scheduler (also me) failed to coordinate when it was time to fill out the spring Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS) schedule for this year.  Early in the year, we signed up for the Air Force Cycling Classic Crystal Ride (more on that later) on June 12.  Somehow, I completely ignored that when I put us on the schedule for ORMS on June 11.  We talked about trying to reschedule ORMS, but we were someone's ride and we didn't want to leave them shorthanded on Saturday.

We figured we could hike up the Saddle Trail and take it relatively easy.  After all, rescues are rare and we had already had a few this spring, so it didn't seem likely that we would have another.  The fact that we needed to haul the rescue gear back to the cache after last Sunday's rescue didn't seem like it deviated too much from that plan.  We got a ride up to the top of the fire road.  We had to carry the litter and several packs from Old Rag Shelter (the lower one) up to the first aid cache.  Since there were four of us and it is only a mile-and-a-half, it wasn't going to be a difficult carry.

Just as we were about to set off, we received a call that there was an injured hiker on the upper Saddle Trail.  That changed things a bit.  Now we were a mile-and-a-half below the first aid cache with some of the gear we would need above the first aid cache.  We were also slower because of the extra gear.  That being said, the injuries didn't sound too serious, so we figured that we wouldn't need to do a carryout.  We split up the gear between three of us, the lead Steward went ahead, and we moved as fast as possible up the mountain.  We dropped the extra gear in the cache and then continued up to the patient. 

Soon after arriving at the patient, it became clear that they weren't going to be able to walk out.  The lead Steward made the call that we would carry the patient.  SSW Spouse and I headed back down to the cache to get the litter and the other gear we would need to transport the patient safely.  When we returned to the patient, the two Stewards who had come up the Ridge Trail had made it there as well.  About the time we were ready to move the patient, the rest of the carryout team began showing up.  I think we wound up with a total of 15 people or so, which was a good number since there were several spots where the litter needed to be passed down, rather than carried by one team.  Halfway down, a thunderstorm rolled in, soaking everyone but the patient (we used a tarp to keep the litter dry).

We actually finished pretty early.  We received the call around 11 a.m. and the patient was loaded into a vehicle at around 3:45 p.m. and then into an ambulance a little while later.  That sounds like a crazy long time for someone who needs medical treatment, but five hours is a really fast carryout on Old Rag.  There just isn't any easy way to get someone down off the mountain.  Every time I am involved in something like this, I am reminded what a great team ORMS and the Park Service are.  Everyone pitches in to make a big job safer and go more quickly.

We arrived home fairly tired, but not too worn out.  The alarm clock went off bright and early Sunday morning and I woke up a little stiff from the carryout, mostly in the arms.  We had to pick up another friend for the Air Force Cycling Classic Crystal Ride, which is a great event.  They close a 12 km loop from Crystal City up to the Air Force Memorial.  It is an opportunity to ride on roads that are never otherwise open to cyclists.  Riders get different colored medals based on how many laps they complete in 3.5 hours.  Last year, I completed six laps and I was hoping to do better this year.  I actually felt pretty good on the bike and wound up doing six again, but quite a bit faster than last year.  Sometime during lap 5, though, my arms started aching.  Carrying a litter and then holding the bike was a lot for one weekend.  All in all, it was a great ride.  One of the things I like about big cycling events is the variety of bikes that people ride.  The majority of people ride standard road bikes, but one guy did the ride on a penny farthing, making him much stronger than I will ever be.  Another rode an elliptical bike, which looked like it would be awkward and weird, but he didn't seem to be having any trouble with it.  We stuck around to watch the pro races in the afternoon, making for a good end to a tiring, but rewarding weekend. 

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 Hydrangea arborescens (Wild Hydrangea).  This is one of the most common shrubs in the park).
 Tadpoles in a small stream.  Click to enlarge for a better view.
 An old spring on Old Rag.
Sculletaria sp.  (Skullcap).  I don't have time this morning to determine which Skullcap this is.  I'll take another look at it tonight.

 The men's professional race at the Air Force Cycling Classic.  This and the next picture were taken with my phone.
Another shot of the men's pro race.

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