Monday, September 26, 2011

First Fall Weekend on Old Rag: Foggy and Flowers

Yesterday was our first fall weekend with Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS).  Fall can be really, really busy on Old Rag when the weather is nice, but a steady rain was falling when we arrived in the lower parking lot.  The parking lot was less than a quarter full.  While we were getting ready for the day, we did have a visitor ask us why it was raining when the forecast said there was only a 20 percent chance of rain, and when the rain would stop.  Um.  When it is done raining?

We hiked up the Ridge Trail with Shenandoah Mountain Guides.  It rained off and on as we climbed and before too long, we were high enough that we were hiking in the clouds.  By the time we stopped for lunch, it had actually stopped raining.   The rock scramble is always interesting when the rocks are wet.  Between sitting down to take pictures of flowers and scrambling over boulders, I was pretty soaked when we reached the summit.  There were no views yesterday; everything was socked in by the clouds.  One of the cool things about Old Rag when it is cloudy is that it changes your focus.  Instead of looking out over the valleys, away from the mountain, the details of the mountain itself come into view.  We had the summit nearly to ourselves to look at wildflowers, berries, and changes since the last time we had been up there.

On the way down, we had some work to do and some training at Byrd's Nest Shelter.  We meandered our way down the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.  There were lots of pretty wildflowers and leaves are just starting to change. We didn't see anyone else on the way down.  It was a nice quiet start to what will most certainly be another busy, crazy fall season. 

Pictures (click to enlarge):
In the clouds on the Ridge Trail.  This was where we stopped for lunch.
Campanula divaricata (Southern Harebell) with a water droplet on the flower.
Looking up Weakley Hollow from the Ridge Trail.
The spot where I always take a picture.
The summit socked in by the clouds. 
Goldenrod (not sure which kind) on the summit.
Hydatica petiolaris (Michaux's Saxifrage) on the summit.
Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel).  I was surprised to see this blooming this early.  In the past I have only seen it later, after the leaves drop, but that might just mean I haven't been up there at the right time.
Berries on an American Ash.
Eurybia divaricata (Wood Aster) at Byrd's Nest Shelter.
Hiking down the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.  The leaves are just beginning to change down here.
Lobelia siphilitica (Great Lobelia) on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

Chelone glabra (Turtlehead) on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.

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