Monday, October 10, 2011

Old Rag Mountain Stewards: The Crowds Have Arrived

The Old Rag Mountain Stewards (ORMS) schedule showed just three of us working on Saturday.  My thought when I saw that was, "hmm, it is going to be the first sunny weekend day in several weeks, the forecast calls for 75 degrees, and the leaves are just starting to turn...what could possibly go wrong?"  We arrived sort of expecting most of the city of DC and half of Charlottesville to be there.  We were not far off.  The parking lot was more than 3/4 full at 9:30 a.m. The bonus:  It turned out that we had one more volunteer for a total of four.

Two of us headed up the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.  The leaves are just starting to change and nearly all of the flowers have faded except for the asters.  It was a pleasant, quiet walk up to Post Office Junction.  We met a handful of groups who had gotten an early start and were finishing before noon.  We stopped for a quick lunch at Old Rag Shelter, before continuing up the Saddle Trail.  From the shelter to the summit was almost a  constant stream of people coming down from the summit. 

At the summit, we took a break, chatted with the crowd, and waited for the rest of our group to come up the Ridge Trail.  The summit is beautiful in all seasons, but in the fall it puts on its best show.  The blueberry bushes and maples turn bright, blazing red.  Yellow Witch Hazel holds on as the very last flower of the year to bloom.  The air is clear and ravens loop back and forth, riding thermals over the rocks.  In spite of the crowd, the weather was perfect and the day was going very well.

The other two volunteers joined us and we headed back to Byrd's Nest Shelter for some training on knots.  While we were there, I heard someone mention a snake.  A little juvenile black snake was climbing up the outside of the shelter.  Adult black snakes are, of course, black, but juveniles have a pattern that mimics that of timber rattlesnakes.  This one still had that pattern.  It was about a foot long and as big around as my index finger, so it probably hatched in the spring.  Hopefully, as it grows, it will eat lots of shelter mice.  We also had a rather frustrating encounter with a camper who seemed to be rather startled by the idea that he shouldn't cut down live trees. 

It was a beautiful day and, although, it was crowded, most of the crowd was friendly.  In answer to the, "what could go wrong?" question...not a thing on this Saturday.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 A view of the summit from the Saddle Trail
An Aster that I haven't successfully identified yet. 
This little spider was actively encasing her prey in silk. 
Looking down the Weakley Hollow Fire Road.
Bright red leaves near the Old Rag Shelter.
Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel) on the Old Rag Summit.
The Saddle Trail.  The bright red shrubs are blueberries.
More blueberries.
The little black snake on Byrd's Nest Shelter.
An interesting caterpillar on the Saddle Trail
 The spot where I always take a picture.
 A raven floating on thermals at sunset.
Glowing trees on the Ridge Trail at sunset.

1 comment:

  1. Your pixs are beautiful Emily!!! We had similar experience Sat when we went to hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway! Why people think they can hike up a roughed trail in sandals is still beyond me!! The traffic on the parkway was unreal! But Dale still managed to get 300+ pixs :-) Working on them now... Becky