Sunday, October 27, 2013

Old Rag: Turning Leaves, Ice, and a Rescue

At the last minute, Michael and I decided to go to Old Rag yesterday for a day with Old Rag Mountain Stewards. Another volunteer had put together a geology talk about the mountain and we thought it would be interesting to hear it. By the time we arrived, the large parking lot was full and the neighbor's pasture was about half full (to the tune of $10 per car).

Like last week, we hiked up the fire road first to avoid the crowds. The leaves don't seem to have reached peak colors yet - there is still a lot of green in the valleys, but they also don't seem like they are as bright this year as they were last year.
We stopped for lunch on a boulder along the Saddle Trail and found a leaf with two of these little guys. This is some type of caterpillar, but it is the first time I've ever seen one. so I am not sure what it is. As usual, if anyone has any ideas, send them my way. Thanks to Bob Look for identifying this as Isa textula (Crowned Slug Caterpillar), which turns into the Crowned Slug Moth.
The first hoar frost of the year, pushing up from a bed of moss on the upper Saddle Trail. Nearby, there is also a seep right on the trail that ices over around this time of year. What was damp last week was icy this week. Sunlight almost never hits it and the wind tends to blow there most of the time. Once it ices over, it will often be frozen until March or April.

Ice in one of the many potholes on the summit.
 Looking south from the summit of Old Rag.
The boulder scramble below the summit. I took a similar photo last week and the leaves don't appear to have gotten any brighter. Most of the trees higher up on the mountains are bare.
We were just about to head down the Ridge Trail and listen to a geology lesson, when we received a call for an injured hiker. We spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening working with the National Park Service and the Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group to get the patient safely to transport. This is a shot of the summit right at dusk from the Saddle Trail. We had stopped to take a quick break at a spot I have hiked by a thousand times before without really looking up. As I was looking around, I realized I had a clear view of the summit and just enough time to get my camera out.


  1. I think it is a Crown Slug Caterpillar. What a beautiful little bug! I have not seen one in nature but will be looking out for one in the future.

  2. On Saturday I was teaching a Trail Patrol new member class at the J Frank Shairer Trail Center. Sorry I was not on the mountain to help but sounds like the fact that you and Michael were Stewarding and could quickly respond along with the help of the NPS and SMRG that everything handled SMOOTHLY. I was on Old Rag Sunday and saw Charles and Kristin it was great!! seeing them. I had a great time saw a great sunset, did a lot of interpretive outreach and was able to give a lot of helpful advice to lightless hikers running short on daylight to watch out for their turn around time. I saw one group of three U VA boys on the summit 15 minutes after sunset. They had no lights and I suggested they could shadow me out. They seemed all for the idea. I told them I had to make one quick call before heading down the mountain. After waiting two minutes for me to finish my call they told me they wanted to start down on their own to warm up. I got off my phone call briefly to say I would only be another few minutes and would be right behind them. I never saw them again even though over half my trip out was in deep dark under headlamp. Any time I reached a potential false or real trail junction I call out for them. I hope they caught up to the group left ten minutes before them and had lights. I saw one car in lot with a U VA sticker(could have been campers) when I left at around 9:00. Oh well it was not raining, they had cotton hoodies and it was not going to get too cold and daylight would come around in nine hours.

  3. Thanks for the tip on the caterpillar! They are small and easy to miss. That one was about the size of a dime.