Sunday, December 1, 2013

Third Annual Hike Off the Pie: Bushwhacking the North Side of Old Rag

For the third year in a row, I celebrated Black Friday with an epic hike with my friends from WanderMindfully and Horizontal Tread. This year, we added two additional Old Rag Mountain Stewards to make a party of five. This year's hike didn't involve much walking on actual trails, except on the way back down. We explored the north slope of Old Rag, looking for old cabin sites. The valleys around Old Rag had been settled over 100 years before Shenandoah National Park was created. Evidence of those farms and villages can be found throughout the park. Most trails in the park pass stone walls, house foundations, and rock piles left from cleared fields. Old Rag is no different. Exploring another side of the mountain seemed like a perfect way to spend the day.

Friday was sunny, but cold (although, not nearly as cold as last Sunday). We arrived to find this, much to our surprise:  
We actually had to park in the back of the parking lot. We didn't really expect very many people to be out on a chilly day when most people are focused on standing in line at the mall. I guess our party wasn't the only one who opted out of the crazy. 

We made the easy walk up the road to the trailhead and then crossed the high water bridges before leaving the road. It rained hard on Tuesday and Wednesday, so crossing Brokenback Run proved to be a challenge, but we all made it across with dry feet. From there we followed old road beds, game trails, and sometimes made our own path up the mountain. Way back in the woods, high up on the north slope of Old Rag, we ran into two guys who were camping. They were definitely as surprised to see us as we were to see them. We chatted for a minute and continued our explorations. Higher up on the slopes, a light dusting of snow covered the ground. We saw a lot of evidence of the large fire that swept over the mountain in the year 2000. The ground in many places was scattered with artifacts of those who lived there before the park existed. We emerged onto the Weakley Hollow Fire Road just before sunset, much to the surprise of some downward-bound hikers. We arrived back at the car just as darkness fell.
 Crossing Brokenback Run on a log.
Part of a chimney is all that remains of a cabin high up on Old Rag.
A broken crock.
Snow on the leaves.
A large stone wall along Brokenback Run.
A walled in spring. Springs were often used to keep food from spoiling before refrigeration.
 A seed pod from a Frasier Magnolia (Magnolia fraseri).
Old Rag through the trees.
If you enlarge this one, you'll see an old road bed through the trees.

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