Saturday, April 29, 2017

Catching Up: Old Rag, Massachusetts, and Ride the Drive

I've gotten behind with my blog posts, so I'm going to do one big one to catch up.

At the beginning of April, Old Rag Mountain Stewards held training in Shenandoah National Park. We spent Saturday at Big Meadows reviewing various skills. On Sunday, we hiked up Old Rag and did some first aid training. The weather was beautiful (well, except for camping out Friday night, which was in the low 20s with 40 mph winds).

 Looking towards the summit.
 The wildflowers were just barely beginning to bloom. Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot) just coming up.
Wrapping up after training.

The next weekend I went to Massachusetts to see friends. We got out for a hike on the Seven Sisters trail. The hike ostensibly goes over seven mountain peaks: the Seven Sisters. We decided there were a few half and step-sisters that weren't counted in the seven.
 A trailhead register box.
 Taking a break for lunch.
 Anemone americana (Hepatica). These were the only flowers we saw. Mid-April is still late winter in Massachusetts.
 Another view of A. americana.
 Looking towards the west from the trail.
 Bootshot from Bare Mountain, the last peak on our hike.

Last Sunday, Shenandoah National Park closed the northern 31 miles of Skyline Drive to motorized traffic. We were asked if we could volunteer as bike patrol for the event. More than 4,000 people registered for the event. Right up until the evening before, we were expecting really terrible weather - 45 degrees and raining terrible. Then, late on Saturday, the forecast changed and called for dry, if cool, weather.

Our day started with a briefing at 6 a.m. at Skyline High School in Front Royal. Once we signed in and got what we needed for the day, we headed to our spot at milepost 14 (which is where we usually eat lunch when we ride the drive on our own). It was 37 degrees when we arrived a bit after 7 a.m., but the sun was out and there was promise of a warm-up. The first cyclists passed our overlook a little after 8 a.m.We cooked breakfast and drank some coffee and let the sun get higher in the sky before we finally took the bikes off of the car. We wound up riding 40 miles with plenty of climbing. We talked to a ton of cyclists, all of whom were universally positive about being able to ride without worrying about traffic. And we met a lot of people who had never been to the park before or would never have felt comfortable riding with cars on the road. I am so glad the National Park Service decided to give this event a try and I really hope they will make it an annual event.

 We stayed in Front Royal the night before the event. After dinner, we drove up to the first overlook in the park for the final minutes of sunset. This is looking west towards Signal Knob.
Early morning haze from Hogwallow Flats overlook, where our base was for the day.
 Another view from the overlook.
 Michael getting ready to start coffee.
 The view west later in the morning, after we started riding.
 Silene caroliniana (Wild Pink) along the road.
 Cyclists at Hogback Overlook.
 Clematis occidentalis (Purple Virgins Bower).
 Cyclists near milepost 12.
Little Devils Stairs overlook.

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