Sunday, May 13, 2018

Old Rag: Two Crazy Spring Weekends

We spent two weekends in April on Old Rag with Old Rag Mountain Stewards. They were both crazy in their own way. The first weekend (April 21) was a fee-free weekend. We arrived at the parking lot at 9:30 a.m. to find a line to get in to the lot, the main parking lot full, and people already parking in the neighbor's pasture.
If you click to enlarge, you can see the cars lined up behind us.

Then, once we checked in and drove up the upper parking lot, we found this: 
Friends don't let friends blindly follow their GPS. This might have been more entertaining had we not unlocked the gate and let them turn around in the upper parking lot.

From there, the day settled down. It was really crowded, but largely uneventful. The first signs of spring were beginning to appear with wildflowers blooming on the lower part of the mountain and it was a pretty nice day.
 Houstonia cerulea (Bluets)
 Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)
 From the summit. Not much green up high yet.
 Obolaria virginica (Pennywort)
 The spot where I always take a picture. Very little sign of spring here at 3000 feet.
 There was a noreaster in March that produced incredibly strong winds. The east side of Shenandoah National Park took a lot of damage, which we saw on the way down the Ridge Trail.
 Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)
 Trillium grandiflorum (Giant Trillium)
Fern fiddleheads near the parking lot.

The second weekend (April 28) was less crowded, but more insane. Our day started with six guys hiking bare-chested down the fire road, wearing American flag shorts, and carrying a yellow flag. No idea what the story was, but that isn't remotely the craziest thing I've seen on that mountain. One our way down for the day, we ran into a group that just defies explanation. They were almost to the rock scramble. They had a puppy off leash (dogs aren't allowed on Old Rag), a radio blasting music, and one guy on crutches. You could smell the party before you could see it. Normally, we would talk to people hiking with a dog, but I looked up and the whole scene and decided there wasn't any point. As we walked by, they invited us to "come party, man!" It was a good introduction to the mountain for our new volunteers. Spring progressed over the course of the week. More wildflowers bloomed and the mountain was starting to green up.

 Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)
 One of the newer volunteers with us spotted a morel right beside the road. We only found one more. Since she spotted the first one, we sent both of them home with her.
 Another pretty T. grandiflorum.
 A barefoot hiker.
 Much greener compared to the previous week.
 Looking south from the summit.
 Slightly more green at 3000 feet.
 Storms rolling in as we finished the day.
Dentaria laciniata (Cut-Leaf Toothwort)

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