Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shenandoah National Park-Old Rag Mountain

Hubby and I had a big camping weekend planned. We left work early Friday (but not as early as we had hoped) and headed out towards Shenandoah National Park. It's fall over here, and the color was peaking in the park. The closer and closer we got to the park, the more beautiful the leaves became. We entered at the Thornton Gap Entrance Station and where they had posted that two campgrounds still had sites available, Matthew's Arm, and Loft Mountain, about 50 miles away. We decided to drive to Matthew's Arm, since we had stayed there once before. But, alas, by the time we got there there were no sites left :(  We didn't have the patience to drive 50+ miles on Skyline Drive, which has a speed limit of about 45 miles per hours. We were disappointed, but didn't want it to ruin our weekend. We decided to head north to Front Royal and get a hotel room for the night. As we drove, I snapped a few pictures along the way. Those pics are below. It was also close to dusk, saw we saw quite a few deer, and a black bear and two cubs.

The hubby and I got up the next morning and decided to head to Old Rag Mountain, a popular hiking destination (more popular than we would have thought, but more on that later). Before we headed to the trailhead, we stopped by the visitor's center briefly. There were these amazing trees with fall colors.

We stopped at a few overlooks on our way through the park to see the fall colors.

We finally made our way to the Old Rag parking area around 10 am, and it was packed!!! The lady who lived on the farm next to the area had opened up one of her fields and was charging $10 a car to park there. Luckily, we got a spot where we didn't have to pay. The hubby and I were in disbelief as to the number of people there. We knew this was not going to be a quiet, secluded hike.

We headed up the Weakly Hollow Trail towards the summit of Old Rag

Looking into the surrounding forest

Most of the trees had golden fall colors

Lots of neat large boulders

Pretty red leaves

Only a few trees had red and orange leaves

I think these leaves were my favorite. I love the pink/orange.

Going along the trail

Leaves in the process of changing color

Flowers growing on a boulder

Loved all the lichen that was covering this boulder

Hubby taking a short rest

Looking down into a valley filled with yellow leaved trees

Loved the amazing views

My hubby :)

And me

So, this is the part of the trail where it started to get crowded. As you get closer towards the summit, there are more boulders to scramble over, under, and in between.  In some spots there is only room for one person at a time. Multiply that situation by the 100+ people on the trail, and you get a back up. A major back up. We seriously had to wait in line for at least an hour to reach the summit. Never in my life have I had to wait to hike a trail!! I guess that is what we get for going when it is peak color in the park.

It's hard to see, but there are people on those boulders

The views made the waiting in line worth it

Finally, the summit!!

The hike after the summit winds back down the mountain to a nice long trek on a fire road, which is needed after the strenuous hike up.

Walking on the fire road

Stream that runs near the fire road

Another colorful red tree

Besides a crow, this is the only other animal we saw all day
So, let me warn you, this is an 8.8 mile strenuous hike. There were several people on the trail who looked completely unprepared for the endeavor they undertook. This is a very popular trail in the park, so don't expect to be alone on your hike. Also, as it gets closer to winter, ice and snow can form at the higher elevations, making this hike dangerous, so be prepared. If you want more information on Old Rag, the National Park Service has a couple of pages dedicated to it, including a safety video (click here and here). Prepare to do this hike early. It took hubby and I five and half hours to hike the sucker, with wait time. If you are interested in finding out more about Shenandoah National Park, you can get to it from the Old Rag sites, or you can click here. It's great park to visit, and I'm fortunate to have it only a couple of hours away.