All 2014 Reports
- Dave MacLuskie, Kaylee MacLuskie
Top Ten things of the trip:
I just finished my top ten things. I am going to explain what I mean starting at one.
We managed to squeeze in one last backpacking trip as the summer break came to an end. Due to the reported popularity of the Old Rag hike I took some time off work and we did a Thursday/Friday trip. If you're not familiar with Old Rag it's highly popular. The 200 car parking lot fills up on most weekends. In the words of the National Park Service "Old Rag is Shenandoah's most popular and most dangerous hike." It even has it's own safety video: Old Rag Safety Video.
So with that stage set travelled up to the main parking area on Thursday and got our (free) back country camping permit and paid our Shenandoah National Park entry fee. Instead of starting the hike there we drove around to the other side of the mountain and parked at Berry Hollow. This let us approach from the far side and put in a few miles to a nice campsite and give us a shorter exit after sumitting on Friday.
The gravel fire road that climbs out of Berry Hollow is a pretty relentless climb. It eventually joins with the Weakly Hollow fire road. There are nice camping options at this intersection but we kept moving, now downhill on Weakly Hollow to the Robertson Mountain and Corbin Hollow trails intersect. Brokenback Run (a creek) runs through here and we camped nearby.
It was still fairly early in the day and we spent the time exploring the hollow, the creek, and the various pools. Every now and then some day hikers would pass on their way back to their cars after seeing Old Rag. We setup camp back in the woods a fair distance from the main trail. You could see the tarp from the trail if you knew where to look but I don't think anyone ever noticed it. We used the hammocks again and managed another double hang though the trees were less than ideal and we were a bit close together.
We cooked dinner closer to the trail (better logs to sit on), hung the bear bag, and headed back to camp to play cards until it got dark. Kaylee seemed to sleep pretty well but a deer kept me up most of the night. It kept wandering by (loudly) and I swear it tripped on a guy line at one point. Shining a light at it (not more than 20 feet away) didn't phase it at all.
In the morning we packed up and continued down Weakley Hollow, skipped a few bridges to take advantage of a few more "manual" creek crossing, and arrived at the usual Old Rag trail head. We'd climb a good 2 to 2.5 miles of switch back before reading the much anticipated "rock scramble" portion of the trip. Even early on Friday morning we were passed by quite a few folks heading up the mountain. The rock scramble started out pretty tame but soon we stowed our hiking poles. They were just getting in the way and we need our hands to climb up, down, or around obstacles.
The appearance of the "chasm" was a surprise. It's rare to see trail markers point down. Kaylee has already described our piece meal descent. From there on tackled the various challenges with vigor. We had to remove our packs several times to squeeze through small areas. A couple climbs required Kaylee to go pack-less and get a boost from me. It was really a blast and we had a great time with each mini challenge along the way.
We took a long break on what I thought was the top, even though the elevation report from the Garmin didn't add up. Yeah, that wasn't the top, but we needed to snack so it all worked out. We eventually reached the nominal peak and enjoy the views before continuing on. We passed the actual peak (it has a sign and everything) which is a big rock sitting among trees on the ridge. It's pretty anticlimactic after all that scrambling.
The descent was quite a bit calmer and of course gravity assisted. We eventually passed the large campsite, turned left, and continued our descent down Berry Hollow to the car.
It was really a great trip. There are a few other trails in the area I'd like to hike and Old Rag would be a lot of fun to do again, perhaps without full packs.
dave.macluskie AT gmail.com