Sunday, April 12, 2009
Midway through today's hike I had two simultaneous and contradictory thoughts. Tired and achy from rock scrambling on the way to the top of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah Park, I looked at the next challenge and thought, "Boy, maybe I'm reaching the age when I'm going to have to cut back on some of these more strenuous outings." The reason I had time for my thoughts to wander, though, is that we had caught up with a hiking group composed entierely of Korean (I think) senior citizens and had to wait while they scrambled up a particularly challenging crevice in the rock. They were slow, but each and every one was making it. Ted and I had talked for a while earlier in the day with one of the younger members of their group, Joe, who told us that this group hikes every Sunday, and that they do it for their health. From the pace they were setting up the mountain, I'd say it was working! I guess if you set your mind to it, you don't ever have to slow down.
We did this hike as a closer to Ted's Spring Break. The last day of Spring break promised great weather, and so the two of us headed for the mountains. Ted had never done this hike before, and I'm not sure whether I had either (I know I've hiked the nearby White Oak Canyon trail), but it's known as one of the most spectacular hikes in the region. We expected the park to be empty, given that it was Easter, but when we arrived at 9:45 AM the upper lot was already full. The trailhead was abuzz with activity, including the Korean seniors doing group warmups.
I won't bother with all the particulars of the hike. I'll just say we did the classic Old Rag loop, 8.8 miles, plus the walk to and from the lower parking lot, for a total of about 10 miles. Elevation gain of about 2350 ft from the lot to the summit. Peak elevation, about 3200 ft. The weather indeed turned out to be lovely - chilly at first, but warming with the afternoon sun. We got ourselves pretty warmed up from the hiking and scrambling too; at one point just before the summit my legs got pretty rubbery from exertion and I had to take a little break.
We reached the summit at about 1 PM. There were still little icy pools of water here and there in the rock at the top, but overall it was a wonderful scene. Sunny, great vistas. We reconnected with a few groups we had bumped into on the way up - the three foul-mouthed nurses and their friend Tom, the young rock climber chick who had given me a boost to help me start up the challenging crevice mentioned above, and of course, the Koreans.
The hike down was on easier trails, but was still tough. I know from experience that for some reason I'm very slow when going down in elevation (it must be some muscle imbalance, since I'm fine on the climb), and so lots of people passed us on the way down. Finally, Ted and I arrived at the car tired and happy, with a great feeling of accomplishment.
The only other unusual part of the hike was that it was still Passover and so I couldn't take my usual collection of trail snacks - energy bars and the like. Instead I made do with matzo & cheese, an orange and various other little kosher for Passover tidbits I found at home. Likewise, when we stopped at WaWa market in Manassas for a snack on the way home, I had to pass up all the yummy chometzdick (that is, not kosher for Passover) snack foods. I wound up with the healthful, if not 100% satisfying combo of Baked Lays and apple slices.