Return to Old Rag Mountain

September 26, 2010  •  1 Comment

     Last weekend, I returned to Old Rag Mountain. I went there last year at about the same time. My purpose then was primarily social. However, my purpose was a bit different this time, viz. I planned to scout out locations for a visit in October. It was a solo trek.

     I would really like to visit Old Rag in October when the leaves have changed. I should be able to get some wonderful early morning panorama shots of the fall foliage. However, when shooting landscapes at sunrise, there isn’t any time to wonder around looking for good vistas, the light changes too quickly to waste time. So, last weekend I figured that it would be good to visit Old Rag and scout out all the good vistas and make note of the timing of my ascent. This way, I’ll be prepared when I visit again in October.

     So, last weekend I got up at 3:30 am and departed at 4:00 am for Sperryville, Virginia. I arrived at the lower parking lot for Old Rag at 6:00. Dawn was at 6:30 and sunrise was at 7:00. Since the peak is only part-way into the 8.5 mile trail loop, I figured that I might hike fast and get to the peak by sunrise.

     Armed with a headlamp I picked up at REI, I set out hiking by myself in the dark. And boy was the hike tough! To get to the peak, you have to hike over the Ridge Trail, a 3 mile rock scramble! I’m in decent physical condition, but even so, I found the trail difficult. Not only is the rock scramble 3 miles long, but it includes 2,200 feet of elevation gain. That’s like climbing the stairs to the top floor of a 220 story skyscraper! And if that isn’t hard enough, I was carrying a lot of photography gear, including my enormous Gitzo series 3 tripod.

     In the photo below, you can see 3 peaks off in the distance. The furthest peak is the peak of Old Rag Mountain. I was already winded when I took this photo and the trail looked daunting.

The Ridge Line TrailThe Ridge Line TrailView of the Ridge Trail on Old Rag Mountain. The peak of the mountain is the furthest peak in the image.

     Well, I missed the sunrise. The trail took way too long and was much too challenging for me to hike in a mere 1 hour. Instead, it took me 3 hours to get to peak. I arrived at 9 am. I think I could have made it in closer to 2 hours, but when I realized that I wasn’t going to make it in time for the sunrise, I made a few stops to take photos along the way. And I’m glad that I did. I really love this photo of mist rising over Shenandoah—I took it about a third of the way into the rock scramble.

Early Morning Mist, Old Rag MountainEarly Morning Mist, Old Rag MountainEarly morning view from the Ridge Trail on Old Rag Mountain of mist rising over Shenandoah.

When I got to the peak of the mountain, I was greeted with an incredible sight—and I don’t mean the vista, which was also incredible.

Pink sofa on Old Rag MountainPink sofa on Old Rag MountainA group of 10 or 15 students from Old Dominion University carried a pink leather love-seat up to the peak of Old Rag Mountain. I'm amazed they carried it all the way up the Ridge Trail: 3 miles of rock scramble and 2,200 feet of elevation gain. They set out at 4 am to watch the sun rise.

     A group of 10 or 15 students from Old Dominion University carried a pink leather love-seat to the top of the mountain and perched it on top of a boulder to watch the sunrise.

Pink sofa on Old Rag MountainPink sofa on Old Rag MountainA group of 10 or 15 students from Old Dominion University carried a pink leather love-seat up to the peak of Old Rag Mountain. I'm amazed they carried it all the way up the Ridge Trail: 3 miles of rock scramble and 2,200 feet of elevation gain. They set out at 4 am to watch the sun rise.

     The pink couch was completely out of place. I might as well have seen a pink elephant. I was stunned when I saw it. Actually, I was out of breath from the hike. And these kids carried a couch up the side of the mountain!

Pink sofa on Old Rag MountainPink sofa on Old Rag MountainA group of 10 or 15 students from Old Dominion University carried a pink leather love-seat up to the peak of Old Rag Mountain. I'm amazed they carried it all the way up the Ridge Trail: 3 miles of rock scramble and 2,200 feet of elevation gain. They set out at 4 am to watch the sun rise.

     They started hiking at 4 am in the dark—and I thought I started early! They were hoping to catch the sunrise as well, but barely missed it. I chatted with them for a while. I was so impressed by their feat. And they were very friendly, offering me an opportunity to sit on the couch for a while, but I declined. (You might guess why by looking at the photos.) However, what was most impressive to me wasn’t that they were able to carry the couch up the mountain, but that they actually carried it back down with them!

     Last weekend’s hike was fun and very challenging. However, next time when I go in October, I will have to get up even earlier. While the sun will rise a bit later, I now know that 3:30 am just isn’t going to cut it. And yes, landscape photography is hard . . . really hard.


Comments

Peter Petropulos(non-registered)
Hey John,

My mother is a photography teacher at a local Virginia highschool and one of her colleagues stumbled upon your website and knowing the story of the teacher "with the kid who carried a couch up a mountian" she linked my mother to it and she just shared it with me!

I was one of those kids who carried that love seat up the mountian that morning, i remember running into you at the top and still am let down you never sat in it!

Thankyou for the post and photos, it brought back a ton of great memories for me and trip! It was one of the longest 48hours of my life, dont forget that that was a sunday morning meaning that the night before we were at our colleges football game and then drove straight to the mountian after!

As i write this I am currently resting my feet after hiking for 4 days thought a mountian range in New Zealand, and good group of the "kids" spoken about above have their tickets bought and are coming over here to join me in Novmeber.
Remember the adventure never ends with just one!

GO ODU!
No comments posted.
Loading...
Subscribe
RSS
Archive
January February March April May June July August September October November December (1)
January (1) February March April (1) May (1) June (1) July August (1) September (1) October November (1) December
January February (1) March April (1) May June July August September October November December