You may have read about my Washington, D.C. adventure with three of my good college friends. I flew down with two of them to visit the third around D.C. The two I flew with flew back the day before I did, so my D.C. friend and I had most of the next day together for another adventure before I flew home.
Luckily, this friend also likes to hike. She is also way cooler than me because she has a National Parks Annual Pass. She recommended that we do a cool hike in Shenandoah Nation Park – Old Rag Mountain, which is one of the most popular hikes in the park with a summit at 3,291 feet. In order to have enough time to complete the hike and make it back to the airport for my flight, we woke up at 3:30 AM, packed lunch and some snacks, and headed out the door at 4 AM.
We arrived at the parking lot a little before 6 AM and began the hike. It was still dark, but luckily we planned ahead and packed our headlamps.
I’ve never hiked in complete darkness before, only during sunsets or dusk, where there is still a little light left. Hiking in the dark was honestly kind of terrifying. We were in bear country, and my friend said she saw a bear here last time she came. So I was on high alert. Unfortunately when you are in the woods, in the dark, everything sounds a million times louder than it actually is. I’m pretty sure it was just some early bird squirrels moving around, but I totally thought we would be jumped by a bear. Fortunately this didn’t happen.
The beginning of the hike was pretty easy, even in the dark. The first 0.8 miles were actually on a paved road to the actual trailhead. Once on the actual trail, it was a gradual incline thanks to many switchbacks. Once the sun came up, the going was even easier.
After a false summit with supposed view (it was very foggy and we couldn’t see anything), we reached the point where we needed to begin the scrambling. This was the funnest part of the hike! We had to navigate narrow passages between rocks, big cracks we had to go down, and steep rocks we had to climb up. The fact that it was foggy and had begun to drizzle made it a bit more challenging because some of the rocks were a bit slippery. I also was trying to use the same foot and hand holds as my friend, who is 5’11”. I’m only 5’5″, so this didn’t work out too well for me. 🙂
We reached the true summit around 8:30 AM. Some of the fog had started to burn off, so we could see a little bit of the surrounding landscape. It was great because we had the entire summit to ourselves. I climbed up onto the highest point, which was a bit scary because it just seemed like a pile of giant rocks precariously leaned up or wedged in between one another. After enjoying this for a bit, we retreated to the space under this rock pile and ate our lunch, at 8:30 in the morning.
After lunch, we were starting to get cold, so we continued on our way down the mountain via Saddle Trail and then Old Rag Fire Road. On the way down, the fog began to clear and we could see further than when we were at the summit.
Once we reached the trail head, we started to actually see other humans, and many of them! They were all starting their hike and we were almost finished! Usually I am the envious one of those finishing a hike as I am just starting. This time it was me!
Since it was now a reasonable time of the day, the small ranger station in the parking lot was open. I’ve been collecting National Park stamps for a while, and I was excited to get my first stamp for the Mid-Atlantic region! I even remembered to bring along my National Parks Passport!
Since we finished around 10ish, we had time to drive part of Skyline Drive, which goes through Shenandoah National Park. I was pretty excited to get a picture of the park entry sign and see more of the park now that some of the fog had burned off.
I also took some cool fish-eye shots.
I had such a great time on this hike and would like to return to Shenandoah for some more exploring (hopefully with slightly better weather). Until then, time to find another mountain to climb!