Old Rag Mountain, VA

A ten-year goal finally came to fruition with four friends who climbed “Old Rag!”

“Old Rag” is the most popular mountain to hike in the state of Virginia, as well as in the mid-Atlantic region. It is located in the northern Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, near Luray and Sperryville. It stands alone as an outlying mountain rather than a part of a continuous chain. Geologically, it is the formation of exposed granite, which happened a billion years ago!

OK, so the rumor we all heard for those ten years was that it was an easy hike. Well, this group of (inexperienced!) women was ready to handle the challenge. Information re the trails was vague- oh, yes, we “Googled” and surmised, but that did not prepare us for the “rock scramble!” We had been told of its presence, as a section of the Ridge Trail, and assumed it was gravel or small rocks. Prepare thyself if you are considering this hike!!! As we ascended the West side of the mountain for 4.4 miles, to the half-way point, we were greeted by 2.8 miles of boulders stacked and jumbled; forming crevices, natural staircases, caves, and ladders full of switchbacks, valleys and mazes… an experienced hikers dream!

It was time to “bite the bullet!” Off we went with blind bravery to attack the east side of the mountain. We didn’t begin until 11:30 AM and had to be finished by dark. It was October, so we had to make haste, and that was putting it mildly! Nevertheless, we knew our skills would be tested. For 2 ½ hours, we climbed, squirmed, squatted, jumped, wiggled, slid, hopped and slithered under, over, around, across and between slabs, boulders and rocks, while following the “blue blazes” trail markers (which we often missed, and steered us in the wrong direction!) We pushed, shoved, cajoled and encouraged one another. What a blast! Fear hides many emotions, especially in the face of bravery! Ha! We constantly questioned our sanity and wondered why no one even mentioned the enormity of this “rock scramble!”

Yes! We all made it 5 ½ hours later and, only one sprained ankle!

Old Rag isn’t only for the semi to experienced hiker, but for all levels. There are other trails for a more leisurely, yet exhilarating experience. Take the family, significant others, friends-anyone who enjoys the beauty of the mountains and their splendor.

Load your backpack with a hearty picnic lunch, plenty of water, and an adventuresome attitude. Be prepared to laugh at yourself, and your compatriots. It’s so much fun! The “high” comes at the end!

Whether you hike the “rock scramble” or the other trails, you will have seen glorious mountain views in all directions, gotten your daily dose of vitamin D, possibly encountered a few black bears, enjoyed the cacophony of nature’s symphony, and invigorated yourself mentally and physically. What better food for the body and soul?

Speaking of food…savor a great meal at The Appetite Repair Shop in nearby Sperryville, VA (20 Main Street Sperryville, VA 22740-2155; 540-9677.

And since camping isn’t allowed above 2800 feet, stay at Dulaney Hollow at Old Rag Mountain Inn, a charming B&B (540-923-1470; VA Byway 231, Star Rt. 6, Madison, VA 22727; oldragmtninn@nexet.net; owners are Susan and Louis Cable.

Because Old Rag’s popularity, go early in the AM, especially on weekends, but try to go during the week. Even then, you will see lots of “friends and countrymen/women”… bottom line… solitude will not be on the program!

Make the excursion in the fall, the busiest time of the year, and you are sure to see a majestic carpet of foliage painting the countryside in orange, yellow, gold, red and green hues surrounded by a backdrop of beautiful clear blue skies. The spring offers mountainsides lavished with color from various wildflowers and plants indigenous to the area.

Whatever your druthers, you are in The Shenandoah National Park, and will have to
pay a fee. Go to their web site for in depth information www.nps.gov/shen/
Remember to keep the mountain clean and green!!

Have fun! Wear sun block and a hat! Drink plenty of water, and laugh!!!

PS: Google “Old Rag, VA” for details, and no pets allowed.
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