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Old Rag MTN, VA Day Hike

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My son John asked if I wanted to hike Old Rag with him. I said yes even though I was concerned about if I would make it or not. I had hiked this mountain 3 or 4 times successfully over the last 23 years. I also had one failed attempt when I ate a Burger King 1,000 calorie Eggnormous Sandwich and then attempted to hike from Skyline Drive to Old Rag and back. I got sick while about 80% of the way to the summit and had to abort that trip.

I picked up John at his house around 8, we got to the trailhead around 9:30 AM and started the hike. I told John to go ahead because he was in great shape, being a runner. I said that I would meet him at the top.

There are 2 ways to get to the summit of Old Rag. The hard way and the really hard way. We did a loop consisting of the really hard way up, then the hard way down and an easy last 3 miles. The total distance was about 9.5 miles.

I told John that if I didn't make it to the summit by 12 noon, that I would turn around. The problem was that, at around 11:30 AM, I could see the summit. But I had 3 other false summits in order to get there. I made it by around 3:00 PM to the summit.

If it wasn't for the kindness of a young couple from Kentucky that were hiking with their 70 year old father, I would not have made it. I met them at the part where the trail gets very dicey. Where you have to climb over, under and around huge bolders as you are ascending over 2,000 feet in the 2.9 miles to the summit. I had done it numerous times before. But I was younger and in better shape before.

This couple helped both me and their father navigate these obstacles on the way to the Old Rag summit. They gave me both water and chocolate to give me an energy boost to make it. I may have been all smiles in the picture below. But I was hurting when I made it.

John was not at the summit when I got there. He thought that I didn't make it so he did the loop, checked the car and then was backtracking and looking for me. I started the 3 mile descent at around 3:00 PM, made it to the Old Rag Shelter by round 4:00 PM, the Weakley Hollow Fire RD by 4:30 PM, met John along that trail by 5:00 PM and made it back to the car by 5:30 PM. It was just getting dark. 8 hours to do a 9.5 mile hike.

I was upset at what the Park Service did to the Byrds Nest Shelter and the Old Rag Shelter. They blocked off 75% of the Byrds Nest Shelter and probably made it a tool cache. That did not leave much room for the picnic table. This was probably done to further discourage camping there. Then, at the Old Rag Shelter, they installed a privy and there was a fire pit in front of the shelter. But you could not camp within 400 yards of the shelter. In the last year I have disagreed with a number of questionable decisions that the NPS has made. So much for my editorializing.

I got a burst of energy and hiked with John back to the vehicle. John drove. I took a sip of coffee that I had left in my cup from that morning. Then I started feeling all sweaty, nauseated and weak. I made John stop the vehicle at one point and got some water out of my pack in the back of the vehicle and shed my fleece jacket. I felt a bit better. Then John took me to Panera Bread in Culpeper, VA where he bought me some chicken noodle soup, some bread and some Mountain Dew. I felt much better then. I was probably both dehydrated and hungry. So John drove my car to his house. Then I drove home. I left home at 6:30 AM that morning and got home at 8:45 PM that night.

This hike occured during the Trump government shutdown. I saw no NPS personnel and the portapotties were at capacity at the parking area and were close to overflowing. I was concerned that, if an emergency arose, that we could not get help. Thank God we didn't have to summon help.

So I'm 64 years old now. I'll be 65 next month. I have now come to realize that hiking Old Rag is much more demanding then when I was 41 years old and first did it. Will I ever summit Old Rag again? Unless I lose about 40 pounds, probably not. But I'm thankful that I made it this time thanks to that couple from Kentucky and my son John.

Me at the Old Rag MTN, VA summit
Me at the Old Rag MTN, VA summit.
1976 map, Old Rag MTN, VA
1976 map, Old Rag MTN, VA

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