I write to you with soreness in spots in my upper back and glutes where I have never experienced soreness. I LOVE THIS because it means I challenged myself and muscles in a new way. Claire, my co-worker and friend (and also one of the friends I ran the Move4Mobility charity race with about a month ago now) suggested going on a hike a few weeks ago. As Memorial Day weekend drew nearer, I was admittedly a little anxious about this adventure due to the combination of a 90 degree/ high humidity forecast and this being my first big hike. I committed and got myself prepared asking Claire for tips on the right snacks and what to expect out of this new experience. I bought myself a sweet Camelbak which is pictured below (70 oz. or 2.0 L capacity) and lots of all-day hike worthy snacks like trail mix, PowerBar Energy Blast gummies, a granola bar, and a tuna lunch kit complete with tuna salad, crackers, diced peaches, and a chocolate chip cookie. The Camelbak had a number of useful pockets where I could store things like extra socks, TP, a mini-first aid kit, and sunscreen/bug spray. I was not messing around with my level of preparedness, my friends!
We departed on Sunday morning at 7 am for Old Rag Mountain with a brief stop for Starbucks and a directions/bathroom break. Claire brought along her college friend, Ali, who is also fitness-minded. I was excited to make a new friend on this new adventure. Old Rag is about 85 miles outside of the DC area and we made it in a little less than 2 hours given the back roads with slower speed limits. By the time we parked, paid the $5/person entry fee, and walked the 0.5 mile-ish to the trail start, it was around 9:45 am. The hike would take us around 5.5 hours with lunch across 9 miles.
The trail started with a number of switch backs (this is when a trail zig zags due to the steepness of the incline) and became more rocky after that until we reached a good portion of rock scrambles. This is what separates you from more of a nature walk. The rock scrambles included a bunch hand over hand climbing and strategizing where to place that foot or hand to get leverage and progress. I found that chivalry is not dead as a number of men along the course gave us a hand to pull up to a rock overhead. One gentlemen actually gave us his knee for boost which meant his khaki shorts would be covered in dirty foot prints, but he insisted. We could not have done without some of the helpful people along the way. There were also a bunch of cool looking narrow passage ways and small caves to pass through. Having limited knowledge of hiking, I was pleased to know that accomplishing these rock scrambles on my first go at a hike would mean that plenty of other hikes will be a cake walk for me according to Claire. FANTASTIC! Along the way, there were spectacular views like that of the photo header of this post. I need to load some additional photos here, but funny story to share. We took some pics of us reaching the summit in a bunch of celebratory poses. We stopped to eat lunch there and everything gloating of our halfway there accomplishment. After lunch, we continued through more rock scramble challenges realizing that we had NOT actually reached the summit after all. We reached a good stopping point for eats and a beautiful, open area for lots of viewing pleasure, but it was not the summit. Oops! The pic below was taken from the ACTUAL summit. Gorgeous scenery, right?
When we actually reached the summit, we had another photo shoot and took in the views some more. The first part of the hike was uphill, steeper, and included the rock scrambles but was actually a little shorter in distance than the second part. At the summit, we still had around 5 of the 9 miles ahead of us. It became more of a nature walk with a downhill path including a lot of cautious hopping over rocks and the occasional walk over small bridges to cross serene creeks. The only part of the hike that I was not a huge fan of was the final 2.5 mile stretch. It was just wide, dirt fire roads. Not so thrilling after all the adventure of rock scrambling and caves etc. It became very, “Ok, are we near the parking lot yet?!” It didn’t ruin the experience by any means, just a change of pace for sure. In the end, the hike took us 5 hours including a few brief stops for snacks, lunch, and enjoying the views. Not too shabby!
All in all, I recommend taking on Old Rag Mountain. Maybe think about the spring or fall as opposed to the start of summer, but definitely go buy a Camelbak as well as awesome fuel-your-body snacks and grab some friends for a great time. Have you done Old Rag? If so, tell me about your experience. Have you done other hikes you love love loved? Share your suggestions please. I’m interested in hiking more after having done this one.