For a while now, whenever I've told people either that I'm from Virginia (while climbing a mountain) or that I climb mountains (while in Virginia), they've always asked if I've climbed Old Rag Mountain. I'd heard of it, of course: that it was one of the most-hiked trails in Shenandoah National Park, so popular that lines formed on the way to the summit on clear summer days, and that it ended in a mile-long rock scramble (over what, little crumbly rocks? How tough could it be if it was below treeline in Virginia?). But until recently, I'd never felt the urge to climb it, mostly due to those notorious crowds. What made that mountain any better than the several dozen other peaks in SNP? All that praise had to be hype, and all those hikers just a bunch of trend-following, day-tripping yuppies too lazy to look up other hikes in the area.
But when I finally pushed myself out to see Old Rag this (unseasonably warm) January, I learned I was wrong... oh, boy, was I wrong.
(New readers: that's kind of a theme of this blog, me being wrong about things.)
The trail up Old Rag begins at the mountain's dedicated trailhead/parking lot, three quarters of the way up VA-600 on the east side of SNP, just south of Sperryville. My middle brother (still on break from college) and I arrived around noon to find it nearly empty:
|Note the huge capacity.|