Sunday, May 27, 2018

Loop Hike: Old Rag Mountain and Corbin Mountain Trail, SNP, VA (~1000-3500')

If you've been following this blog, you may have noticed that I've been hiking a lot more this spring than I did last year. There's a reason for this (and it's not that my work schedule has eased up--haha, that'll happen when I'm dead): I'm heading west again this summer to pick off a few more highpoints! The Southwestern ones are all snow-free by July, but they're still serious ascents involving several thousand feet of gain, moderately tricky terrain, and high elevation. I might not be able to train for the last two of those here in Virginia, but I've mapped out some loop hikes along the Blue Ridge that will at least approximate the first.

And so I headed out this Friday for the first of them, which would take me back up Old Rag Mountain and some of the nearby trails in Shenandoah National Park.

As you might recall, Old Rag is one of the few genuine Class 3 scrambles I've seen in Virginia. The top quarter of the mountain is covered in huge, smooth granite boulders, which the trail to the summit takes you over, around, and through. The mountain's unusual terrain and proximity to the DC metro area leave it quite crowded in warm months, so if you prefer to hike without a bunch of randoms breathing down your neck, I recommend you get there early. By the time I arrived, at 9:30 a.m. on a Friday in late May, the (huge) parking lot at the base was already two-thirds full.

The first few miles of my ascent were uneventful, though much greener than the last time I'd been there:

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tar Tales, Part II: Crikey! It's Angry!

If you know me, you know how I handle particularly tough problems. I consider them carefully from all angles, develop a detailed plan of attack, assemble the materials I’ll need to proceed… and then shove it all into a corner of my room and ignore it for months. Not until a distant date, when forced by some elaborate chain of reasoning (I need to do this so that I can do that in order to do some third thing with a deadline), after just enough dust has accumulated on the materials to set me sneezing, do I pick them up again and actually deal with the problem.

This approach isn’t entirely without benefits: sometimes I learn things in the intervening months that improve my eventual approach to the problem. But more often than not, when the solution ends up taking much less effort than I’d feared, it just leaves me feeling sheepish that I spent six weeks putting off five hours of work.

What does all this have to do with the Lars? Well, what problem could be tougher—or bigger, or more likely to break loose and terrorize the county—than an angry feral Tyranitar falling into my care?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Crabtree Falls, VA (1600-2600')

I must say, Crabtree Falls lives up to its hype.

If you live--or have lived, as in my case--anywhere in the vicinity of central Virginia, you've most likely heard of Crabtree Falls. It's right up there with Whiteoak Canyon and the Cascades on the list of classic Virginia waterfall hikes. On summer afternoons, especially in laurel-blooming season, folks flock to it from all over the state, braving crowds and splinters and scraped knees for the chance to glimpse the 1000-foot falls--the highest* east of the Mississippi--in all its crystalline, rock-slicking glory.

Fortunately, the (commodious) parking lot was almost empty when I arrived that April afternoon. I paid the $3 entrance fee, took my pick of parking spots, and headed up to the trailhead.

The first stretch of the trail was paved--universally accessible, as the sign at the base explained. Here, as elsewhere along the hike, big orange signs warned against careless scrambling:

"Now I'm never gonna climb again/slippery feet have got no traction..."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Priest, VA (4063')

A couple of weeks ago, I drove south to hike a mountain called The Priest, a 4000-footer in the Blue Ridge a few dozen miles south of Shenandoah National Park (and the high point of Nelson County). The drive down, through Charlottesville on US-29, was a little awkward--they've built up the area north of town so much, over the past few years, that I could barely tell where I was going. But once I turned off the highway and onto the country roads and found myself face to face with this beauty:

I knew I'd made the right decision to come out.

That particular road, VA-56, took me right into the gap north of The Priest, carved by a little river called the Tye. The hills rose up around me, the houses and fields drew in towards the road, and then, a couple miles into the George Washington National Forest, the trailhead lot appeared to my left.