I have been pretty busy (read: only stressed out but not working as much ) as the semester draws to a close. A lot of my extra-curricular activities have been cut down, but the one opportunity that I did not/could not let go is hiking.
Only three weeks after my previous hiking trip, I went to another one – and for the second time in six months here – the Old Rag Mountain Hiking trail in the Shenandoah National Park.
We were warned that though this is a popular hiking trail, it is tough and fraught with risks considering the number of search and rescue operations that authorities have made here, and that this hike is not for everyone.
I was almost like the tour guide to our group since apparently I was the only one in our group of 15 who had already been here before. The last time I was here was in late November last year when it was quite cold and the leaves were all shed after the Fall season. I went again because it was with a different group of friends, I had a camera this time, and it was a different season. Oh, and I do not even have to share the frustration I had when the two close friends I was going with failed to get up and start on time to join the group. I went ahead without them in the end.
The hike was tough, 8.8 miles long, and took 7 hours to complete, though we really should have been done in 5-6 hours if not for the time we spent chilling at the summit and taking photographs. It was a circular trail that first went up to the summit and then back via another route to the parking lot. The hike up towards the summit was quite challenging at certain points and took the bulk of the time though it was only 3.5 miles to the top.
It was pretty much steep for about one and a half hours through the forest, and then, the challenging rocky part began which was where ALL the excitement really was. Many slipped and fell around me – people do not realize the power of their hands to climb rocks, squeeze between them or jump through them and only try to find a firm footing for their feet as they go through the rocky part.
I hiked flawlessly without problems thanks to my previous experience, except for a small bruising near my knee from a rough rock and helped others too. I was thinking of myself as a pro but all of my pride crashed spectacularly when a fellow female hiker let me know this was her 11th time here. She said she perfected the toughest section where you have to pull yourself up through a narrow gap between two rocks sometimes with the help of a rope only on the 7th or 8th time.
Like the last time, I again got to pray my afternoon and evening prayers on the summit and it was a really nice feeling to pray at 3,200ft above, on top of the world with the b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l valley in view, and in front of other hikers.
After enjoying the breeze, we started the hike back, taking more pictures along the way. One of us twisted her ankle and was in quite a pain which slowed us down.
When we finally did reach back to the parking lot, we waited for more than an hour for two of us who were still not back. It was getting scary now because it was getting dark and it could have been BIG problems if they were still holed up somewhere in the rocks or the forest in the dark. Were they lost ? were they hurt ? Are they alright ? Where could they be ? I overheard some people talking about the movie 127 hours.
A very nice family that had been camping there helped us search for them and we finally found them after an hour and a half in the dark. They were lost, had gone the wrong way and only realized that after an hour of hiking in the wrong direction. It does not help at all, when there is zero reception on everyone’s cell phones.
Despite a body ache for the next three days, it was a memorable experience. I can’t wait for the next challenging hiking trip again which are anything but like the trails at The Great Falls, VA which are simply too easy.
Some 100+ pictures that I think are worth sharing here.