Day 1057 – Hiking Old Rag and My First Backpacking Trip!

So last night, we were still on the fence about going on this trip….even though we had been planning it for a few months. We were up until about 11/12 last night and had to get up at 3:45 a.m.! Yikes! Even this morning, we’re like, um, stay? But, we decided to go. Got on the road a little later than I had hoped, it’s a 3ish hour drive to Shenandoah from our place! Luckily, even though we stopped a few more times than we needed to, we were the first ones there. We went with our friend Anthony and a group of his friends. We timed it perfectly actually, because the rangers showed up and when we went to pay for our pass into the park, we were also able to get our backpacking permit, which is free by the way. Seriously guys, if you’re anywhere around the area and like backpacking, this is a GREAT place to go. 15 bucks for a car to get into the park and it’s good for a week. Backpacking permits are free. So all you need is your gas and food….well, and a strong will to stay away from all the fun shops in the park and along the way! 😉

Ok, so I had printed off two backpacking routes from this website. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I only grabbed the paper for one. So we filled out all the paperwork and talked to the ranger about it. You know it’s a good hike when the ranger says, oh that’s a really nice/pretty hike! Once all of us had paid the park fee for the hike, we got on our way.

Old Rag is such a nice hike. I’ve done it a number of times. I used to come down to Shenandoah every year when I was in high school with a group of home schoolers. It was such an awesome time of bonding, hiking, rappelling and enjoying God’s creation. Anthony had gone on these trips every year too, so we were reminiscing a bit about the old days. I was thankful for the pace everyone took and that we stayed together for the most part going up. Even though I’ve been running quite a bit, a hike is no joke. I don’t exactly have mountains around my apartment to hike every other day.

Here’s us near the top.

And here’s the rest of the group near the top.

We made it to the top in about 3 hours, enjoyed a nice lunch and started heading back down.

Here’s the view from the top!

And a pic of our rings…been a while since I’ve gotten all three.

Now, at this time, our group did split up. Old Rag can be done as a loop or up one way, down the same. I have always done the loop route and prefer it. Thankfully, Anthony and Katie wanted to take that route. It’s a quick downclimb for about 45 minutes to a port-a-potty. After that you’re walking on a fireroad. It’s not an “interesting” hike, but it’s a nice change after the rocky path. I hiked in my five fingers and boy were my dogs barking by this point! Oy! I love hiking in them because it is a challenge and I know it’s working a lot of my foot muscles and legs, but after 8 miles, I’m done! We got back to the cars about 45 minutes before the other group. So, if you decide to do the hike, it is quicker to take the other route. Just depends on what you’re looking for.

At this point, I changed into my hiking boots…finally got a chance to break them in! The rest of the group went home. We found this AWESOME little burger place…really by mistake….Bret was reading off the directions…and said to turn left…then no, turn right….then he said, no left. So on the second turn around, we ended up in the parking lot of the burger place….Burgers N Things, 12000 Lee Highway Sperryville, VA 22740. We ordered 3 bacon cheeseburgers, a fry and a choc/vanilla twist soft serve ice cream. It was THE best bacon cheeseburger I’ve EVER had. The ice cream was amazing too…there were even flecks of cocoa in the chocolate. nom nom nom.

We got back on the road and made it to skyline drive and then stopped by one of the visitor centers before starting our hike in. We got some fudge and root beer to celebrate at the campsite.

Alright, fast forward to us on the trail for about 20 minutes. I mentioned that Bret should call work to see when he worked. I went to go for my phone and realized it wasn’t in my pack. Which was when I also realized that the flashlight was with my phone. *deep sigh* gotta go back to the car. I felt like such a putz. Ah well. Went back, got the rest of our stuff and started again. Thankfully the campsite was under 2 miles from the parking lot. So off we go again. Now, the printout I had about the campsite said that it could be busy on the weekends and there were 5-6 cars in the parking lot. I was a little nervous about finding a spot, so every person we passed, I was counting down…ok, that’s only this many left to contend with. We passed a few more groups….and finally the last one we passed was a larger group, with a dog no less! What’s funny is that about 5 minutes after this, we were hiking in pretty much silence when something caught my eye…I was more observant because I was leading and looking for the landmark for the campsite….I stopped and looked…I pointed it out to Bret….what did catch my eye? Oh, you know, just a little ol’ BLACK BEAR! AH! We watched it for a few minutes…my first thoughts were ok, what do we do to stay safe….and then how can I get my camera (that is wrapped in two plastic bags) out to take a picture. Unfortunately, he was out of sight before I could get a picture. I swear, he looked at me when I crackled the bag too much.

So off we went to find a campsite. We did walk for about another quarter mile or so before the landmark. The first campsite was to the left…which was the direction of the bear…so I requested that we keep moving to the right! We went around a curve and to the left, in the distance, I saw this beautiful clearing that looked perfect for camping! I said, dude, if that’s anywhere near where we’re supposed to camp, I want to camp there. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s EXACTLY where we were supposed to go!

We set up camp pretty quickly. I’m glad we had set up the tent in our apartment when we first got it! So we got camp set up and had our root beers!

After that, Bret took the empty bottles and all the food and hung it up in a tree. I decided to lay down in the tent….see, I was starting to get a migraine…lack of sleep and a lot of physical strain, oh yea, my body was done. Then it seemed like Bret was taking too long, so I started to watch outside the tent. Every sound I heard, I thought it was a bear! I know I was so freaked out and tense, that I just made my migraine worse!

I was watching the place I thought Bret was….and I see it! This black movement! Oh geeze! That’s right where Bret is! That’s why he’s taking so long! Ok, what do I do, what do I do! That’s when I notice that the black movement I saw was Bret’s shorts….and there’s Bret. Oh man. Freaked the heck out! Whew!

So we finally settle in for the night. Bret reads while I try to sleep. Ladies and gentlemen, that was one of the worst nights of sleep I’ve ever had. I was totally kicking past Jen for not packing medicine for my headache. I honestly had the thought while packing, nah, I won’t get a headache and if I do, I’ll just rough it out. I was really trying to “impress” Bret and be a good backpacking buddy. Oh Jen and your pride!

What happened that night? Well, you’ll just have to wait for tomorrow!