THE EVERYDAY ESCAPE: Hiking Old Rag

The alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning, and I thought to myself, why exactly did I think this was a good idea again? But after a few reluctant hits of the snooze button, I dragged myself out of bed and put on my hiking clothes. It was a two hour drive to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, for what was claimed to be about a 7-8 hour hike. Knowing that the trail would probably be crowded on Memorial Day weekend, it was in our best interest to get an early start.

I had heard great things about the park as a whole, so this was a must when visiting Lauren down in DC. After the weather we had been having in NY, I was eager just to spend time outdoors breathing in the fresh air and soaking up the sunshine. There was some debate about hiking Old Rag vs. Cedar Run Loop, but Old Rag, with its 9 mile loop and 2,674' elevation gain promised spectacular views.

I had done a bit of research beforehand, and was mostly terrified for what was ahead of us. I read things along the lines of, "you must have excellent upper body strength for the roughly 3 mile boulder scramble" and "it can take hours for the rescue crew to reach you — be prepared to self-rescue." Lauren claimed I was being a wimp and it wouldn't be so popular if it wasn't doable. 

Looking back, she was right. It was doable. But don't be fooled. This hike certainly isn't for the faint of heart. I was using a series of expletives at certain points. There were a few times I had to take my pack off and hand it to the person ahead so I could squeeze through between rocks. And there was one particularly questionable moment where the blue trail marker was an arrow pointing down about an 8–9 foot crevasse. Those were the moments Lauren and I looked at each other and said, "Really?!"

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I feel like I really pushed myself, but by the end I began to trust my footing more. I realized that my shoes would indeed grip to the rocks and that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. A few bruises and scrapes on my legs, but I'm all the better for it. The views were indeed spectacular. There were several false summits along the way, which definitely made the journey as much fun as the destination. And it was such a clear day that you could see for miles.

Photo by Amanda Dennelly

Photo by Amanda Dennelly

Photo by Amanda Dennelly

Photo by Amanda Dennelly

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Coming down the summit was a lot faster than going up, but less scenic at that. All-in-all we completed the hike in 5hrs and 20 minutes including our break for lunch. It's amazing how much better cheese and crackers taste at the top of a mountain, isn't it!?

This region had a multitude of wineries, so I highly recommend a visit before the journey home. We rewarded ourselves with a visit to Sharp Rock Vineyards (pictured below), where we were able to do a $5 tasting and then took a glass to sip by the creek. Perhaps it wasn't the typical girls weekend getaway, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Photo by Amanda Dennelly

Photo by Amanda Dennelly

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photos by Lauren Migaki unless otherwise noted