For years I'd considered dragging Shira out to one of Virginia's most challenging and beloved hikes: Old Rag Mountain, but my fear of heights always kept me from suggesting it. Shira solved this problem earlier in the week by saying she'd like to tackle it. Between that and my brother's assurance that I'd have no problems, the deal was sealed. We'd do Old Rag.
And we did!
Old Rag is essentially a 9 mile hike split into three parts. There's a slog up hill through switchbacks, and there's a long downhill that starts on steep trail and finishes with a couple miles on a gentle downhill road. And in between there's the Rock Scramble; it's this mile plus section that kept me away from the hike for so long.
How to describe the rock scramble? It's essentially a collection of obstacles that require you to shmoosh between, over and/or under various rock formations. For example, the first challenge you encounter is described as a "12 foot deep crack" that you have to slither into. You can see why I was wary of this hike. While some of the sections are ridiculously steep, they thankfully never triggered my heights fear. I think that's because the rocks were fairly sheltered, and one never quite feels like falling off a cliff is an option. One of the early rock scrambles does potentially have you going close to a ledge, but I opted to scoot on my tush under an overhanging rock, rather than stand up and face the drop off. Pride, for me anyway, was the first thing to go on this hike. There's definitely an instant sense of community on this hike. We helped random strangers, and random strangers helped us. There was no ego on the mountain, just a sense that we're all going to get this done.
Now that I've gotten through the rock scramble I can look back and say it was actually fun. There were a handful of times when I thought, "there's simply no way," and yet, we always found a path that worked. Having Shira and Dawn as cheerleaders made all the difference.
This truly is a unique hike, and the fact that it's less than 2 hours from DC makes it even more amazing.
If you're in good physical shape, then Just Do It! I promise you won't be disappointed. Just be prepared to spend 5+ hours on this project (the hike took us 5 and a half hours). That plus the drive time means this is a full day adventure. But, what an adventure it is!