Madison County's Granite Mountain Challenge
Stairs are provided (a natural formation) for a portion of the hike...
...as is natural air conditioning. A breeze almost always blows through this cave.
This trail takes you over, under and around a large number of boulders.
"Is this one of your favorite hikes?" asked Doug Riley, father of my mural partner. "Actually, I consider this the essential hike. " I reply. Old Rag is considered the best hike in Shenandoah National Park by most who compile trail guides. "It is the only hike in Shenandoah for which upper body strength is a serious consideration." writes one.
Yesterday we made a weekday visit to this solitary mountain in Madison County. It is in Shenandoah National Park but you get there by driving through the Hebron Valley where my German ancestors settled after a tenure in Governor Spottswood's mines. Route 231, the Blue Ridge Turnpike, runs arrow straight past the neat farms laid out in the first land patent. The Hebron Lutheran Church with its 1802 Tannenberg Organ is there as well. The Clore Furniture Factory attests to generations of German craftsmen.
And then there is the mountain. Rugged and feeling somewhat like an Alpine landscape transported to Virginia, Old Rag stands sentinel above the peaceful valley of my ancestors. The climb is rugged and the views are breathtaking. It is worth taking a weekday off as the weekend crowds are gone and you can really enjoy the climb.
I've hiked with a Nepali former Maoist, another Nepali son of a Gherka and a Ranger. Doug is right up there with the Nepalis in stamina (he's ten years younger than me) and we enjoy a brisk hike and some fun on the rock climbs. We enjoy a leisurely lunch at the top. I even pulled out my cell phone and found we had reception so we called our wives from the top, just for the fun of it.
We descended the Saddle Trail and came out through Weakley Hollow. It is about nine miles including the road walk to the parking area.
Guide to Hiking Old Rag Mountain [click to read].
The view from the top.