Anyone else still sad that Labor Day weekend came and went so fast?!
Honestly, leading up to the weekend, seeing all the aftermath of Harvey, I felt a little bit guilty about having plans for the weekend. My heart just felt like I shouldn’t be having a “normal” holiday weekend while so many people I know are trying to pick up the pieces (literally) of their lives and put them back together. Of course, realistically, I know the best thing I can do right now is send funds and prayers and know that there will be so much more help that is needed (physically and financially) in the coming months (and years). So I donated some money and carried on…
One of my good friends from college came to visit D.C. for the weekend so I didn’t make plans to leave the city as I have the past few Labor Day weekends. Instead, my roommates and I came up with all the fun possibilities for a weekend in (and around) the city. Faith got in Saturday morning and we started the weekend off with doughnuts from our fave…Astro! If you’re ever in D.C. you HAVE to try them! We had a great afternoon wandering around the city, showing off Union Market and our beautiful REI flagship store around the corner, and then ended the evening with margs and putt putt at H Street Country Club (which resulted in a winning…for Team “Rachel and Katie”…bet that had Faith and Meredith jumping in our apartment pool that cool evening!).
Of all the options we had thrown around, we decided a 9+ mile hike sounded like the most fun! So we stopped by Whole Foods on our way home from dinner to snag some “hiking snacks” (and got mochi to try for the first time!) and then packed up and planned for an early start the next day. With sandwiches, tuna salad, apples, oranges, strawberries, Justin’s peanut butter cups, lots of water, RX Bars, and popcorn all ready to go, we left our apartment around 8ish Sunday morning to begin the 2 hour drive to Old Rag Mountain in in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
We pulled up to the park around 10:15ish, paid for parking, made a port-a-potty pit stop (lovely), loaded up our backpacks strategically, and we were off! What I found most odd (read: freaking annoying!) about this trail was that you started off with almost a mile walk on a paved road to get to the trail-head. Theoretically, it would make more sense to push the parking lot up the road and cut this part out of the “hike”, but what do I know. So we get to the trail and we were off! It started out with a true “trail” winding gradually up the mountain. We did that for a while and I was reprimanded by the rest of our group for setting an annoyingly brisk pace. Turns out, I kinda get “in the zone” when I hike and am not so great at pacing myself (or the group). Guess this means my future as a hiking guide is out. Lol.
Some point into the hike (I have zero concept of distance…) we started more of what I would consider climbing and bouldering. It switched from walking a clear path to climbing over, under, and between boulders and following semi-obscure blue arrows painted on the rocks. This. Was. Fun. I loved the challenge and problem solving aspect of it! In fact, there were many points where we would push the first person in our group up a boulder and then pull the last person of the group up to the top. My exact words were, “Well this is some serious team building sh*t.” Lolllz. I did NOT expect this hike to be what it turned out to be, but I’m so glad it was! We stopped for lunch at what was probably the 5th place we thought, “Is this the top?!” By the time we reached the 3,284 foot summit, we all had random scrapes and bruises, we were thoroughly sweaty, our butts and legs were already sore, and my pants were ripped (oops!). But let me tell you – it was worth every second! The view was incredible and I know we all had a huge sense of accomplishment from making it up there!
One thing I thought to myself throughout the whole hike was how I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish that a few years ago. First of all, my body would not have been physically fit enough. It really required a lot of strength to climb and lower and lift ourselves through the whole trail. At one point, we climbed a freaking tree to get on top of one of the giant boulders. I’ve never climbed a tree in my life, other than my grandparents magnolia tree which had branches as low as a couple feet from the ground. No, this was a true lift-your-body-up, throw-your-leg-over-the-branch, put-that-foot- there, tree climbing experience and I did it! On top of the physical challenges I wouldn’t have been able to overcome a few years ago, I highly doubt I would have been mentally strong enough! I’m a touch afraid of heights and there were many times that we had to jump from one rock to another and lower ourselves down into spaces that were deeper than we were tall. It took lots of self-talk to remind myself I could, in fact, do this and a few years ago, I wouldn’t have known how to talk myself through a situation like that!
So, after making it to the top, it was time for the descent. I would guess (again…I’m not great at estimations) that the decent was longer than the hike up, by a little bit. And after we got down off the trail portion of the mountain, we came to a rocky/gravel road that we walked on for 2.5 miles back to the parking lot. To me, this is a design flaw. This was honestly the hardest part of the whole hike because there were no markings showing how much further you had and by this time, we had been on our feet for almost 6 hours, our legs were shaking, blisters had developed, and we were out of water (rookie mistake…………….). Don’t feel too sorry for us – it’s not like we were truly suffering or regretting the decision or anything. But I think we would all agree that we had pursued something that was a big physical push for all of us and our bodies were just tired! A good kind of tired though.
When we made it back to the car, we instantly removed our shoes and changed into chacos/birkenstocks/flip flops and CHUGGED the water we had left in the cooler. Not sure I’ve ever been so thirsty. We plopped down in our seats, broke out the snacks, and got moving because we were ready for bathrooms and showers! Unfortunately, less than 5 minutes down the road, we had a food allergy reaction with Rach that I think scared us all just a bit and I admittedly drove 20 mph over the speed limit until we reached a CVS! We did have Benadryl capsules on hand (always!), but rushed to get some liquid in the nearest town (25 long freaking minutes away). After getting squared away with meds and ginger ale, we were on the road for a quiet and otherwise uneventful drive back to the D.C. We ordered THREE pizzas from Matchbox on our way back, picked them up, and took turns showering and devouring pizza within seconds of walking into the apartment and dropping all our gear on the entry way floor. Haha.
Faith definitely won’t accuse us of boring her during her visit! It was a long and tiring, but absolutely fulfilling day disconnecting from the rest of the world and spending time in nature enjoying just getting to be together! I would highly recommend the trail for at least semi-experienced hikers and those who love a good challenge. But I would also caution you to take the recommended amount of water, pee before you go, take a light jacket (it was cool when we stopped for lunch at the top), and wear your most comfortable shoes (with traction!!). I’m not ready to tackle it again any time soon, but it’s a hike I could see myself repeating again in the future.
For my D.C. people, what hikes in the area have you done and would you recommend them?