Shenandoah National Park - White Oak Canyon / Old Rag Loop - April 2003

6 of us did this as a 2 day, 19 mile loop hike with a side ascent of Old Rag. Saturday started like every other backpacking had for me recently, it was fogged in and was suppose to rain. 6 brave souls from the Wilmington Trail Club braved the weather, and my ominous write up, and showed up at the White Oak Canyon parking lot along Skyline Drive. I made a semi-offering to the rain gods by leaving my rain gear in the pack, but put the pack cover on just in case. The first part down White Oak Canyon is nothing to write home about, just typical Shenandoah stuff. We stopped at a bridge for our first break that I thought was a side trail to the 1st waterfall. So we dropped our packs and went over to "see" it. I'm sure on a sunny day the 2nd highest waterfall in the park would have been neat, however we couldn't see anything as we were completely socked in with fog. Back to our packs and we head down the trail. Hey wait a minute. Why does this look like a horse trail and why is it going away from the creek? Shoot that side trail was the main trail. The 2nd highest waterfall really wasn't any better the second time. From here on White Oak Canyon was really quite scenic and on a hot, clear day it would have been a lot of fun to play in the water. I can only imagine how many people would have been there as there were quite a few on a crummy day. Towards the bottom of the canyon there are some mediocre camping spots, but we pressed on to my secret spot. At the parking lot at the bottom Rangers were collecting the $10 park entrance fee, further emphasizing how incredibly crowded this trail must get on a nice day. From here on out it is pretty much nothing but up. A short distance up the road we come to my secret camping spot back in the woods along Berry Hollow. The wine and cheese hour was once again fantastic. Thanks Brad and Beth! I tried a new dinner idea of hot dogs which worked out great. And amazingly it never rained on us the entire day although it thought about it the whole time.

Day 2. I woke up and was so comfortable in my bag that I didn't want to get up. At some point during the night the skies had cleared and it was a crystal clear morning. We loaded up and hit the trail. A quick mile and we hit the junction of the Old Rag trail and the Old Rag Fire Road. We hid our packs in the woods a little ways off the junction and started up the short route of Old Rag. At the first shelter there was a huge pile of boy scouts that apparently couldn't read the sign that said that they were not allowed to camp there. Typical. Pressing on, we passed a couple of people that were coming down but amazingly when we got to the top we were the only ones there! I guess a combination of an early start and lousy weather on Saturday afforded us the summit of Old Rag all to ourselves. What a rare treat indeed. I went over and for the first time actually stood on the true summit as it usually is occupied by herds of boy scouts. It was still a little hazy over the mountains, but I can't imagine that the views get much better than what we were lucky enough to encounter. It was a little cool and with the wind it made it pretty chilly sitting out on top of the granite. So we retreated to a slightly more protected area after a bit and enjoyed our time at the top. We then back tracked down to the trail junction where we had hidden our packs and shouldered them for the climb back up to Skyline drive. I was struck with how different the Old Rag Fire Road looked on a nice sunny day versus the cold rainy day that I had climbed it the previous year. It was actually pretty nice as fire roads go. We stopped about halfway up (precisely calculated via the new altimeter watch) for lunch. There I learned a new trick to avoid the dreaded Virginia gnat. Which is take your sweaty hat, put it on your hiking stick, and then hold it high over your head. Works like a charm. Tom and I wound up getting pretty far in front of the others on the 2nd half of the climb. Prior to the turn off to head back to the cars we stopped and waited for the rest to catch up. After 10 minutes we started to consider that we might need to hike back and look for them but the rest finally showed up. Who would have figured you could get lost on a fire road ☺. Back at the top we had dropped 4,000 feet and gained 4,000 feet according to the altimeter watch. I had figured 5,000 feet according to the topo map. I'm inclined to believe the watch as it was dead accurate at every spot where I knew the precise altitude. I hate it when topo's lie. I popped open the trunk of the car and we enjoyed some ice cold Corona's (with lime) along with some peanuts and popcorn. Oh yea, nothing like a cold beer after a trip. Until next time.


Another fine looking day in Shenandoah Drop your packs here and lets go down this "side" trail. The views of the fog are spectacular
Wow look at that. There are waterfalls here My secret campsite is still secret
Gene and Tom on top of Old Rag Mark on the true summit of Old Rag Mountain (3,268 ft) in Shenandoah National Park (Virginia) on 4/27/03
Brad and Beth make it to the top View from the top of Old Rag looking back along Shenandoah National Park
Gene, Beth, Brad, Tom, and Paul on top of Old Rag Looking at Old Rag from along Skyline Drive

White Oak Canyon / Old Rag Loop Trail Map


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