It has been years since I have been to Old Rag Mountain, but it is a part of many of my fondest memories. It used to be a tradition that on the day after Thanksgiving, while everyone else was out running themselves ragged looking for the best deals on electronics I and a couple friends would head out to Old Rag.
If you are unfamiliar with Old Rag Mountain it is a hiking trail in the Shenandoah National Park. It consists of several switchbacks leading up to a rock scramble to the summit. It is a beautiful hike overlooking some of the best scenery in the state of Virginia.
This morning on NPR I heard that because of a two-hour-plus wait at one of the choke points along the hiking trail tickets are now required for Old Rag. I do not know if this means Old Rag is now only part of my memories or if I will get to visit again. We always made sure to get there as early as possible. Not only to get parking closer to the trailhead but also to avoid the crowds as well. We also tended to go on less popular days and many times had to brave ice and snow as well as the typical hazards of the rock scramble.
Being out in nature with few people around is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and it is hard to find places that are isolated. My friend once joked that Old Rag had become so popular they should put a Starbucks at the summit.
I think about one trip imparticular to Old Rag. We didn’t leave as early as we wanted and had to park in the lower lot. We were still some of the first people there and were joined by a local dog. He followed us through the switchbacks and up to the rock scramble. At that point, he turned around and headed home.
As we were frequent visitors to Old Rag by this point we had seen this dog before and knew his story. He lived in one of the houses along the road leading from the lower parking lot to the trailhead and would join a few lucky hikers each day. He would travel with them to the rock scramble and then either head back down the mountain to find another group to escort or sit and wait at the rock scramble until he decided to head back home.
I miss hiking. I miss the mountains. I miss a lot of things about the past. Life changes and some of those changes are for the better and others are not. This is the nature of life. Old Rag will always exist in my memories, and I am certain to visit it once again, but for now, that seems like a distant dream. At times I want my children to grow up faster and other times I want them to never change at all. I am certain that as life continues to change there will be more and more I miss.