Measuring Fitness by Hiking Old Rag

A 360° view from the top of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park.
Celebrating my 70th birthday by climbing Old Rag Mountain.

Celebrating my 70th birthday by climbing Old Rag Mountain.

Runoff of recent rains formed puddles at the base of the huge rocks making them slippery and challenging to climb. Old Rag Mountain near Sperryville, VA in Shenandoah National Park is how we test our fitness.

We first hiked Old Rag in 1996 and have hiked it almost every year since. We use this trail to check our ability to hike the almost 10 miles of switchback trails, rock scrambling and a grueling elevation ascent to 3284 feet. This year we were celebrating my 70th birthday and were quite proud to succeed in conquering the mountain yet again.

The 360 degree view at the top is amazing and picnicking where few people can go makes the food more delicious. We have many fond memories of this mountain. Two years ago, I hiked it with my niece, her first time, and last year we met four men from Philadelphia who questioned us about our ages. We ended up helping them find a ride home.

About 20 years ago, we used Old Rag to train for the Grand Canyon and timed our hiking. Our record then was 3 hours and 37 minutes. Today took a little over 5 hours, but we put partial blame on the lack of traction on the wet rocks (we also stopped for more breaks than usual 🙂 )

This time we met two young sisters from Northern Virginia who were hiking Old Rag for the first time. They said when they were struggling with the climb, we inspired them, “If they can do this, so can we.” As we chatted about our mutual love of travel and hiking we learned they had volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala (one of our favorite backpacking trips) helping to build a foundation for a house and a stove for the women. The inspiration immediately reversed.

We always try to help hikers in need by carrying extra water, snacks and today giving Gatorade to a young boy who was struggling with the long road back down the hill. But this time we were on the receiving end of the “pay it forward” good deeds. My husband dropped his sunglasses somewhere on the trail. Some very thoughtful hiker turned them in to lost and found.

Old Rag is always extremely rewarding in body, mind and soul and we feel privileged to hike it with very special people.


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