Monday, December 29, 2008

Expanding the Vision

My (SMG guide Chad) grandfather Allan Simpson is a lifelong conservationist, and at ninety years of age he has proven he is in it for the long run. In the 1960s he worked as an editor of the Canton Repository newspaper in Canton, Ohio, where he wrote a weekly column aimed at drumming up support for the preservation of the Ohio and Erie Canalway. Working with the help of Ohio congressman Ralph Regula a park was created and has since expanded to span 110 miles in northeastern Ohio. At SMG we our proud of our conservationist ideals and look with admiration to those who led the way for so many years.

This sign features my grandfather alongside Ralph Regula and can be seen at the Everett Bridge on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath. (Click on the picture to enlarge it and read what it says.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Take a double dose of a day hike, on ice, by way of a swift run, follow with a visual side of a mid-winter violet. Don't forget a good nights sleep, a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

High Mountain Coral

Between the Sunday morning early church service and the "special family lunch" at 1 p.m. little bro and I decided there was just enough time. My bet was that the freezing mist and frigid temps on Marys Rock might amount to something special. I was right, but by the time we had it together and made our way to the trailhead it was 11:15, so we would be pushing time. No matter, we like a good challenge, and we were off!
Every step crackled as we beat feet in our push for the summit two miles upward. We were aware that one slip on the ice- covered trail would at least spell a tardy lunch ticket. We moved quickly but cautiously. Crunching upward we were much more concerned about the heavy laden tree branch/land mines that hung snow-encrusted above our heads. In the late pre-park days, the untimely demise of the Old Rag community pastor was brought on by a falling branch and I have taken note. Not wanting to follow suit, Bret and I listened for the gunshot crack of an overhead branch with each cold breeze that cut through the dormant forest.
A foggy wind had battled its way through these same trees the night before, evidenced by every twig, tree, and blade of grass we passed along the trail. Nature's war had been waged in the black of night when the violent and oppressive wind attempted to massacre the seemingly defenseless snow by pushing it into the valley where it would surely be melted by daybreak. Millions of tiny wind beaten snow particles were pushed down the mountain, but they had a plan. Searching for solace the particles sped up to whip around the obstacles blocking their paths and in doing so created wind eddies on the calm lee sides of the obstructions. Some slight particles were swirled back around and caught spinning in the relative warmth. These desperate particles eventually found another weary chip of wood or stone or snow on which to cling in the shelter of the obstacles. The night wind whipped and the fog fought down the mountain as more particles clung on in the building shelters. The cold wind blew furiously in the early morning light but the harder it pushed the more the tiny draftees joined the ranks. Armies soon backed every brave wind warrior holding the front lines and the shelters grew longer.
By the time we arrived the fog and wind's front lines had retreated down the mountain and now lingered over Sperryville. Trillions of tiny snow soldiers still held their positions flagged out behind their forest protectors as they held the high ground. Save for a few cold slaps in the face from the bitter, defeated wind, Bret and I were permitted to take pictures of the pure white war zone.
By the time we reached Marys Rock we were on track to be late for lunch but well loaded with pictures of the high mountain which now looked to me more like an undersea coral cliff where instead of tiny life fighting the tides, snow had here defeated the wind.
Stomachs growling, and throwing most caution to the stiff mountain wind, we ran back down the trail. Caution now behind us we possibly even exceeded the thirty-five mph speed limit as we drove down the mountain. We were twenty-three minutes late, which meant we were right on time; the food was just coming out of the oven!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Misty Mountain Hikes

These days Shenandoah has been too wet to climb rock, too warm to climb ice and at times too foggy to see your hand in front of your face. Lucky for hikers it's very often the company, not the contrast that makes for a great hike. And when the fog rolls back and the mountains come out it can be even more memorable!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

In our first fifteen years of business SMG/Teamlink have been blessed by many, many things. The opportunities and abilities to educate, conserve, and give back in and to the areas we love have been incredible. Spectacular trips have become the norm, and with the early onset of winter temperatures we were able to put the icing on the turkey!

Although we do not guide any ice climbing trips professionally I couldn't resist taking the family out for a little ice adventure in a cold corner of Shenandoah. The trip was blessed with no wind, many safe first time climbs, and family memories.

SNP has always been blessed with good gear climbing and the chance to climb a tower like this tucked into the woods of SNP is always a blessing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Walking the Weakley Hollow fire road that divides Old Rag Mt from the bulk of the park lands we are surrounded by the history of the place. We gaze upon the old cemetery with the unmarked rocks set at the head and foot of the graves. The fallen foliage reveals more of the walls, stone piles, and old roads which remain from the hollow folk who lived here before the park was established. A closer look into the woods might reveal a burnt tree, or cabin charred by the historic fire of 2000. The rusted remains of a Model T lie in stark contrast to what geologist believe to be billion year old boulders.

A few miles up the mountain near Dark Hollow we ponder the history of Pvt John Weakley at his beautifully inscribed headstone. The leaves have fallen around the Cave Cemetery and we can look out in the valley and admire the yellow bands of Tulip Poplar still hanging in the sheltered elevations.
We too can be found hanging on outside during these fall days. The temperatures are great for a hike to a waterfall, or a climbing lesson in the lower and more sunny spots.

Dressed for the cold we enjoyed a sunset atop the mountain while practicing haul systems before the sun set on the years last Old Rag Mountain Steward weekend.
As always, we add to our personal history with every hike through the woods, scramble over Old Rag, or climb up a crack. We intertwine our own histories with those of this great park in this great place, and we soak up every minute of it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Running Ragged

Another weekend running ourselves ragged with the Old Rag Mountain Steward program. It's great to feel like you are making a positive difference on a place you care about so much.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Top of the World

Sub-freezing temps and wind didn't keep us from persevering to the mountain top with a DC gov group for this spectacular sunset. Good times.

Off the beaten trail there is much to see. Here's a section of the seldem seen Greasy Falls in the north district.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Frosty Mtn Air

These days the air seems as clear as the mornings are cool. With the leaves recently vacating the high peaks new views appear on the trail like frosty footprints. The Indian summer has ended and we at SMG are loving the crispness of the fall.

Passed this talus slope still covered in frost at around 10:30am on the 23rd.

Long evening shadows on Old Rag after a rainy Mt. Steward training day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fall Findings

There's a lot of falling water like this in SNP and these spots are only getting nicer as the leaves get brighter.

Watched this five foot black snake down climb the slippery river rock without the advantage of sticky rubber shoes, or feet, but he was really good at smearing (climbing technique)!

Had a great night out just off the AT in Md complete with late nite games around the table.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Famous Days

What a great long hike with some famous folks from the Netherlands (sorry I can't put their names online). We all very much enjoyed the motivated hike over Old Rag, up the fire road, and down Corbin run. Unfortunately all our searching for bear was to no avail, but the gaggle of turkey was very cool to see. The friendship and foliage weren't to shabby either.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Come get it

Fall fireworks are here, come check them out.

These Jenkins hollow ruins are worth checking out as well.

Friday, October 03, 2008

News from the Bear Loop

Noticed four separate bear on the Oct 2 bear loop hike! With so many bear in a small area it's no surprise to see this warning sign. But if you look close at the sign what may surprise you, are the two camo stick bugs.(click on the pic to blow it up)

Our fourth bear of the day, and unlike the first three this one (the biggest) was not afraid. We slowly walked the trail, snapping pictures and passing while the bear rooted around and wrestled a log for the grubs it hid underneath.

We must have mossied a little to slow because just after this picture the bear stomped his paw at us in agitation. Trying not to look directly into his eyes (a sign of aggression) we moved on down the trail. He stomped both front paws a second time and we were glad to be out of there and to notify others on the trail along the way.

Outdoor art

Here's some pieces I liked from the Hikers Art Show held in Shenandoah this week. Too cool to leave behind, I picked up my copies with a point and shoot. There's much more to see, if you can make it out to the show!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Six Bear, Day Two

Wow! Two days in a row we have tied my personal best. Six bear sightings in one day! We may have even seen the same mother with two cubs that was caught on film Monday. The family was again up a tree, and we again saw three others. We may have to rename the eight mile loop "the bear loop" (formerly known as "Jeremy's really cool loop, where you see lots of really cool stuff").
I was unable to get any good shots of the bear, so instead here's a picture of Dolly. Dolly is a Skyland local who I saw on the way in. Dolly is also a diva that loves to have her picture taken, but how could you not when you look that good?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Six Bear, One Day

Some guys have all the luck! Today three Danish fellows got the full value Shenandoah experience. The weather was perfect, the views were incredible and we enjoyed FOUR separate bear sightings. The most crazy was the one were we stopped mid-step due to the noise above our heads. Looking straight up, we were alarmed to see three faces peering straight back. Simultaneously we back stepped and grabbed at cameras. The bear family scampered down mom first, with heads peeking from the trunk sides all the while.

Walking back from the lake yesterday with my father and brother I found three four-leaf clovers in the field. I guess some guys have all the luck.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


This evening (9- 14 -08) the sunset over Old Rag mountain gave me one more stunning reason to show the place I'm from, to the people I meet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ink Blot

I don't like spiders either, but how cool is this guy?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Wild,Wild Life

Mountain Steward Weekend Aug 30 - 31 08

Two 'Astyanax' Red-spotted Purple butterflies on the summit of Old Rag, and I think they are in love.

These two poor ladies were offered shelter from the shower under this summit area boulder, little did they know what wild creatures lay in wait.

And here's why we don't carelessly leave our food on the summit. This food-attracted bear likes the hiker scraps, but may soon become dangerous and need to be relocated or worse. He needs to change his wicked ways ... or we do.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

High Water

8 - 28 - 08
Don't think we saw anyone else brave enough (or dumb enough) out hiking all day. The waterfalls sure are spectacular when its been raining for two days.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Downstream ...

... awaits
Put fear of free-

falls behind
tennis shoe wake.
Five new canyoneers,
hooked on a line.
At least ... three made it back this time.
Just joshing,
all loved the day through.
Question is,

how would you do?
Site Meter