Sunday, December 05, 2010

Flowers for Followers

Decided to put up some more ice flower pics since it seems like people really like them. I agree, they are awesome and I wanted to put up more in the first place.

So there they are, a few more flowers for the blog followers. Happy Valentine's Day, I mean Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ice Flowers!

I've seen a lot of ice. From Alaska to Utah, Maine to Montana. We are ice climbers. I've seen a lot of ice, I've never seen ice like this.

Many times I've seen where the ice come up from the ground in long thin hairlike strands which crunch underfoot, they are cool... but not that cool. The ones we saw today were like works of art direct from the master designer. Here's a tiny sampling of the thousands we saw.

Not to take the mystery out of the majestic but here's how it might work, if you want to know read on. It happens when the air is cold but the ground is not yet frozen. Water is trapped in the stem of a plant or on the ground at a plants base. As the water freezes it expands, and burst out of the sides of the plant through long thin seams. From there it wraps into the exquisite petal/flower shapes, and as usual, we gawk in awe of the natural world!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Family Traditions

A decent portion of my extended family poses atop Bearfence mountain on our annual day after Thanksgiving hike. We didn't see another hiker out on this beautiful but brisk day. In fact, the park always seems deserted on what they call Black Friday. I've heard otherwise, but we never seem to see a crowd.

On the way up the trail I like to call Mini Old Rag, the fam did the real Old Rag a few years ago on our post-Thanksgiving hike.

The girls

An Allegheny Stonecrop Turns pink before going dormant for the winter.

This small falls is far off trail in SNP and situated just above a large waterfall outside the park boundry. There are many off trail and sometimes just outside of the park waterfalls we have explored and although many are unispiring there are also some awe-inspiring falls to be found. I am coming very close to a personal goal of seeing them all, and if you are ever up for some off trail navigation (bushwhacking adventure) we can show you some amazing and rarely seen Shenandoah natural wonders!

The uppermost section of a three-tier waterfall just outside the park, makes you wish the park service had been able to extend the boundary just a little lower!

A large back-country boulder perfect for climbing, situated on the flanks of Mt. Marshall

A patch of grass atop Big Devil Stairs enjoys an unobstructed view and awaits the winter ice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fresh Ice

Some of the first ice of season the crystallized on the puddle at Little Stony Man cliffs before a fantastic day of rock climbing and rappelling.

After some long carries and a spectacular helicopter rescue we have reached the end of the 2010 ORMS (Old Rag Mountain Steward)season. It was a great season and we think that the Stewards helped the Park Service a lot, learned a lot along the way and deserved a spectacular finish to the season. To that end we did our best to provide and on Sunday the Stewards who were available climbed the western slabs to the summit of Old Rag. The picture above and below were taken somewhere in the 400' of roped climbing.

Cleaning the gear, Thanks Ben

A Turkey Vulture drys his wings in the sun.

A great sunset from Black Rock in Md, seen on a great Leave No Trace trainer weekend.

Friday, November 05, 2010

For the Leafers

A few more pics for the leafers before the color is totally gone

The inside of the trunk of this Hickory was burned out in 2000 but the tree is obviously doing great.

Fall rain on a Yellow Poplar leaf.

A Maple in the sun.

Some of the highlights of Madison county.

Wild Fox grapes, these ones are fermenting at my house right now!

The tropical looking Sumac in full color.

A Maple holds its leaves in stark contrast to the surrounding trees that are providing it shelter.

A break in the sun on the long road south.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Earth Shadow

If you stand on the top of the highest boulder on Old Rag mountain there is a pothole. When its not windy and the pothole isn't full of water you can stand up on its perfectly flat bottom and see 360 degrees. You can look around and feel like a million bucks, and if its a night like last Friday you could feel even better than that. As we stood on top of the world a full moon rose to the East. Simultaneously to the West a full sun was setting and the feeling was spectacular. After the sun fell behind Hawksbill mt. we watched the moon continue to rise and a perceptibly circular Earth shadow was cast on Falquier, Rappahannock, and Madison Counties. I wish you could have seen it.

There are some pretty cool things to see in this park and if you are too lazy to hire a guide so we can show you them in person well then I guess here's a couple of pics. I hope these will entice you to stop farting around on your computer either hire us, or go find this stuff on your own. The below are a couple pics of columnar jointed basalt found in SNP. Sometimes we climb on the stuff, sometimes we just step back and look at it because it's so darn cool.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Fashion

New fall apparel just in! Hope you get a chance to stop out and see this colorful line!

I have to think long and hard before I put an image like this next one up. It probably scares away more people than it attracts, but we lead hikes in the real world, so here it is unedited. It's a Garter snake eating a cute, little, harmless, helpless toad with his arms outstretched to heaven. Sorry.

Monday, October 04, 2010

"As Close As...

...we can come to flying."
-Margaret Young, aviator and alpinist.

Just a couple pictures from climbing in Shen in the last week.

"Climbing may be hard, but it's easier than growing up."
-Ed Sklar

Monday, September 27, 2010


Ravens are the coolest birds. Well, on second thought, Ravens are the coolest birds that can't swim (Creatures that can dominate land, air, and sea win every time.). But once you get over the stigma of a Raven you will probably sit and watch in awe for hours. At least that's what I do.

Ravens are one of the most intelligent birds. They have been taught to speak. Ravens have been seen to attack nest in teams, dive bomb mountain goats to scare them into falling, ignore loud noises such as air horns but head towards gun shots, and scavenge the top of Old Rag mountain all in the name of an easy meal.

So if you find yourself watching these intellectual avians on the wind racked summit of Old Rag what do you think they do? They show off! They glisten in the sun as they twirl in the updrafts, they pick up sticks only to drop them so they can chase them down and catch them again! I have watched jealously as the ravens swoop within inches of jagged granite boulders and even fly upside down nearly touching feet with another right side up Raven flying parallel and above them.

Just go sit and watch them awhile, I promise it will be better than the hike.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Peregrine Falcons can dive at 200 mph. They tuck their wings for aerodynamics and hit their unsuspecting prey (usually a smaller bird) from above. They often literally knock the life out of it, if they don't grab it at the same time they hit it they just pluck it out of the air as it falls.

Falcons are also a huge conservation success story. Due to DDT, in the years from 1950 to 64 reproduction nearly ceased and in 64 none were known to exist east of the Mississippi (except in the arctic). Their eggs were extremely fragile and had to be raised in captivity in order to survive. Because of the inaccessibility of their nests, rock climbers were some of the primary rescuers of the fragile species on the verge of extinction. Climbers scaled cliffs as big as Yosemite's Half Dome in the name (excuse) of conservation and activism. Since then the species has seen an incredible comeback and in Virginia the raptor is no longer on the endangered list.

Although the Falcons' numbers have rebounded they have not returned to their original habitat(choosing the city lights instead), so when we see them out it is really exciting. While out climbing on Old Rag today we saw two headed south. "That was cool" we thought, then we saw another, and another. Pretty soon we realized that we were seeing a migration! At one point we counted more than one hundred Falcons high above. Awesome!

The falcons are high up and to the left (the ones that look like gnats), the bigger bird in the picture is a Turkey Vulture. (click to blow the pic up)

Saw Box Turtle with an orange face too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Perfect Weather

When the weather, the view, and the climbing trip go perfect it feels like this!

Any weather is great for watching a immature Black Snake climb around in a bush. If it gets just a bit colder and you decide to put your hand out in front of one of these friendly snakes the snake might just crawl on and enjoy a bit of your warmth sharing.

It might be a little scary but you gotta take a look at the view when rappelling off these cliffs.

Just a little more water in the center has managed to keep the Hay-scented Ferns alive a few days longer while those around the perimeter have called it a season and faded to yellow.
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