Monday, October 27, 2008

25-26 October... a 50-50 proposition

The weekend opened as much needed rain poured down on the mountain, two inches by the end of the day Saturday, which was more than enough to dampen the spirits of most visitors.. but not all.
The absence of hikers enabled the ORMS to do a lot of hands-on training under the guidance of Chad and Jeremy... a whole day of learning.. likened by some to taking a drink from a fully pressurized fire hose... a lot of info in a relatively short bit of time.

Sunday was a different story. Similar to the previous Saturday, the parking lot was approaching capacity by noon, and the lines of hikers at the summit choke points added a different dimension to the hiking challenge. (If you click on this picture, you can see the folks lined up on the far right side of the image, ORMS steward Bob L is in the right foreground, white shirt, helping folks up and over.)

We had four new stewards with us for the weekend, including former (and still part-time) SMG guide extraordinaire, PatMo.. great fun, great cameraderie... with a total of 10 different stewards over 2 days.
Besides the usual reconnecting misplaced hikers with their groups, we were able to assist new backpackers with their Leave No Trace skills and practices, and taught some strategies for positive human backpacker behavior in nuisance bear territory.

We're all marking our calendars for the last weekend in March, 2009,when we will be having our annual field training extravaganza... watch for details!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

18-19 October

When the summit looks like this...

.. and the trails are full of hikers.. and the wait times at the squeeze points are 90 minutes (and more!)..

It makes the few quiet moments at the Old Rag sweet spots all the sweeter for the ORMS staff. The late afternoon sun was just starting to bathe Madison County in shadows when we got our first chance to relax a bit and enjoy the views..

This Saturday was perhaps the busiest day of visitation in recent memory on Old Rag Mountain.

Even with the all the visitors and the assistance we provided, returning stewards Ben, Michael and Emily were able to get a full plate of training.

We visited some of the little known cultural sites in the Old Rag vicinity (Here, Michael is at an old home ruin, washtub still in place.)

To understand the full significance of Old Rag, past and present, cultural and natural, is an important goal for the stewards of this resource.

Emily took time out from training on first response situations (sprains, strains and fractures) to explain to (numerous) groups of visitors the importance of the rescue and life support gear that is kept in the "big green box" that we keep near the summit.... (NO! It's NOT a urinal!!!)

We also spent a portion of the day reviewing climbing and rescue knots and general ropecraft.

(While no steward is expected to be an expert with climbing gear and high angle rescue, it is important to have a general knowledge and understanding of basic climbing/rescue techniques on a mountain like Old Rag.)

At the end of the day, a day full of incredibly meaningful work, it's nice to reflect on the view from the "corner office".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two Fall weekends down...

The October weekend of 11,12 marked our second full blown ORMS weekend... staffed with 7 volunteers and one visiting land manager from Kent, England.
And while Old Rag experiences consistently high visitor usage on October weekends, the focus of these first fully staffed weekends is TRAINING.. the ORMS program requires a lot of knowledge, and we spend a considerable amount of time with on-the-job-training (OJT). Our presence on the mountain, even when training, is also a godsend to those who have misplaced themselves from the trail, or are experiencing other unforeseen difficulties.

Not only do we cover the background of the program, LNT, the culture and history of the region, first response /emergency procedures for mountain medical emergencies.. we also cover basic everyday skills like the use of the park's communication system. Before we even leave parking lot, we all conduct a series of solid radio checks, and practice established communications protocols. Here, Michael is tuning the "brick", Bob studies the new hi-speed (lo-drag) ORMS specials, and Matt (from SMG) supervises.

Here's the gang, minus Chad and Andy (from SMG) prior to Saturday's initial circuit of the mountain