There are many mysteries about and on Old Rag Mountain... some are definitely local legends and lore, some are hearsay... and then there are some that are known to the Old Rag Mountain Stewards that simply defy explanation..
Valid? fish tales? you be the judge. The bottom line is: These mysteries are real.
Mystery 1 - "The Old Rag Summit Bunny."..
Long thought to be from the Washington metropolitan region.. perhaps an enthusiastic newcomer to ORM hiking... this past weekend the Stewards got a pretty good glimpse of the real deal... urban legend? We don't think so.. you be the judge.. this shot is directly behind the summit sign..
Mystery 2. The "Christmas in Summer" decorations on Old Rag.
This one had us stumped for a very long time.. Of course we've all seen the fallen decorations on the ground, but it wasn't until the festivities associated with Memorial Day, and no less than 400 collective lifetime ascents of the mountain that we got to see these storied decorations face to face.. judging from the general conditions on the mountain, Santa's elves have been busy..
It's not everyday (thankfully), you get to see bushes and trees decorated with used toilet paper and "wet wipes".. I guess we just got lucky..
(hmm. I wonder if Santa's elves also brought in the Easter Bunny...)
Mystery 3. "The Self-Cutting Rope"
On the Ridge Trail of ORM is a spot that tends to be a bit of a challenge to some visitors.. it is the crux move required for a successful ascent of the mountain. Known to most as "The Chute" this spot has been known to create backups and waits that exceed an hour on busy days. In order to alleviate the backup on busy days, the Mountain Stewards install a fixed rope to facilitate a more speedy ascent by those not prepared for such a vertical challenge. This weekend, before 3 hours worth of hikers had passed the spot... the rope, perhaps possessed of some evil spirit.. cut itself. Not into two pieces mind you, but more like 3/4 of the way thru.. now serving as a ticking bomb, waiting to fail when loaded .. instead of as an aid to ascent... Mountain gremlin?? evil spirits? bored Boy Scout with a knife? who knows?
Mystery 4. "The Phantom Trail Pooper of Old Rag Mountain"
YES.. this one really exists, but is highly elusive.
Folks there is no other way to put it. This is really scary. To think this could happen right where I'm walking is disturbing. This weekend the phantom struck in FOUR different spots..(despite having almost 1,000 fellow hikers)all with the same effect. In every public place outside of Old Rag, people are supposed to pick up after their DOGS.. even former President Bush does this.. Why, if we pick up after our dogs, do at least four people feel it's ok to not pick up after themSELVES??!!
This was the result of a group, (probably Summit bunnies) and poor leadership and planning.. and we know who they were! Mystery partly solved...
Mystery 5 .. "The Old Rag Testosterone Vortex"
Naturally occurring, Testosterone Vortexes (T.V.s) are usually solid physical challenges that pose some level of risk to the "challenger".. Often viewed as a battle (complete with winners/victors) or some mythic pursuit that validates manhood..
When talking with people taking on the "challenge of Old Rag Mountain", you soon learn that testosterone trumps water as a needed survival tool. It also trumps a headlight, proper footwear, dressing in layers, food, a map, good judgment... you name it. When you are in such a T.V., testosterone is all you need... it's all your friends need, it's all your girlfriend needs, it's all your family needs. (They all just need to "man up"!!) It just doesn't matter if the temperature is pushing 90, or that you're going to be out for 7 hours, or that the rangers recommend at least 3 litres of water EACH.. YOU have testosterone, you are in a T.V.. and that is all that matters.. you don't NEED anything else!
(This may be the single biggest mystery on Old Rag.. and the cause of more discomfort, agony, distress, you name it.)
And, still, those hundreds per weekend, high on testosterone, bent on "conquering" the Old Rag T.V., really don't want to hear how many grandmothers when properly prepared, climb the mountain with relative ease, regularly.
Mystery 6. "The Vanishing Warrenton Barbell"
May 23, 2009, a group of 8 young people from Warrenton VA, including a "self proclaimed" Eagle Scout* and a newly hired nursing technician arrived on the summit bearing a 30 lb barbell, wrapped in foam...( the "why?" is a mystery in and of itself.. ) When they were leaving the summit, the bar just vanished.. only to be found hiding in/under a rock... bar recovered, the group continued to proceed down the Ridge Trail... The bar again, "just vanished".. not to be found. It is strongly suspected that the above- mentioned "TV" factor played a big role in the bar's appearance on the mountain, but no one can explain it's disappearance.. it just vanished.
fish tale? laziness? evil mountain spirits? trolls? magnetic anomaly? you be the judge.
* no Eagle Scout we know of would be caught in this sort of mystery