The new adventures of Old Rag (and Emily)

"I originally thought that it would be awesome to take a hot air balloon ride to mark year 26. But then one crashed on Sunday and well, I'd like to see 27."

So said Mimes, the bestest, right before she requested that she come to DC to celebrate her birthday by doing the unthinkable: hiking. Yes, hiking. As in going along a trail and absorbing nature as an excuse to eat trail mix. For the first time. Ever. EEEEEEVVVVVEEEEER. As in ever in her previous 26 years. Meaning her life.

So, since Roomie Ryan is a birthday twin of the bestest, and all of us were feeling adventurous, we decided to take her. And this, friends, is how the roomies, the bestest, and I ended up on top of Old Rag, where one can get "his or her first real taste of mountaineering."

For those of you who might not be familiar with it, Old Rag is about an 8.5 mile loop through Shenandoah National Park, the site of the infamous brrr-themed camping trip of 2008. You follow the Ridge Trail, go through a mile of open rock scramble, hit the summit, and then descend back along the fire road.

In layman's terms, this means: follow the blue paint splotches, don't fall off the side of the mountain, eat lunch when you can see the world, and then thank God in His merciful heaven you're going downhill for the remainder of the hike.

The day of our hike dawned clear, crisp, and practically perfect in every way. We were armed with water (only matching bottles for bestestes):

And factoids:
"A larch is the only deciduous conifer."

And friendly co-hikers who would snap pics of us at the trailhead and later haul us up onto rocks:

And funny words like leaf peeping to describe our foliage intake:

That mocked said, once we were underway we realized what serious business leaf peeping was -- particularly when we realized it really was us and a bunch of trees and lots of rocks. So scramble we did:

And injure ourselves (myself) we (I) did on one ill-timed jump:

And give Julia a heart attack we (the boys) did:

It was all worth it when we reached ... lunchtime. Hold your horses, we're not at the top yet -- but we were close enough dammit, and besides we hadn't eaten in 6 hours, at which point squashed pb&j seemed gourmet:

Had we known what awaited us, however, we might have eaten faster, for a bit more scrambling brought us to ...


To which we said, WOW.

And duly posed:

And duly celebrated (minus an M, C, and A):

And duly started walking downhill:

It didn't dawn on me, however, until we were halfway down the mountain what we had just accomplished. We'd all encouraged one another to keep going. We reached out our hands when others couldn't climb up. We took a risk when we stood on the precipice. We breathed in pure fall air and saw autumn at its peak, from the peak. We laughed and talked and made every moment worth the bruises, scrapes, and sore muscles.

We remembered the drama of nature:

And the beauty of friendship:

And the blessing that is another year of life, of adventure, of joy on this earth:

I'd call that a successful hike, wouldn't you?

Happy Birthday, my bestest -- next time, we're camping. ;)