At the summit of Old Rag Mountain in picturesque Shenandoah National Park, VA, Archmere’s boys of the Class of 2015 took a group photo before beginning their 4.5 mile hike back to the vans at the foot of the mountain, 3,284 vertical feet below.
For the past several years, a few colleagues and I have been taking 30-40 rising senior boys to Shenandoah National Park for a few days of camping and hiking.
We arrived on Sunday August 3 and after unpacking and setting up our tents, completed a short (2 mi) hike to Hawksbill Peak. The peak features some incredible views and the trek upwards always gives the boys a taste of the 8.2 mile loop in store for Day 2.
We returned to camp and the boys worked in groups to build campfires and cook their own dinners – this particular venture met with varying levels of success, but all of our campers did manage to get a fire going and grill some burgers and dogs. Everyone ate their fill and all was well…
…until around 9pm when it began raining and continued to pour for several hours. Roughly half of our students (as well as 2 teacher chaperones) ended up sleeping in vans due to flooded tents.
Fortunately, the rain did not dampen (see what I did there?) the boys’ spirits for the next day’s hike through the White Oak Canyon Loop – a favorite due to the swimming holes and natural waterslides (pictures forthcoming) at the bottom of the canyon. After a grueling 4 mile trek upwards and back to the vans, the boys were very glad to chow down on fried chicken and french fries. Only the healthiest of food choices on this trip.
Tuesday’s hike to the summit of Old Rag was the central feature of the trip. Old Rag is technically not in Shenandoah National Park and in fact is a 40 min van ride down the mountain and through Sperryville to get to the Old Rag parking lot. From there it is 1.5 miles to the trailhead where we begin the hike.
After a few hours of some grueling switchbacks, we emerged from the dense foliage of the mountain to a large rocky clearing about 3/4 of the way up the mountain. We stopped there for lunch
and looked up and out towards the rocky incline that winds up and around leading to the peak. Universally, the reaction from the boys was, “we’re doing that!?”
The beautiful thing about the rock scramble is that it serves as a microcosm for what the whole trip is really about. The hikers must challenge themselves and rely on one another as they hoist themselves up and around rocks and crevices offering a hand here, a boost there, until they all reach the top of the mountain, exhausted, but having grown in self-knowledge, maturity and confidence.
So too, did the boys arrive back at Archmere Academy on the afternoon of Wednesday August 6, exhausted, and better for it.
Now it’s time to prepare for the August 20th Freshman Orientation. More updates coming soon.