21 October 2008

Old Rag Mountain Hike

It's been WAY too long since our last post, and even longer since I've posted one. Frankly, I haven't had a whole lot to write about, even though I've been diligently going to the Farmer's Market, and even tried a few first time recipes as well! This summer was busy, and this fall is going to prove to be even busier with lots of international travel that will keep me crossing time zones and jet lagged until Christmas. But....I digress.

As many of you know, I am a HUGE advocate for supporting our National Parks. They are grossly underfunded, mistreated, theived, poached, littered upon, and in need of some massive attention and repair. I cannot express enough what a treasure we have in our National Park System. I strongly encourage you to visit as many of your local national parks as possible, and even to become a member!


Last Saturday, I went with the Young Adult group of the Arch-Diocese of Washington (ADW) on a day trip to Shanendoah National Park. Our mission was to hike Old Rag mountain. "why is it called Old Rag, you say?" Well, the name is derived from the original "Old Ragged Top" or "Old Ragged Mountain" which references the mountain's ragged, rocky appearance. It has since been shortened to simply "old rag."

I had no idea that hiking Old Rag would be so strenuous. Considering it was a group of young adults from ADW, I figured (without doing any research) that the hike was going to be more of a nature walk like Catoctin Mountain (Maryland), and less of a real rock climbing kind of hike. You see, the nearly 9 mile trek up Old Rag Mountain consists largely of granite rocks. There are ginormous boulders dotting and precariously teetering all around, and the last mile to the summit is a scramble that is sure to test the physical mettle of any novice hiker or enthusiast. It certainly tested me, and my calves still haven't recovered!

Once nearing the top, you start to see a change in the flora. I realized that I hadn't seen a proper pine cone in months if not years, so I couldn't resist snapping a "texural shot" of these bad boys.

Berries at the Mountain Top
I also noticed that winter seems a lot more imminent when you're up at the top. It was also amazing to me that the plants that grew out of the cracks in the granite rock face could even thrive as much as they did. And in some cases, the plants were even capable of bearing fruit!

The summit of Old Rag Mountain is 3291'. It's best to do it with a friend who has hiked the trail before. As a side note, if you ever want to spontaneously join a hike, you should be at the Vienna metro (orange line) North entrance at 8am any Saturday morning in OCtober. You're sure to find a group and a carpool. :)

Please enjoy the rest of these pictures, taken with my Sony DSC-W70 (7.2MP) camera

Clouds over Old Rag Mtn



VA fall color

Be on the lookout in the next month for posts from China and Zambia.

03 October 2008

And I'm in Serbia-How Surprised Are We?

Let me start off this particular post at the end...I want to die.

So I'm in Belgrade again and I know you're all really shocked about it. I've had an excessively quick trip this time around-two weeks exactly. No extensions, no changing my ticket half a dozen times, no evacuations...just two weeks. I haven't blogged before now because I think honestly unless I manage to take some vacation days and do something or there are more super fun riots there's not much else for me to write. How many times can I go on about how pretty Kalemegdan is or how much I *heart* Coffee Dream? I do however feel that a quick overview is needed, if for no other reason than Lauren and I have been lazy posters recently.

There are demonstrations everyday protesting the extradition of Radovan Karadzic (whose name I can now finally pronounce) in Republic Square. It's generally only between 20-50 "hooligans" but they manage to shut down one of the major streets everyday around 5-6 pm as they march down said street blaring a song that, as my friends told me, is an anti-American semi pop number, blowing whistles, and generally just being a nuisance.

My job here was possibly going to be ending at the end of September, however, in the face of all adversity and doubt from everyone that we could do, we won the new program! Which means a couple things: 1) This blog will never stop getting Greetings from Serbia posts, 2) My absinthe supply is endless, and 3) the farewell party we planned turned into one of celebration. We rented out a great restaurant in Zemun and hired a completely fabulous band. It was a work party so almost everyone who had ever been somehow involved with my program here was invited. There was a fair amount of mingling although I'll openly admit that I used the restaurant's cat and the fact that it was sleeping contentedly on my lap as an excuse to not have to actually mingle. Bad Andrea. However as the evening wore on and people got a few drinks into them we used the dance floor space to its fullest extent. I ended up dancing with the absolute spriest of old men ever. He asked me to dance during a slow number which I did and we shouted business talk at each other during our rotation around the floor. After the slow song the band broke into a fast piece and the little old guy actually EXPLODED! into dance. I cannot really do it justice...suffice it to say that there were moments when he would simply gallop across the floor. Gallop. In addition to the music and enthusiastic dancing there was also food and enthusiastic drinking, mostly by moi, which brings us to the beginning of the post-I want to die. Being no stranger to showing up to work either hung over or (twice) still drunk; I made it into the office this morning. But I would kill one of the Karadzic hooligans for an Egg McMuffin.