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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Old Rag Time

Old Rag Time

When it comes to standing in a line, I rank myself a "weathered practitioner". Growing up in the Communist Bloc gave me plenty of experience with the subject. Due to the notoriously ineffective economic system, we'd stand in line for just about anything. Oranges, prime veal cutlets, vacations in Yugoslavia, new books, windshield wiper blades, you name it. But little did I know that one day in the future I'd be standing in line for hiking.

This September was extremely rainy in the DC area. It rained cats and dogs most of the time, and when it didn't it rained bunnies and pet boa constrictors instead. So when the first October weekend became a sunny Indian summer extravaganza, half of the DC poured out west to plant their limbs on anything that seemed even remotely green.

The Old Rag mountain in Shenandoah Park is one of the most popular hikes in this area. Not only it provides eyefuls of delightful scenic views but it also offers a bit of a technical challenge for the rest of the body. You don't just walk on a boring gravel road here. You have to squeeze through narrow crevices, you have to pull and push a lot, you have to clamber onto lone boulders, or hop across gaping clefts.

Before one such technical climb, the trail of tourists slowed down considerably to allow people ahead cope with the difficult terrain according to their abilities. But as the new people kept arriving, the pace slowed down to a trickle. A genuine traffic jam had formed. So there we were - hopelessly stuck and eventually waiting for about 20 minutes to get our hands on those pesky rocks and bootstrap ourselves up.

Doing time underneath the Old Rag summit felt like a preview of some dystopian fantasy. Perhaps that time when we'll be queuing for a breath of fresh air and some natural views is not far away. The ravenous gusto with which we exploit the natural resources of this planet certainly suggests so. We better start being grateful for whatever scenery is still left here and there.

Measured by the standards of the Pacific coast, the views would be considered a boring footnote in the Annals of the Mundane. But here in the East they were a nice treat - a piece of our own wilderness - well worth standing in a line for.



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