Students honor age-old tradition, scale Old Rag Mountain

“Old Rag,” the strenuous, nine-mile trek that winds up a forested mountainside and over craggy rock scrambles, is the Shenandoah National Park’s most popular hike, with stunning views of miles of wilderness. An hour and a half’s drive from campus, Old Rag has nonetheless beckoned to outdoorsy students for centuries.

A contingent of EMU students led by Explore club secretary Collin Longenecker made the climb earlier this month. EMU’s video and photography manager Macson McGuigan documented their journey.

Ben Stutzman leaps over a crag in the second, more rugged half of the Old Rag hike.

Longenecker began leading trips to Old Rag his first year at EMU. “I wanted to take my friends, especially the non-Virginian ones, and show them how awesome this hike is,” Longenecker said. That first trip, “we had 12 people show up and had an amazing day, which we concluded by heading to my parents’ house for soup and bread.”

Nov. 3 was a windy but sunny day – “the weather could not have been any better,” Longenecker said.

The mountains surrounding EMU’s campus have long beckoned to students – like those pictured on this Old Rag trip from the early 1950s.

Megan Good, Elizabeth Nisly, Emma Hoover, and Abigail Shelly at the base of the mountain.

“My experience has been that you end up in groups of two to six people that you get to spend the majority of the hike with” depending on your pace, Longenecker said. “It takes a decent amount of planning to do this hike because it is not that close to campus and it takes a really long time.” According to the park service, it takes the average hiker seven and a half hours to complete the circuit.

About two miles into the hike, the rock scramble begins – where hikers navigate through crevasses and over boulders for the remaining mile and a half to the summit.

Karissa Sauder winds her way through a fissure in the mountainside.

A mid-20th century Eastern Mennonite student squeezes through a narrow passage on the trail.

Elizabeth Nisly pauses at the top.

Mim Beck and Hannah Wheeler.

Joseph Harder looking over the Shenandoah National Park from 3,284 feet.

Rachel Mussleman, Taylor Longenecker, Karissa Sauder, Lauren Hartzler, and Allison Shelly. “I was glad to be able to share it with so many in my final time leading,” Collin Longenecker said. “Hopefully I can convince my brother [Taylor] to keep it going next year.”

Isaac Andreas momentarily experiences the miracle of human flight.

The EMU Explore pack, regrouped at the summit. Longenecker said about twice as many people made the hike compared to last year’s venture. This year’s group included four visiting scholars from China, who are university English professors by trade. Besides hiking, they’re at EMU this semester learning about different teaching strategies.

Discussion on “Students honor age-old tradition, scale Old Rag Mountain

  1. Wow! Great story. I graduated from EMC in 1967 and have never heard of this hike. Perhaps it lost student popularity for a period, or perhaps I was just out of the loop. At any rate, it looks like an omission in my EMU experience that I may want to correct this summer.

  2. Member of EMU hikers club back in 1060. I remember a 10 mile hike but not this rugged. Of course we climbed Massanutten each year before it was developed. I think that 10 mile down hill hike started my interest in running which continues to this day!

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