|Hikers, rocks and trees|
Car Lessons - At no point in the future, unless there are only three people going, will there be a rental of anything less than a full size minivan. We need the space. Period. Unless we strip the gear lists down to the bare minimum, leaving all creature comfort items at home (such as camp chairs, sleeping pads and air mattresses as well as various other gear), we just won't fit. The point of these trips isn't roughing it. So a big rental.
|Seneca Rocks from SW (late afternoon)|
Seneca Shadows campground - Excellent, and highly recommended. Not being able to reserve a single tent site was a fortunate break - the group tent site was huge and still cheap. In the future we should investigate this sort of thing as a possibility, as long as there aren't "minimum occupants" requirements that we cannot meet (or we could fib...). The campground itself was clean and well maintained. The shower/privy building was clean and had a great hot water shower. A woman came around in the evenings in a golf cart to check on things and see if we needed more firewood, which was a nice touch. The views from our site were first rate, and the location of the campground in general would make it a good jump off point for adventures anywhere in the area. There are also a couple of adequately stocked back-country general stores within a 10 minute drive to restock necessities like ice, drinks and basic foodstuffs.
|Roughing it (not really...)|
Gear - My gear is perfectly adequate for this kind of car camping, and there isn't anything I can think of that I really need, although picking up a good quality lightweight windbreaker is on the list of nice-to-haves. My hiking boots are holding up fine, but my low-top Merrills have so many miles on them that they could probably use replacing when I can catch a good sale somewhere. Dave and I have doubled up and slept in his two man tent on all of these trips. If there is one that he doesn't go on, I am either going to need to bum a spare space off a different roommate or buy a tent of my own. I have a one man ultralight backpacking tent, but that is basically a cocoon, and wouldn't be optimal for this sort of camping although it would certainly work in a pinch. So maybe I'll keep an eye out for a two man tent, or go trolling on eBay to see what I can find.
|Dolly Sods Wilderness meadows|
Camp Kitchen - I enjoy this part of camping and like being the chef, or at least involved in the food aspect, and the new Primus Profile stove seems like a good purchase so far. It really does open up a lot of possibilities for eating like kings in the future. I'm already jotting down ideas for future trips.
|Dolly Sods Wilderness vista|
Philadelphia Phillies baseball - While we were gone, Jimmy Rollins got a few hits and passed Mike Schmidt, one of my childhood sports heroes, and became the Phillies all time hits leader. That's OK...he won't ever catch him in home runs or RBIs...
|Dolly Sods Wilderness mud|
Hike - Spruce Knob Huckleberry trail - This was a very nice but not great hike. It was not particularly strenuous, given that we were on the ridge top the whole time, and was a long slow downgrade on the way out and a long gradual uphill on the way back. Most of the time we were hiking in forests with little visibility, and most forests in the Midatlantic and northeast look similar enough. But there was also a decent bit of time in mountain meadows and scrub land where the views were amazing. The view from Spruce Knob was terrific. And the fact that this is National Forest and not National Park land, and therefore geocaches can be placed, is also a plus for me. [I do understand that by staying on the ridge, we limited ourselves from a scenery standpoint, and did not take full advantage of the area.]
|Dolly Sods - View to SE from Rocky Ridge trail|
Hike - Dolly Sods Wilderness North Circuit - Awesome. Overused word, but this was really really cool. Again, not a killer from an elevation standpoint, which is a huge plus in my opinion, and with tremendously varied and beautiful scenery. The guidebook description of this being a "vistapalooza" was dead on. This was a great hike for putting in miles of great scenery without totally killing the legs and knees and had limitless great photo opportunities. The only thing that could have made this better was being in a season where the berries would have been in bloom. And although bald eagles and black bears live here, we didn't see either. I have seen bald eagles many times, but they are majestic creatures that are a treat to see. I have never seen a bear, and would love to. From a moderate distance preferably...
|Dolly Sods Wilderness rocks|
Hike - Seneca Rocks - Despite the 1,000 feet of elevation gain, this trail was so well groomed and maintained that it didn't seem bad at all, and could be done by children and families. I would give this high marks given the limited time commitment required (two hours) and the tremendous view from the observation platform at the top of the trail. It fit the bill perfectly for what we needed on Monday, a nice hike to finish off the trip that could be accomplished in about 3 hours or less.
|Feeder stream near the Potomac River|
Final Verdict - A great trip in a very nice area. Everyone was in agreement that we have barely scratched the surface of what is available here, and would like to return again at some point in the future. Seneca Shadows campground would be a great base camp again.