Sunday, June 15, 2014

West Virginia - Sunday part 2 - Dolly Sods, or Dolly Slogs

Continuing the Dolly Sods North Circuit hike...
Canaan valley

1:41pm - We arrive at the junction of the Rocky Ridge trail and the Dobbin Grade trail where we will turn left (East) onto the Dobbin. The Rocky Ridge trail has been my favorite part of the hike so far, as I like this kind of boulder-strewn landscape very much. The views off the ridge down into the Canaan valley have been spectacular, but as we move onto the Dobbin Grade trail they are left behind. (The Canaan valley is outside the Wilderness area - we are hiking the ridge line on the western edge of the wilderness area, so that's why there are houses and roads in the picture).
Rocky washed out trails and muddy streams

We are moving through scattered stands of trees of various types. We cross the Left Fork of Red Creek, which is a small but pretty mahogany colored stream stained by all the spruce.
Left Fork of Red Creek

2:17pm - Beaver View trail junction. We are descending gradually along something that almost seems like a rocky washed-out old fire road, but I don't think it is. Too irregular. There are signs of horse traffic. Footing is difficult. I wouldn't want to be a horse on this (and there are moments when I am not entirely sure I want to be me walking on this...). Those grumpy thoughts go away quickly as we pass through some wooded sections of lush fern-lined trail, which also serves to provide a nice respite from the sun.
Sun-dappled fern lined trail

2:40pm - We reach the Upper Red Creek trail junction which joins in from the South. Five minutes later is the Raven Ridge trail intersection coming in from the North. A few minutes after that we are crossing the main branch of Red Creek again. Part of this very gradual up hill section follows what is clearly an old railroad grade. It is amazing to think of how much of the eastern US used to be literally covered with a spiderweb of these tiny rail lines running everywhere.
A tiny tiny taste of slogs to come

3:10pm (ish) - We reach the spot where the Beaver Dam trail, a side spur back up to our starting road, comes in from the East. We briefly discuss the possibility of going up that trail to potentially shorten the hike just a bit, but a look at the map doesn't make it seem like it would do much in that regard, and it would make the last part of the hike be up the road back to the parking area. Nobody wants to close out this hike with the better part of a mile on a dirt and gravel road with cars. It is very hot, and I have drunk my Gatorade and most of my water. I had chosen not to bring my full water bladder for my day pack, and just had a 20 oz Gatorade and a 1 liter Nalgene water bottle. Bad choice. Fortunately, others were smarter than me and had drinks to spare. I ran out of mine with about a mile and a half to go (and it was topping 90 degrees with a blistering sun). Dummy.

Shortly after deciding not to go up the side trail, the Dobbin Grade trail turns into a swamp. We are picking our way carefully through the muck and mud and deep pools of standing water as best we can. Everyone is doing their best to keep their boots as dry as possible, since we are a good 9.5 miles into this hike, and are hot, tired, sunburned and cranky. Sloshing along in wet boots is no fun.

I have no pictures from this point on since I stowed my camera to keep it safe, and was too busy concentrating on being hot and miserable to bother. The swamp continued for maybe three tenths of a mile (it seemed like much more, and we were going very slowly). It was easy to tell when somebody misjudged the firmness of their next step and ended up ankle, boot top or mid-calf deep in watery muck, based on the outbursts of cursing, laughing and groaning. Eventually the trail firms up again and we move on at a much better pace. Everybody seems pretty beat by this point, but all are doing fine.

3:35pm - We reach the junction with the Bear Rocks trail, completing our loop, and leaving us with about 1.2 or 1.3 miles back to our car, retracing the start of our hike.
11.3 miles - Parking at right and counterclockwise hike

4:00pm - We are back at the car. I am exhausted but happy. The GPS reads 11.3 miles hiked from car door to car door. There is a geocache about three tenths of a mile east of the parking lot, across a boulder field, but as fun as that would normally be, I don't have it in me. All I care about is the cold water and Gatorade bottles in the cooler in the back of the SUV. I don't seem to be alone in that.

Next...Sunday Night at Camp.

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