Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dolly Sods Circumnavigation

Dolly Sods 7/24 - 7/27
Red Creek Trailhead
2016 bag nights: 16

The "heat dome" was coming to KY and my wife and kids were heading to her parents, so I decided I could either go to North Carolina mountains or West Virginia mountains. After a moment of thought, I decided this would be the perfect time to revist the Dolly Sods. Even better, the weather forecast looked like the highs should be about 80 with very little chance of rain.

Soundtrack: the chorus to Sam Cooke's Cupid running on repeat in my head for most of the trip, heard on Pandora on the drive to WV. Weird hiking music, but happy

"Cupid draw back your bow
And let your arrow go
Straight to my lover's heart for me, only for me"

When I got to the trailhead about 4pm, the thermometer in my car said 88! I headed up the Red Creek Trail and then crossed the creek onto the Big Stone Coal Trail.

My goal was the Lion's Head since I had never been there and the sky looked like the stars were going to be out. Big Stone Coal was a nice hike with nice flowers.

From the map, it looked like I could load up on water near the intersection with the Rocky Point Trail and then head up to the Lion's Head. I hiked about 10 minutes past the intersection and came to a largish waterfall that was easy to climb down to from the trail.

I spent a little time enjoying the view and then headed up the trail to find my way up the slope of Breathed Mountain. In the process I spooked a deer.

I had one false start where I saw a cairn and what looked like a trail, but wasn't and then found a very obvious trail and lots of cairns marking the user trail to the Lion's Head.

The path through the pine forest was very pretty in the fading light

I followed cairns out to the Lion's Head hoping that there would be a place to hang my hammock, but no such luck. So I explored a little bit and enjoyed the view...

... and then headed back to the pine forest to set up camp.

As it got dark, I heard something moving around in the brush. When I shined my headlamp that way, there were a couple of deer. I ended up seeing at least 5 different deer that evening and a couple woke my up in the middle of the night. I kept throwing rocks at them hoping to scare them away, but they were very unconcerned by more poor aim through the trees.

There was a little clearing near by where I watched the stars come out and I tried a little bit of astro-photography. I'm pretty pleased for first attempts.

That is Mars at the bottom.

This is looking towards the east and more towards the Milky Way (I think the bright star is Altair.)

In the morning, I headed back out to the Lion's Head to see the sunrise...

... and then had breakfast and decided what I was going to do for the day. I had deliberately planned only the first night's campsite and then was going to play it by ear. The weather looked like it was going to be nice, so I decided to head up the Big Stone Coal Trail to the Rocky Ridge Trail so I could enjoy the views into Canaan Valley.

I enjoyed the waterfall again and had a chance to play with shutter speeds since I had brought my Gorilla Pod.

The upper part of Big Stone Coal is pretty flat and is an interesting mix of forest and open areas. The trail parallels the creek, so I filled up with water since I knew that the Rocky Ridge Trail was dry.

I had lunch overlooking Canaan Valley and got a cell signal to call my wife. While I was talking to her, a military jet (I think a F-15) flew right up the valley at an altitude that was lower than where I was sitting. It was pretty cool to see, but I could not get my camera out quick enough to get a picture.

As I moved up the Rocky Ridge Trail I began to regret my decision, the sun was beating down and it was hot again (upper 80s) and there was not a lot of breeze. In retrospect, I should have headed down the Dobbin Grade Trail and filled up with more water, but instead, I kept heading north away from water. By the time I got the the Raven Ridge Trail at the NW part of the sods, I was almost out of water. I decided to aim for the Bear Rocks Trail where it crosses the upper part of Red Creek. It was a pretty hike, but really hot and I was having a hard time enjoying myself. I did eat a number of wild blueberries and that helped keep me going.

I got to Red Creek and filled up on water. At this point, it was about 3pm and I had a decision to make. I could hike on and see some more of the area or I could just call it a day and enjoy the creek and the shade. I decided to relax and read my book.

The next day I got up and decided to slackpack over to see Bear Rocks. The short road walk was lined with flowers, these were the most unusual/pretty (I think it might be a "Wood Lily").

The rocks were a lot of fun to climb on and the view was pretty good.

Then back to camp for lunch. I packed up and then decided to head south on the Raven Ridge Trail towards the Forks of Red Creek. It was a lot more cloudy today and cooler, a more enjoyable day to hike.

Got to the forks area and there was one couple arriving about the same time. I was happy to see that there was not a lot of people since the last time I was here, there were probably 10 different groups for a total of 50ish people.

This is probably the best view I have had from my hammock

I stripped down and sat in the creek for a bit and then wandered around taking pictures and hoping that the clouds would break so I could see stars again.

But, it ended up sprinkling a little bit and the clouds never went away. I read my book for a bit and then laid in the hammock watching the fireflies before falling asleep.

Woke up to clearer skies and had a decision to make. I was still feeling pretty beat from the dehydration two days ago and the battery in my SLR had died. My phone battery was really low. I had been thinking of checking out the Roaring Plains area for the last two nights, but I decided that it would be better to save it for another day.

I decided I would take the Red Creek Trail to the Fisher Spring Trail and then head south on the Rohrbaugh Trail to the forest road and then road walk the three miles back to my car. This also left open the possibility of checking out the Roaring Plains if I was feeling good at that point.

The Rohrbaugh trail is an old railroad bed, not the best walking surface, but this did not last long.

Because I had not done much research for this trip, I was surprised to come across an awesome overlook with views up and down Red Creek. I could see where I hiked the first day and then this morning as well. It made a great lunch stop.

The rocks in the middle of the picture are the Lion's Head.

I got to the road about 2 and decided that I would rather be done versus another night, so I headed down the road to my car. The road is lightly traveled and was all downhill, so it was an easy way to finish off the trip.

The road was lined with wildflowers

I got back to the car and cracked a beer and then walked up the trail to Red Creek for a "bath" and then headed to Davis, WV for a burrito and a beer at Hellbender Burritos. Then all that remained was a 5.5 hour drive back home.

A great trip, but I really wish the weather report had been accurate. A couple of days in the high 80's drained the gas tank and made the hiking a lot harder than expected. 

1 comment:

  1. Some really great pictures. Especially of the night sky and the waterfall, well done!


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