Saturday, October 5, 2019

Monongahela National Forest, WV - Dolly Sods Wilderness North

Dolly Sods Wilderness - U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service
Dolly Sods Wilderness Brochure -  U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service

GPS Coordinates 39.06352, -79.30326
It was a 2-hour drive from where we spent the night in Winchester, VA.  Coming in this way, the last 5 miles is up the narrow gravel FR75.  A little harrowing at times in a low clearance car and cars coming from the opposite direction but we made it unscathed.
Basically, it is park wherever you can along FR75 at the top.  I was shocked to see how packed it was at 8 AM.  Another hiker later told me he was here on a Tuesday and it was just as crowded.  Word of advise - turn your car around and park facing the way you need to go to leave.  I was so glad I did that.

Dolly Sods Wilderness Trail Map - U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service
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HIKE DISTANCE:  11.6 miles

We arrived in a thick cloud at 4,000 ft. elevation.
It was 38 degrees and windy at 8 AM.  Winter layers and gloves for sure!
We walked from where we parked to the Bear Rocks Trailhead.
Not much to see in the cloud.
Finally the sun started to break through and the fog lifted.
Passing the Dobbin Grade Trail on the left.  Everything you read tells you NOT to go that way, that it is a muddy bog where the trail disappears and you sink knee deep in obnoxious mud.  Turns out it was passable this time of year when there hadn't been much rain so we would be returning that way although that wasn't the original plan.
On the highly traveled Bear Rocks Trail a boardwalk covers the swamp.
A rock hop over Red Creek, the rocks apparently completely submerged when the water is high.
We were constantly stepping aside to let others pass because, well, I have to keep stopping to take pictures.
Sometimes the trail goes through forests but it's mostly open meadows.
Right on the Raven Ridge Trail from the Bear Rocks Trail.
Passing the Beaver View Trail which is one option for looping back around on the return route.  For now continuing on the Raven Ridge Trail.
So many hikers and backpackers.  It was a constant stream. Surprisingly, other than Kleenexes here and there, I saw no other litter.
Ninety nine percent of the people missed this turn.  They ended up at the same place but missed ...
... an absolutely gorgeous stretch of forest.
Coming out of the forest with the hikers who missed the turn in the distance.
The end of the Raven Ridge Trail, looking back at mileages to trails we had passed.
Continuing left on the Rocky Ridge Trail where the rest of the hikers who missed the turn ended up.
Coming up on the views.
Canaan Valley Views
It was very, very windy here.
This kind gentleman offered me one of his cookies and asked if Brodie could have one.  I said he could - big mistake.
Brodie became totally obsessed with these cookies and demanded mine, which he did not get.  OK, he got the last piece.
Amazing windswept boulders everywhere.
We found an out of the way break spot where the best views were and had it all to ourselves.  Makes me think most people turn back after the first views.
But we forged onward.
From the Rocky Ridge Trail it's a left on the notoriously muddy Dobbin Grade Trail although it's not bad to the Beaver View Trail where a left would bring us back to the very crowded Bear Rocks Trail.  Another option would be to continue to the Raven Ridge Trail and hang a left back to the Bear Rocks Trail.  From what I understand the Dobbin Grade Trail can get pretty muddy before that point, much worse the rest of the way.  As luck would have it two hikers were coming from the opposite direction having hiked the entire Dobbin Grade Trail.  They told me it was not that muddy at all.  No knee deep mud, a few tricky spots, but passable.  OK then, the Dobbin Grade Trail it was for us.
We only encountered a handful of other hikers and backpackers from this point forward.  It made for much more pleasant hiking.
A few spots like this ...
... but more like this, certainly only because there has been such a dry spell.
A rock hop over Red Creek.
Red Creek
OK, so Brodie might have been in almost knee deep mud by his standards.
Only my shoes and the bottom of my pants were wet and muddy but it had warmed up into the 50's and layers had come off so it was all good.
We could have taken the Beaver Dam Trail to FR 75 and then the gravel road back to the car but with all the traffic and gravel dust, that did not seem like fun so we turned left staying on the Dobbin Grade Trail.
Red Creek
The only blow down we encountered the entire hike and it was ...
... compliments of the beavers.
Back at the Bear Rock Trail turning right.
Busy Bear Creek Trail
Back at the trailhead.
Heading back along FR75 to where we parked.