The 17,371 acre Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest. It is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System located in Grant, Randolph and Tucker Counties of West Virginia. The Dolly Sods Wilderness has much of the Red Creek drainage and has bog and heath eco-types, more commonly typical to southern Canada. Elevations range from 2,500 to over 4,700 feet. If you are a hiker or backpacker, this is a must do. We learned of this location from the sales folks at REI when we started buying our gear.
What we thought was the trailhead and where we hiked out for about 1.5 miles round trip, when the trails suddenly ended.
This was lush and gorgeous, but took us to a dead-end.
Heading into the wilderness in all it’s wet, sloppy beauty!
We arrived at the trailhead (or so we thought) around 4:00 p.m. on Friday, following a 6-hour drive. We headed down the trail of what we thought was the first leg of our mapped out hike to get to our selected campsite.
After about an hour of wandering around and snagging these awesome photos, the trail abruptly ended and we found ourselves in the midst of the open wilderness with nothing but property boundary signs and no other signs of the trail. We stumbled upon this cool campsite nestled in some pines so of course, we kept looking for the rest of the trail. Clearly other people had messed this up too and decided to just camp here!
The real trailhead where we meant to begin, which resulted in a one-hour trip delay.
We trekked back to the car, before we ended up lost for sure, and drove up the road a bit to see if there were any other signs of life…or a trailhead. Within a mere 1/8 of a mile, we found it! The REAL start of where we were heading, so off we went. The trail is mostly rocks and thanks to the recent rain, a bit muddy in some spots. Little did we know what we were in for tomorrow in regards to water and mud! The scenery was magnificent and these pink flowers bountiful.
While this appears like someone’s personal gardens, you will cover many miles of fern and pink-flower lined, rocky trails just like this one!
As we neared the end of our first five miles, we started encountering these amazing rock formations as well. We found the perfect campsite nestled in the pines with an existing fire pit made by other hikers.
About 5 miles in on the Bear Rock Trail, you will come to many rock formations just like this one.
You will stumble across many existing campsites. This one was our favorite, nestled among the pines.
We pitched the tent and tried to gather some dry sticks and leaves to build a fire, but everything was terribly wet and therefore, we had to forego a fire. It’s a good thing because as soon as we finished eating our packs of tunafish and Kind bars, the rain started. It rained non-stop the entire night and all the next day. It was another no-sleep camping night as the drops slammed pummeled the rain fly of the tent. We had put our food up in a tree to keep it away from bear and other wild-life, so I was already keeping one eye and ear open to listen for those sounds. Every time I would almost drift off, the rain would come down harder or the thunder or lightening would grumble and remind me to resume being scared!
We tried to “sleep in” a bit once the rain did let up, but it was futile, so we packed up our gear and opted to take the 6-mile route back to our car vs. the planned 10-mile trek to the next campground for night #2 since the forecast was for rain the entire day. The trail was basically a creek bed the entire route back, ranging from ankle to sometimes waist-deep water most of the time and lots of swampy areas and mud that felt like quicksand. As much as I’d like to complain about this, I must say, it was actually kind of fun since it was essentially warm; roughly 65 degrees with pretty persistent rain. We had three raging, rapid creek crossings that got pretty dicey and made me ask why we were doing out here and wishing we could just turn back and head to the car the way we came, but we overcame the challenge, teamed up and toughed it out. The third crossing I was able to use a flexible tree to hold onto all the way across. The first was one, I had to meet Jamie part way and give him my pack and then he risked himself to come out and help me in. I’m not going to lie, it was scary and next trip there, I’ll definitely be mindful of the weather forecast as I want to experience this hike when it’s dry!
Right off the bat, the trails were actually actively flowing creekbeds!
More flooded trails
One of the three creeks that we had to cross .
Each trip we learn a bit more. This time we learned that if the water in a creek crossing is over your boots and you can see, hiking sandals and boots off are a good option. Secondly, a pair of shoe gaiters would be helpful to ward off the splashing and debris in near-boot height conditions, which we experienced on the first day. Day #2, all bets were off. The feet were getting soaked and there was no way to avoid that. We also forgot to bring rope to hoist our food up into a tree to keep the bears from getting it. We placed our food bag up in the fork of a tree as high as we could reach and hoped that would be good enough, and it was. Lastly, it’s important to carry a fuel to get a fire going in wet conditions.