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  1. #1
    Senior Member WV's Avatar
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    Dolly Sods, WV 5/4-5/6/2012

    We assembled separately from all directions. USMCStang and others pioneered the west approach via FR 80, fighting the bureaucratic jungle. Well done!

    I started from the Wildlife Cabin at Lanesville on Friday about 1 pm, taking the alternate route on the West side of Red Creek. At Vdeal's suggestion I chose the upper path and climbed to a bench about 200 ft above the creek and headed North. Maybe I climbed too far, because I was soon following game trails and bushwhacking, but you can't go too far wrong, and it's only half a mile to little Stonecoal run. Took me an hour and a half, though, and crossing Little Stonecoal required tip-toeing carefully across a mossy log because the churning brown mass of water rushing under it didn't look inviting. Then I took the Little Stonecoal Trail up to the Dunkenbarger Trail. This should have taken me to the Big Stonecoal Trail, but there was so much water running in and around the trail, that the many side-routes hikers had taken to skirt the floods spread out into a delta of false trails, and I soon stopped seeing cairns (which had been infrequent to start with).
    However, while lost I found some nice chaga on a birch tree. Then I used compass, map, and altimeter to plot a route in the general direction of Big Stonecoal. Without much altitude change once that 4000 ft. plateau is reached, it became mostly map and compass, and I guess I headed more North than NNE, so I spent several happy hours exploring new terrain. Eventually I found an old logging road that ran N-S, so I followed it, and try as I might I couldn't will it to bend to the East. There were a few side trails and old logging roads which descended to the East, and I tried a couple of them, but they petered out in swamps and/or laurel hells before they went very far. When it started to rain I retraced my steps to the road and continued North, figuring that I would eventually run into FR 80 and approach from the West, which I did. Also, the sun came out. Then it was just a mile to the trail junction and 1.25 miles to the Friday campsite. I was grateful for USMCStang's giant arrow pointing the way.

    On Friday, I joined Ferret on a hike down the Breathed Mountain Trail to the Forks (with a stop to collect some dry stovewood from a dead spruce tree - the only dry wood I saw the whole time). The climb up to the Blackbird Knob Trail, so much reviled, actually seems easier each time I do it. It's nice to hear the wood thrushes that live along that stretch and higher up on Blackbird Knob.. We got to the Saturday campsite at the Left Fork in plenty of time to get set up before it rained. Thanks to Ferret, who is a great non-nonsense hiking companion. He also provided one of the things I'd missed the day before - the friend who says, "Hey, I think the trail goes this way."

    Saturday evening's gathering with many old friends and some new was nice. Bearchaser's snazzy footwear, Momo's warm greetings, and meeting Country Roads (who probably knows the Sods better than the rest of us) were a few of the standouts.

    Sunday, I headed down Red Creek solo, and the sun came out in earnest just after I made the crossing at the Forks, which was pretty exciting. Water was moving fast and crotch-deep. It was also impressively loud. I was glad to get across without a mis-step. Afterwards I sat in the sun and had a wonderful sandwich of cheese and sprouts on crackers. Alfalfa sprouts will be on all future hikes, I've decided.

    Sorry, no photos. I figured if I was going lightweight and testing out a one-pound insulated hammock hammock, it made sense to leave my 6 oz. camera & gorillapod at home.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Adia's Avatar
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    Well written! I have a few pics of you and Crankybear talking about your hammock...
    My camera isn't waterproof, so once the rain started and soaked everything I kept the camera put away and safe.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. Jennifer Unlimited
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    http://daydreamingmisadventurer.blogspot.com/

  3. #3
    Senior Member USMCStang's Avatar
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    Well, I definitely had an interesting trip.

    I left home at 10:00 pm Thursday to pick up Ebola and Lukesteg. I picked them up at 1:00 am, and we got on the road. We arrived at FR 80 just before sunrise. The road was easily passable to any vehicle with inflated tires.

    We hiked to the kiosk at the Blackbird Knob/ Big Stonecoal/ Breathed Mountain trail junction, and set up the aforementioned arrows pointing down the big Stonecoal trail. The weather was nice, about 70 and sunny. We began the 1.25 mile hike to the pines campsite, and on the way there, noted that an ominous looking cloud was coming over the western ridge. We got ti the first crossing of Big Stonecoal run, about 100 yards from the campsite, and it was maybe 5 I chest deep.

    Then the fun started.

    Within 10 minutes of arriving at the site, they sky grew dark, and the heavens opened up. We had signifigant winds, heavy rain, and tons of lightning. We just barely got our tarps up in time. Since we had a long drive, and the rain kept going for about two hours, we all took naps and waited out the storm.

    After the rain, the weather grew nicer. We made a small attempt at getting a fire going to help dry gear out, but we could only get a few minutes of flame before it petered out...it was just too wet. I found a dead all and batoned it up for my emberlit, which worked well.

    After awhile, I realized that I had left all of my trail snacks in the truck, and my solar charger wasn't working for my e cigarette batteries. I contemplated hiking the three miles back to the truck, but the creek, which was crystal clear and shallow a few hours before, was now a torrent. I tried to contact Cranky bear a few times to give him a heads up. Turns out that Cuben apparently magnifies cell signal...I actually had service, but only inside my borrowed cuben tarp (thanks, Lukesteg). Must be the Mylar.

    Ferret showed up around 3:00, charging right through the creek, which made me feel a little better about the state of events. I was worried that the other hikers, including WV, were getting stranded by high water around the sods. Strung2tight showed up soon thereafter, followed by WV, after his odyssey. We got a fire going, and had a good night. Crankybear had not yet arrived by 10:00 PM, worrying me a little, but I was so completely drained after the drive and full day, that I had to hit the rack.

    I'll follow up with Saturdays trip report in a bit

    Mike
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    Mike
    The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!
    ~Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1945


  4. #4
    Senior Member ferret's Avatar
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    First of all, I had a great time. Hard to tell sometimes cause I dont talk enough (it's ok, I get it alll the time). I learned and experienced a lot this trip.

    I got to the trailhead at Red Creek Campground around 12. I left home a little later to dodge the aforementioned thunderstorms. I followed two other hikers onto the Blackbird Knob trail around 12:30.

    After reading one of the camp shoe threads, I decided to go with meshy trailrunners and my usual smartwools and not worry about staying dry on stream crossings. Well, it works! At least for me, especially with the high creeks this time around. Although I did have some traction issues with my Salomons. Crossing the right and left forks proved interesting with a couple balance issues, but I took my time and it went well.

    Up until the Harman trail I was on familiar ground, but I had never hiked the last eastern portion of Blackbird Knob. Well the trail was so flooded I thought I had taken a wrong turn onto a stream bed. One section having no exposed rocks to walk on, but by then I was well committed to my wet, but still warm feet.

    I finally made it to the opposing trailhead and unknowingly followed a giant arrow onto Big Stonecoal. There, I met a couple other hikers and we traded intel about the trails we had just been on. They warned me about how wet the trail ahead was, but they were on the way to Blackbird Knob. They didnt know what wet was yet!

    After a few sprinkles, I picked up the pace and made a couple of short, but deep and swift crossings to find Ebola on a water run. After some introductions I set up and peeled off my wet socks and slipped on a nice dry pair and camp shoes.

    Friday's hike was much more pleasant with WV. I learned wood thrushes have four calls and they have different accents for different regions. I always learn something when WV's around! At Red Creek, he led us down to great little spot to check out the water and take a break. When you suggested I go check out the Forks, I thought the main trail took us there regardless. I didnt know it was just down that side trail. I would have gone and let you process more of your firewood. Sorry, WV.

    From here, WV moseyed up the climb from the creek while I huffed and puffed my way up. Back on Blackbird Knob, WV noted the clouds and asked if it looked like rain. I said, "nah." Wrong. We made it into camp with enough time to setup and watch the others go off on a day hike before the rain hit.

    I relaxed and had a nice helping of BBQ Spaghetti as the day hikers and the first group returned. The remainder of the night was spent wandering the campsite and reading in the hammock. I used Maztrain's mod on my Phoenix and slept great both nights.

    For breakfast I had grits with half a pack of jalapeno mre cheese mixed in which USMCStang sniffed out as he was leaving. The hike out with Bearchaser and Maztrain's family was pleasant although Maz was not feeling well. Hope you feel better!

    Here's a few pics I took, I also took some video which I'll post later this week hopefully. Also, one of my favorite perks of going to the Sods is the strawberry-rhubarb pie I get to take home from the farmer's market!

    Thanks to all who came for another great outing.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by ferret; 05-07-2012 at 21:38.

  5. #5
    vdeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ferret View Post
    Also, one of my favorite perks of going to the Sods is the strawberry-rhubarb pie I get to take home from the farmer's market!
    Ok, fess up. Where did you find the strawberry rhubarb pie?
    "There are places in this world that are neither here nor there, neither up nor down, neither real nor imaginary. These are the in-between places, difficult to find and even more challenging to sustain." - Thomas Moore

  6. #6
    Senior Member USMCStang's Avatar
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    OK, I've had my dinner...onto Saturday's report

    So, we woke up on Saturday to pretty nice weather. Crankybear and Aida had not yet shown up, as they decided to sleep in the truck overnight, but they arrived pretty early. WV and Ferret decided to take the "shorter" route to the campsite via the Big Stonecoal, Breathed Mountain, Red Creek, and Blackbird Knob trails...roughly 4 - 5 miles. Luke, Crankybear, Ebola, Aida, and I decided we would take the longer route down Big Stonecoal to Rocky Point, Red Creek, and Blackbird knob.

    After packing up, we headed southeast on Big Stonecoal, which brought us to our first crossing. The water was still high, but it had definitley receded at "the beach". At the second crossing, near the big falls, we stopped for some pics.

    We took the rocky point trail, which always lives up to it's name forward and reverse...it's a rocky point with pointy rocks. We stopped for about 15 minutes under the Lion's head, where Luke got spooked by not one, but two snakes...I'm not sure on the species...they had the coloring of a diamondback, but a slender head and less of a diamond shape on the pattern.

    After tiptoeing through the rocks, we hit the Red Creek trail northbound. At the Breathed Mountain trail junction, we decided to have lunch at the waterfall/ waterslide area WV showed us last year. Some of the campers there have really engineered that site. The fire ring had a sofa and table made out of sandstone. I fired up the emberlit and had some tortilla soup.

    After a 45 minute or so lunch break, we proceeded north towards the forks. The left fork crossing wasn't bad at all, only slightly higher than normal at the time. We glanced around, and started the slog uphill, which, as WV stated, does in fact seem to get easier every time I do it. Luke and Ebola scooted right up. I just set a steady but slow pace. Crankybear and Aida, with the pooch in tow, weren't too far behind...only about a minute or so.

    Once we reached the blueberry fields at the top, we glanced over at the eastern ridge...wow. We watched a dark cloud well up, and pour over the ridge, and immediately started walking. Luke spotted another snake, which I promptly captured and held for him to stare at for a minute or two, before aloowing him to go on his way. Luckily, we were on easy terrain, because within 15 minutes, it was pouring. We donned our rain covers, and I decided that I wasn't going to put my jacket on, because we only had about 15 minutes worth of hiking left. I was during this 15 minute downhill towards the campsite that my boots got wet for the first time...from rain running down my legs.

    We pulled into camp and it was already close to dark. Everyone else had already made it there, but they were hunkered down under their tarps. We got set up, tried to dry out, and socialize a little. Unfortunately, given the circumstances, I didn't get to meet any new faces. Bearchaser, Maztrain, and Firefly all came over for a bit, but without a fire going prior to the rain, there wasn't a coherent gathering point for everyone. It also meant I had no dry wood, so it wasn't an easy task getting the stove going, but ultimatley, we had a mini campfire by the emberlit. We all hit the rack early, except for Luke, who didn't sleep well. He heard some coyotes howling throughout the night, and saw a raccoon come though camp. I was awoken by an isolated shower at some point that night, but otherwise, I slept well.

    Sunday's hike was straightforward. The weather was the nicest we'd seen all weekend. The higher elevation portions of Blackbird Knob trail had turned into a regular creek, rather than the muck that they normally are. We got back to the trucks, said our goodbyes, and Luke, Ebola and I headed on to Elkins, WV for some well deserved Hardees

    Unfortunately, the forum does not allow me to upload .gpx files, so I have to share an external link...he is the GPS plot from Saturday's hike in two formats...can someone take a look and see how they like this presented?

    Saturday's Hike, via Google
    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=...10533,0.022724

    Garmin Connect, the entire trip:
    Friday:
    http://connect.garmin.com/activity/175986209#
    Saturday:
    http://connect.garmin.com/activity/175975765#
    Sunday:
    http://connect.garmin.com/activity/175986156
    For anyone interested, I can email you the raw .gpx data, as well as Waypoints showing exact GPS coordinates of the different features, such as our campsites, lunch spot, waterfalls, and the "beach" on Big Stonecoal. Mods, Admins, any thought's on allowing .gpx or .kml files for us data junkies?


    I learned a few things on this trip:
    • Always take a backup for any electronic gear. Luckily, Luke had an extra battery and some "analog" cigarettes to back up my discharged E-cig batteries
    • Always take a backup for any manual gear. I should have brought my pocket rocket with the chance of heavy rain. The emberlit was more work than I would have expended carrying a fuel canister when it comes to soaked wood.
    • I'm not sold on Cuben *gasp*. I'm not a gram weenie, and I missed the extra coverage that my BMJ would have provided. I'll gladly save the $300+ dollars and suck up the extra weight to have the big tarp.
    • Even when you're cold, wet, tired, craving nicotine, and hungry, as long as you're hanging in the woods with friends, it's a good day.
    Mike
    The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!
    ~Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1945


  7. #7
    Senior Member BearChaser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WV View Post
    Bearchaser's snazzy footwear, Momo's warm greetings, and meeting Country Roads (who probably knows the Sods better than the rest of us) were a few of the standouts.
    Vibram FiveFingers WV, the Spyridon's. You should try them, they bring a whole new feeling of being connected to the trail. I also think they may have something to do with me not having any knee pain the entire time. My feet and knees never felt so good. At first I was thinking of them as lightweight shoes, but now it's more about the comfort and feel of having my toes free from the box.

    As always, I really enjoyed seeing familiar faces and meeting new one's. Like everyone said, the rain kinda dampened any mingling around and a camp fire that night, but I think we still had a fantastic time, I know I did. My little asym tarp kept me dry, my feet and knees felt great, I was surrounded by good friends, and the hammock is always comfy, whats not to enjoy. Lets do it again.

    Maztrain, I hope your feeling better brudda.

  8. #8
    Yoda's Avatar
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    Great report's everyone!

    All I can say is "WOW", what a "BEAUTIFUL" place, even in the rain ...

    This was my (well our) first time to the Sods and it sure didn't disappoint, but I will say that I will most definitely be back there again it is such a beautiful area and there is soooooo much to take in that it can't be done in just one trip, so I will have to make many more...

    It was great to meet my new friends, see old one's, and hang in some fantastic spot's. We arrived a little later than expected on Friday night so we slept in the truck. Woke up early Sat morning and hiked in to find the group, once we did I had the pleasure of seeing first hand the gorgeous new WV creation, and he most def did not disappoint, that hammock is a work of art... Oh and thanks for the advise WV!!!

    It was great to finally meet USMCStang, Luke, and Ebola, will hike with you fellers anytime!

    Adia is still sore, but she is a trooper, it so happens that this was her first time hiking in bad weather and despite the nasty cold wetness she push on and did superbly.

    Max (our dog) did wonderfully, I can't be more proud of how he acted/behaved and hiked, this was his first trip with a pack on and he was a pup on a mission .....

    Will post some pic's when I get the size thingy worked out
    Last edited by Yoda; 05-08-2012 at 08:58.
    Formerly known as "Cranky Bear"....
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    I like hiking as it's like exercise!

  9. #9
    Senior Member ferret's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vdeal View Post
    Ok, fess up. Where did you find the strawberry rhubarb pie?
    It's actually on the virginia side of the border just before getting back on 81.

  10. #10
    Senior Member lazy river road's Avatar
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    Awesome trip report WV you ove me drooling over that cloud hammock. I cant wait to check it out in person
    Sometimes I like to hike and think, And sometimes I just like to hike.

    Hiking is'ent about waiting for the storm to pass its about learning to hike in the rain.

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