Dolly Sods Wilderness Pictures & Trip Report:
Month: Early March
Conditions: Cold (low 30's F), snow covered ground, wet, and it rained heavily the second day of our trip.
Route Plan: Follow Red Creek Trail until its apex and turn around (an out and back hike)
We had arrived the night before at the trailhead and found out that the forest road was still closed because of snow. We decided to drive to Canaan (a resort near the Dolly Sods) to park for the night and sleep in our vehicle.
The next day we woke up and got a hot meal of eggs, biscuits, and gravy, at the resort. They serve breakfast in the morning every day of the week in the first building near the road on the right after you enter the drive. During our breakfast we talked to a local that worked in the area helping train SOF how to ride horses in the region. It was an interesting conversation. We gained a friend, learned about the area, and had a better idea of what to expect on the trail. After our conversation and meal we headed back for the trailhead (it was much easier to see where everything was during the day time, unlike the night before). Our adventure on the trail was about to begin!
We decided to take an "easy" route down the Red Creek Trail and we only went about 3 to 4 miles in, on day one. We set up camp, started a fire, and tried to dry our boots out from our trekking earlier in the day.
Throughout the day we had lost the trail and waisted two hours crossing Red Creek over and over again. Side note: a HPG land nav course would be great, us "future officers" need as much help as we can get. The trail was not marked well at all and without a path to follow (because of snow) it was interesting trying to stay on track. The final time we crossed the creek we took our boots and socks off to make the final crossing. That water was the coldest water I had ever been in before. Even though it was only a few feet deep it chilled us to the bone.
Soon after we had crossed the creek, shoeless and all, we found the trail once again (it was after 1500 at this time). At this point I finally figured out that the REI Hiking Project app had a built in GPS and I could measure the distance that we needed to travel to make it to our campsite. We still had a few miles to go so we started walking a bit faster and we arrived without incident to our impromptu campsite about an hour later. My girlfriend and I were not happy about losing the trail earlier since we had waisted so much time crossing the creek, looking for the trail. Even so, we were having a good time enjoying the West Virginian wilderness.
We set up camp with our Seek Outside Cimmaron, stashed our gear in the tent, started collecting firewood, and I eventually started the fire (gear list at end of post). We did not have a titanium wood burning stove so we had to make a traditional camp fire to dry out our boots. While I was making the fire my lovely girlfriend was boiling water and prepping the food for dinner.
After dinner we sat by the fire staying warm (it was a very cold, damp, evening). My boots had melted a bit on the sides, my socks were still wet, and I was a bit cold but we were still having fun and learning a lot. Eventually we turned in for the evening in our "20 degree" sleeping bags that were not 20 DEGREE worthy! We stayed warm because of our awesome sleeping pads and each others body heat.
The next morning we woke up to find that it was now raining. Did I say I really wished that we had the wood burning stove yet?! We broke camp and headed back the way we came rather than doing a loop that we had thought about doing the day before. Our reasoning for this was the fact that it was getting very foggy (no views on top of the mountain), we were wet, and the roads could be icy for our drive back to Ohio.
It took us under two hours to hike the entire distance that we hiked the day before. All of the creek crossings and getting "lost" did not help the situation on day one. The trail was still frustrating because we had lost it once again, finding it soon after. The rain was really coming down and it was good that we had decided to head back to the car. Severe hypothermia out in the middle of nowhere with zero cell service is not a fun time. We had the gear and the knowledge to handle those kind of issues but we opted to avoid that scenario completely. We arrived back at our car safely, soaking wet and a bit cold. After drying out our clothes, warming up, and eating some chow, we headed home to the great state of Ohio.
- tipi was great
- route plan was appropriate for a two day trip
- Ute and Umlindi were both appropriate packs to bring for a two day winter trip
- Mountain house meals were on point
- Buy a titanium stove for tipi (keeps you warm and dry and cozy... also helps with cooking and the amount of wood you burn through)
- Use pack cover in rainy conditions rather than or in addition to waterproof bags. The pack soaks up a lot of water that adds a ton of weight.
- Research more about trail conditions prior to setting out on trip (reference to road being closed because of snow)
- Know how to use the REI app before hitting the trail (trust me, I had a duh moment on the trail after I figured it out lol)
Below I have attached some pictures of our trip. We had an awesome time in West "by God" Virginia!
Foliage (manatee I think is the official color) Umlindi and Recon Belt with pals pocket and 2016 buttpack
My awesome girlfriend kicking butt and taking names on the trail
Red Creek (ute and OKBV2 pictured)
My favorite knife that I carry on the trail (rat 3 I believe from Ontario Knife Company)
Using the first starter out of my S.R.K. Survival Pocket Survival Kit to get that blaze going
Day II, in route to the vehicle
Equipment List (in ute and on my person):
Hill People Gear Ute & Prairie Belt
Hill People Gear Conner Pack
Hill People Gear Kit Bag V2
Sleep/ Shelter System
First Aid Kit
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Striker & Tinder
Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe even learned something from our experiences!
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."- John Muir