Wednesday, October 6, 2021
45 minutes from Blackwater Falls State Park, driving through Canaan Valley, is the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. I am on a photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) exploring West Virginia. The weather has been for rain the entire week, so I guess we were lucky to be confronted by heavy fog. By the time we got to the gravel road leading up the east side of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, we could barely see 10 feet in front of us. We crept up the narrow road hoping no one was coming down in the dark. Our goal was to catch the sunrise from the top of Bear Rocks, but that was not to be. Finally at the top, we pulled into a parking lot that was filled. I think most were photographers like us, but there were also hikers and probably others who just wanted to see the area.
“Dolly Sods is a rocky, high-altitude plateau with sweeping vistas and lifeforms normally found much farther north in Canada. To the north, the distinctive landscape of “the Sods” is characterized by stunted (“flagged”) trees, wind-carved boulders, heath barrens, grassy meadows created in the last century by logging and fires, and sphagnum bogs that are much older. To the south, a dense cove forest occupies the branched canyon excavated by the North Fork of Red Creek.”
“The name derives from an 18th-century German homesteading family — the Dahles — and a local term for an open mountaintop meadow — a “sods“. From Wikipedia. The wilderness area covers 17,300 acres just north of Seneca Rocks. There are some 47 miles (76 km) of hiking trails within the DSW (see below), many situated along the courses of abandoned railroad grades and old logging roads. The premier viewpoint within the Wilderness, affording a vista of the entire Red Creek drainage, is at a set of rocky crags known as Lion’s Head Rock. It is reached by an almost three-mile climb from the nearest road. The last quarter mile is an eight-foot-wide bench (an old railroad grade) in the side of an otherwise steep slope. Like the cliffs constituting the eastern edge of the Sods at Rohrbaugh Plains, Lion’s Head Rock consists of a mixture of sandstone and conglomerate. The Northland Loop Trail is a 0.3 mile interpretive trail just south of Red Creek Campground on FS Rt 75 which accesses Alder Run Bog a typical, and much studied, northern bog or southern muskeg.” From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_Sods_Wilderness.
As we waited in the parking area, we talked with others about when or if the fog might lift. A young lady had a drone, and she sent it up to try to get above the fog, but she could not. She got nervous when it went out of sight, lost in the fog. She was afraid it might not find its way back. I enjoyed talking with a gentleman who had camped at the campground a mile or so back down the road. He said he slept in his car, a Subaru SUV. Looking at the small vehicle, I couldn’t quite imagine, but as he talked about not want to drive up here in the dark, I asked if I could see. He smiled and opened up the back of the car. Using someone else’s design, He had built a wooden camping frame, including a pull-out table and cutting board, storage area, shelves with a rechargeable battery. He was quite proud of his Exbed mattress that he said is just like sleeping at home. He also has a tent that fits over the back so he can leave the hatchback open. I thought it was very cool, especially for a place like this.
After the sun came up, the fog was still socked in, so we decided to walk around the bog and take pictures. I thought it a good time to use my Zeiss macro lens. I have not used it because I couldn’t get it to work. Kevin had the same issue, so Mark showed us we had to have it set to the red number on the manual F-stop ring. I had such a good time wandering the waist-high bushy mountain top that I got lost in the fog. With everything looking exactly the same, I wasn’t sure where I was. There were paths, so I followed one to a big sign describing the area and turned left down the hill when I heard Mark calling out to me from the other direction. I yelled back and headed toward his voice. It took a few more yells to get me back to the parking lot. A gentleman said I was lucky. It is so easy to get lost up here in the fog. Heading back down the road, I promised myself to come back as this is a very special place…..and we could barely see anything.
On our way down the mountain, we came upon a young man standing beside his white van that had one wheel stuck in a deep ditch. He said a guy ran him off the road and never stopped. We had no tow rope, but Mark said he saw a similar problem last year and found a truck shop that could help him. We would send help. I think it was Oakdale Repair shop with trucks and cars all over the lot. Two nice young men inside decided who would go, nodded and agreed to head up the mountain. Thanking them, we headed back to Blackwater Falls State Park.