With a mix of new and returning members coming out for this trip, I was very much looking forward to taking a break from summer school to explore Dolly Sods over the weekend. And as usual, the trip didn't disappoint. After meeting up with Annie, Alison, Carrie, Emerald, and Priya, we began the drive out to West VA. It was definitely a busy weekend for DC backpacking, because not only did we run into Jen on the way to the trail, but also came across a group with Joffrey and Holger on Sunday morning! And while it wasn't quite Shenandoah level crowds out in Dolly Sods, we ran into many backpackers, dayhikers, and blueberry pickers along our route.
After an ominous start involving some heavy rains and my car almost bottoming out on the road to the trailhead, we started our 13 mile day along the Blackbird Knob Trail. Dolly Sods was definitely making its case for being the muddiest trail system in the Mid-Atlantic, but more than made up for this obstacle with cool temperatures and some pristine views. The group meandered along, stopping for blueberry picking every so often, and we were graced with good weather until we hit Rocky Ridge. The weather forecast had called for heavy rains and wind, so when it first started, I was a little concerned, but the shower soon passed, and we made our way down to Dobbin Grade without further incident.
Getting to the best campsite in the park involved navigating the muddy morass that is Dobbin Grade, but the trek was worth it: nestled in a clearing with views to the south and a stream nearby, this gem was what I had been looking forward to all day (it rivals the bridge campsite in Sweden, in my opinion). The sun returned in the early evening, and we were able to cook out, enjoy a fire, and share trail spirits. Annie and I stayed up for a bit talking about teaching, and were not only treated to a beautiful view of the stars and Milky Way, but caught a glimpse of a shooting star (red tail, bright flash). Camp was blissfully quiet for most of the night, and while a storm blew through, it was clear again by morning.
Sunday brought a full return of sunshine, and we finished out last six miles of the trail in fine style. Our group did break with tradition, though, by not stopping at Mallow's. Emerald knew of a barbecue place in Moorefield, and for the first time, I was able to enjoy a beer after finishing off a Dolly Sods trip. In sum, it was a nice weekend excursion, and I'm happy to welcome our newest members (Annie, Emerald, and Priya) to DC UL. Thanks, everyone, for making this trip so much fun!