I had a wonderful time on my trip to Dolly Sods and Roaring Plains past year. Reflecting upon it, I decided I want to head there once the weather warms up. And that’s how this trip came together.
Five of us - Binh, Me, Kylie, Laura and Loy - met at Vienna metro on Friday evening. We also met the Three Ridges/Priest and Via Ferrata group here. I tried to poach some people from MikeVW's group, but he was successful in not letting me to do so. We took two cars and began our journey. After a quick bite at Sheetz in Moorefield, we rolled in at the Red Creek Trailhead just after 9:30. Here we met Brian and Miles. The parking lot was close to full - looks like more people have started visiting this area with the onset of summer. Donning our headlamps, we walked 0.5 miles in and settled in a large campsite area. The night was a little chilly, and I learned later that the moon was very bright.
The next morning we were up at 6 and on the trail at 7. We proceeded upstream on the Red Creek trail for about half a mile and arrived upon the turnoff for Big Stonecoal trail. It was time to cross the Red Creek. If anybody in the group was still feeling sleepy, that cold water sent shockwaves waking every brain cell in the body. Whoooo, the water was very cold. Once on the other side, we let our feet come back to normal and then started ascending. We arrived at the junction of Rocky Point trail and Big Stonecoal trail. Our next checkpoint was Lion's head - we planned to do an out and back to this viewpoint. I assumed that Lion's Head would be on the Rocky Point Trail - but that was not the case. After walking around most of the trail, I felt that we were not headed in the right direction. Out came the maps, and we realized we certainly were not in the right place. I blame myself for not doing proper research for the exact location of Lion's Head. Thanks to Brian who helped us find the turnoff and led us to the viewpoint. It turned out to be pretty cool - I was very happy that we made it there despite the delay. The group seemed to be in good spirits too.
Back to the junction with bonus miles covered, I decided to cut our route shorter - I was prepared with a plan b. We continued north on Big Stonecoal trail - this reminded me how beautiful Dolly Sods is. The open lands, the streams running, the pleasant weather - I was enjoying walking here. At the junction of Blackbird Knob trail, we took a lunch break. Here is when the bugs started bugging us. And they were out in decent numbers. I fear that this was an indication of a very buggy year, unlike last year. We walked eastwards on the Breathed Mountain trail which was a combination of rocks and mud. Reaching the Red Creek trail, we turned south with Red Creek running parallel to us on the left. The water seemed to be roaring and made me a bit nervous about the upcoming crossing. It turned out to be quite alirght in terms of water flow levels. But it was still stinging cold - I compared the crossing to coffee and decided that the crossing would work better if I was ever sleepy.
Fisher Spring Trail lead us to Rohrbaugh Trail, as we headed south towards Roaring Plains area. We took a break at an overlook which treated us with great views of the Red Creek Valley - I like this overlook.
Back on the trail, we made progress towards FR 19 and then entered the Roaring Plains area via South Prong trail. We stopped at our intended campsite for the day - a total of 21.5 miles were covered. The campsite, as we remembered it, was lovely. I think this is one of my favorite campsites. We setup our shelters and gathered firewood. Miles and Loy helped get the fire started and everybody took turns feeding the fire. Dinners were had as the conversations became more and more interesting, obviously since aptly-named MIMA was there. I felt a little bit of bittersweet emotions since Miles is set to leave the Mid-Atlantic area shortly. He will surely be missed.
Sunday morning, we were up at 6 and on the trail just after 7. Cold muddy water greeted us before I realized we were not on the right trail. I was glad that the trailname U-turn was already taken. We found the right trail and hopped on it. The trail went through thick rhododendrons and opened up to great views towards the east. Once we reached the pipeline, I suggested checking out the view at the end of it. It was a decent view. We backtracked a little and then headed into the woods towards the Canyon trail. For the most part, finding the trail was easy. Overgrown bushes did try to slow us down, but we managed to keep a steady pace. We stopped at couple of overlooks enjoying the awesome views towards the South/Southwest.
It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies. We reached the Tee Pee trail junction and turned in the north east direction. The bushes out here were really thick and scraped against our bodies. The Roaring plains trail took us to FR 70 - it felt great walking in the thick forest. A steep descent on Boar's Nest Trail took us to the final stream crossing. We washed our dirty socks and feet.
Feeling a little refreshed, we finished the remaining distance to the cars in good time. Total mileage for the day was 11 miles.
The drive to Lost River Brewery was somewhat long and we all felt tired when we got there. A stream crossing in the cold water might have helped energize us, haha. Anyways, once the beer and food started coming, we felt more alive. Full with a nice meal, we all said our goodbyes and headed to our respective destinations.
Thanks to everyone for giving me company on this trip. I hope y'all enjoyed it as much as I did. This area is so beautiful, it made me wonder why I don't go here more often. Especially since it will be cooler here in the summer compared to other nearby areas because of the higher elevations. I have resolved to visit this area at least one more time this year. Be on the lookout for that if you are interested.
Miles - I am glad I'll have your company on the Colorado Trip in August. I wish you good luck with the move to Colorado!