Trip Report: Dolly Sods - No plan survives first contact with the enemy...

Posted by Sharon G on

...Enemy, thy name is bushwhack.

So we didnít follow the planned route. But it was still some beautiful snowshoeing.

Kingsley, George, and I met up at White Grass before noon, after some cautious driving in windblown snow and occasional brief whiteouts. We found the appropriate ďlotĒ for overnight parking, which was really just the side of the road at the bend in Weiss Knob Ski Rd, by the dumpster and the base of the Freeland Run trail.

After paying our White Grass use fee in the cozy but crowded lodge, we started up the Three Mile Trail a little after noon. Despite the great snow and the holiday weekend, it didnít seem very crowded on the trail. I donít recall seeing any other snowshoers. Just skiers. The guidance at White Grass is for snowshoers to walk one side of the trail, but the ski tracks were on both sides, so we just tried to avoid the tracks and stay out of the skiersí way. After about two miles up, we took a short hop over to the Cabin Mountain trail, as planned, and headed south (insert ominous music here), breaking a trail in more than a foot of fresh snow as we went.

After going what seemed too far, we checked our location against the UTM coordinates on Georgeís phone and confirmed that we had passed two trails marked on the map but (understandable in hindsight) not marked on the trail. We backtracked a bit and tried something that looked promising, but it just turned into thicker bushwhacking as we went. We decided to play it safe and head back up to Cabin Mountain Trail and camp in a clearing for the night. It was actually a very pleasant campsite. I canít believe Iím using the word ďpleasantĒ for a place where we experienced a low of -6F or -9F, depending on whom we asked. None of us had a thermometer that would give sub-zero readings.

Completely changing our plan for Sunday, we headed North on Cabin Mountain Trail all the way to Forest Road 80 and Into Dolly Sods near the top of Timberline. On our way, a Boy Scout leader, clearly lost, chased us down for guidance. Despite my ďblind leading the blindĒ joke, we were able to show him where he was on his map, which seemed to be not where he intended to go. Moving on, after getting a glimpse of the downhill skiers at Timberline, we continued up Rocky Ridge, down Harman Trail, and back up Blackbird Knob Trail. It was here that we ran into the cross-country skiers whose trail we had been following in Dolly Sods. Owners of a nearby cabin from which they could reach the backcountry trails (jealous!), they clearly knew their way around very well. We then headed back down Cabin Mountain Trail toward White Grass, seeing many more skiers along the way. More backtracking than I would have liked, but a nice option considering we had to plan a completely new route on the fly. And it was a truly gorgeous day.

Lesson learned: If heading into Dolly Sods from White Grass, go north via Forest Road 80, not south. Itís not paved north of Cabin Mountain Trail, and itís and very nice walking. On snow, at least.

We were planning to camp close enough to White Grass to allow George to get back to his car with enough time to make it to Dulles for an afternoon flight. We got to a good camping area around 2:30pm, ahead of schedule. After a 10-mile day on snowshoes, we were all pretty pooped and not looking for another two hours of hiking to kill time. At the same time, it seemed silly to spend 16+ hours staying warm in our tents less than three miles from the cars, so we unanimously opted for a restaurant meal and a comfy bed instead. That was, after Kingsley finally found his cookies and restored enough energy for the few miles back down. (Possible trail name?: Cookie Monster) Judge us if you wish, but only if you spent the night at -9F. ;-)

Total mileage: 6-13


George Schlossnagle posted on

Great trip, thanks so much for organizing. Day 2 was great, that northern entry into Dolly Sods from Timberline seems much better signed for winter travel.


George Schlossnagle posted on

BTW, I have a couple pictures from the trip, but can't figure out how to create an album for the trip.


Sharon G posted on

As far as I can tell, the "add photo" option doesn't come up untill the meetup end time. If there's another way to do it, I haven't figured it out.

Update: I was able to add a few photos using the app. So the photo album exists, but there's no link to it from the event page yet.