Michelle let me break away for a weekend to go on a 3 day, 2 night hiking/camping trip with a coworker and a few of his buddies. Our desintation was Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia, which is a little under 3 hour away. We had a great trip and hiked around 13-14 miles in 3 days. Friday was overcast, cool and breezy; Saturday was sunny and beautiful (low 60s), and Sunday was cold and snowy! Enjoy the pics!
One of the coolest parts of the trip was riding in my buddy's jacked up Jeep!
Apparently, West Virginia is big into renewal energy. We saw around 30 of these massive windmills lining the mountain ridge.
We passed several puddles and ponds with these jelly looking balls...turns out they were frog eggs (YUCK!!!) We saw a few tadpoles and their bodies were about the size of dimes. I've never seen tadpoles that big before I don't want to see how big the frogs will be.
Dolly Sods Wilderness is the green section. We entered the park from the West access point and hiked through the central and northern portions of the park.
Panaramic view shortly into our trip.
The terrain was intersting, some areas were open and relatively bare with evergreens scrattered across while other areas were heavily wooded. Terrain diversity is one of the attractions of the park.
Views of the streams and creeks never get old!
The next several pictures were taken along the portin of the creek we camped at.
There are no established campsites or facilities in this portion of the park, however, the nicer locations had fire rings and occassionaly rock chairs setup due to previous use.
My good-ole hammock setup worked out great! It was my first time camping with just the hammock (no tent) and I also broke in my new under-quilt that I recently purchased. I packed my cold weather sleeping bag (zero degree) and plenty of layers just to be safe.
The hammock basically lays right in the quilt to keep the bottom side of the hammock warm. Hard to believe the quilt and a quality sleeping bag is all I needed to stay warm in 30-40 degree weather. The evergreen branches on the ground served as a condesation barrier between my backpack and the ground.
Temps on Friday ranged from low 60s to low 40s. The temperature change was noticeable as the sun went down.
Saturday morning we had 2 deer come through our camp. They were obviously comfortable with campers as they weren't spooked by us being in the general vicinity.
Second deer to the left side of the picture under the tree.
Saturday was a beautiful day for a hike! Temps made it to the mid 60s and we hiked close to 7 miles up and down the terrain. Altitude ranged from around 2,600 to 4,100.
We initially thought these were black bear tracks but none of us researched tracks before the trip and we found out we were wrong. These are either cat (mountain lion) or dog (coyote) tracks. The nail/claw marks indicate that it's a dog (so we think) since cats have retractable claws that are not normally visible in tracks. We saw many of these tracks along various trails.
Taking a break to read the trail map and determine which path we're taking back to camp. One of the guys was having issues with his knees so we had to carefully choose our route based on his ability.
After deciding on our route back, we took a break for lunch to enjoy the warmth and sun. When lunch was over, we all ended up dozing off for a bit. It was a fantasic nap and the ground was surprisingly comfortable! A couple came hiking up one of the paths and the lady insisted on taking a few pictures of us enjoying the great outdoors. :)
Many more tracks in the afternoon. We later learned the larger prints are the front paws and the smaller are the rear. Larger paws in front carry most of the animal's weight and it uses them to fight off enemies and hold down their prey.
That's a beaver dam in the lake. Didn't see any beavers, unfortunately.
That as a good size tree!
There were at least 20 trees down in this one area.
View from my hammock.
It was snowing Sunday morning when we woke but luckily we were all snug in our bags. Two of the guys thought they heard an animal outside of their tent during the night. They were both a bit spooked and didn't dare open their tent to see if anything was actually outside. While brushing my teeth, I jumped across the rocks to the other side of the creek and saw fresh coyote tracks (we think) across from our camp. We also saw tracks on the trail next to our camp so our guess is the animal came right through our camp...but we'll never know for sure.
Light snowfall at camp.
Since I don't have a waterproof cover for my backpack, I used my hammock tarp to keep my pack dry. It worked out well.
Starting the 3.5 hour, 3+ mile hike back to the car. It was snowing the whole way back and was only annoying when the wind started whipping.
One of the last nice views before our journey ended. Thank goodness for quality waterproof boots!! Not sure if we'll go back since it's so far and there are so many options closer but it was an excellent trip. Here's hoping for additional adventures with this same group in the months or years to come.