This backpacking trip took place the weekend of July 16-17, 2005. Participants were Charlie Johnson, Doug Knowles, his nephew Mic, Tom Stevenson, his friend Terry, Rob Huber, Jim Casserly and myself.
Saturday, July 16, 2005- I arrived at around 8:30AM at the trailhead. Rob H and Jim C, our 2 newest members were there and waiting. Tom S showed up close to 9 with his friend Terry, who would also be hiking with us for the first time. So we then waited for Charlie J, Doug K and Mic. They came rolling in around 9:15. After waiting for Doug to pack his pack as well as the customary group pictures at the beginning of the hike, we got started.
So we started out on the Blackbird Knob Trail for about 1.5 miles. It was very muddy on the trail, having rained recently. We then turned right on the Upper Red Creek Trail after crossing Red Creek around the 2 mile mark. Doug and Mic stopped to get some water and take a break. The rest of us proceeded on a slight up to the intersection with the Dobbin Grade Trail at around mile 2.5. We waited for Doug and Mic for about 20 minutes. A subsequent hiker came along and said that the guy that we were waiting for was probably going to camp back at the creek. Then we saw a storm complete with lightening strikes coming in from the west. Since we were in an open field now (and would be for most of the rest of the hike) we decided to head for some woods as opposed to being in the open.
Then it started to rain... We trudged through an open field with thunder and lightning coming down all around us. 'What did I get us into?' I kept asking myself. Charlie J would later ask me the same question. We got to a stream crossing, crossed it, and then had our first decesion to make about which way to go.
There were no signs, blazes or rock cairns at this intersection. We could either go left along side of this creek or continue straight ahead up to the ridge. The map was inconclusive, it was raining cats and dogs, we weren't really sure which way to go. My gut said to turn left so that we could continue looping around the area. We did. It continued raining cats and dogs. The trail turned into a river. We either had to walk through knee high water on the trail or boot high water off the trail. It was nuts. We complained but there was really nothing that we could do about it.
We then came to a sign that told us which trail we were on and that FR75 was straight ahead. We turned left. The rain was letting up. It was about 12 noon. We were hungry for lunch. We had walked about 3.5 miles. The rain stopped and the sun came out. We found a rocky field and ate there, being careful to check for snakes first. After a needed rest and replenishment, we continued on another mile, having to cross 2 streams. Some of us had to wade waist deep through these swollen streams. We then came to an intersection and a sign pointing the other way. It told the name of the trail and how far to other trails that we passed. But there were no signs that were facing the direction that we were facing. What do we do now? Here's where we had to make another decesion.
We felt that it was too soon to turn left. The compass said that straight ahead was west. So we thought that we should go straight. The old road/trail climbed, then went through some forest, then entered a huge plain. The trail was very wet and muddy. It was again getting cloudy. We started seeing 'No Trespassing' signs on both sides of the trail from a hunting club. We were looking for a left turn to continue our loop. We didn't see it. When we got to the next forested section, we decided that we didn't want to get so far lost that we could not get out of here tomorrow. So we decided to start backtracking and camp somewhere along the way. Then it started raining again. Very heavilly. Tom S remembered there being a meadow at the last intersection where we saw a sign facing the other way. So we decided to head there and camp. We had already hiked about 8 miles. It was getting close to 5:00PM.
We got to the intersection with the sign facing the other way, turned left, and started up a hill towards a hilltop meadow. It was raining heavilly. We found an open area next to the woods. We pitched our tents in the rain. Yuk! The rain stopped around 6ish and we were able to come out of our tents and eat dinner.
So we cooked our meals and had a chance to eat, socialize and watch the beautiful scenery in the valley below. It was nice. We saw a tracking dog near our camp, but he did not approach us. It started raining again around 8:30PM so we retired. We probably hiked somewhere around 9-10 miles that day.
Sunday, July 17, 2005- We had discussed our hiking options the night before. They were to either: 1) Retrace our steps or 2) hike out to FR75 and back to our cars as this would be the shortest and driest route out of the area. After some discussion, we decided on option 2. So, we ate, packed up and were on the trail by around 8:30AM, our usual time. No rain yet. The trail went due east and climbed steadily towards a ridge. We were amazed that we got to FR75 within a half hour. When we got there, we had a whole new adventure.
At the intersection with the road, we met an elderly gentleman who was tracking hunting dogs like the one that we saw the previous evening. We exchanged hellos and he asked if he could give us a ride back to our cars. Half of us said OK and the other half wanted to walk (Guess which group I was in). Anyway, when Charlie J, Jim C and I got back to our cars, Jim C drove to get Tom S, Terry and Rob H. Charlie J and I went back in along the Blackbird Knob Trail looking for Doug and Mic, whom we assumed camped near the intersection of the Blackbird and Upper Red Creek trails. We met them just east of that intersection. They had tried to catch up with us, then went back to where we left them and camped for the day. We then slowly walked back to our cars. When we returned, Tom S, Terry, Rob H and Jim C were gone. But we understood their need to get home and into dry clothes. Charlie J, Doug K, Mic and I then went to the Ponderosa Steak House in Moorefield, WV for a great buffet and steak.
This was a great place to hike, though it has only been a government owned area for about 12 years and only recently mapped and signed. I was dissapointed in myself that I couldn't get us around the area in the way that I had planned. Then again, we all agreed that the maps were not the greatest, since they were probably the first pass at maps for this area. Also, the signs were probably the first attempt at signing the area. And the rain, while a pain in the %$#, was good in that it kept us cool in an area that has alot of open, boggy space. It probably would not have been much fun hiking around here on a hot, sunny July day. Will we return to this area again to hike? You betcha! However, we may wait for them to make some revisions to the signs and maps before we do.
Group picture before the hike.
By Mike Calabrese
Fox and Ox rock formation at
Welton Park, WV. By Jim Casserly
Tom S negotiating Red Creek, WV.
By Charlie Johnson
Doug S and Mic along Red Creek,
WV. By Charlie Johnson
Rob H and Jim C at camp.
By Charlie Johnson
Our trail angel at end of hike.
By Jim Casserly
Taking a break at the 4 mile mark.
By Jim Casserly
Our campsite for the night.
By Mike Calabrese
View within Dolly Sods North Area.
By Mike Calabrese