Friday, October 21, 2011

Dolly Sods, Part I

I decided after a bit of deliberation to take a hike into the Dolly Sods Wilderness. Carole and I had been there once before, but I didn't get to hike much on that trip. And it was in the summertime. Also, I wanted to bag at least one named peak in the wilderness and picked out the one I wanted from my map of Dolly Sods. Decision made, I left Carole at the Seneca Shadows Campground one fine, bright morning and headed off on my own to do some dayhiking.

I arrived at Dolly Sods early after a 30-minute drive from the Seneca Shadows Campground where we were staying. It was good to get an early start. The wilderness was fairly crowded around the Forest Service access road, but mainly with the parked cars of backpackers who were all well into the wilderness from the day before.

I parked at the Blackbird Knob trailhead and pushed on into the wilderness, my main goal of the hike to find and bushwhack to the summit of Blackbird Knob.

One of the roadside signs marking a border of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.

This sign is serious. Back in the day, the Sods were a major firing range for the US military. Many rounds were fired here because the land was so open. However, lots of mortars landed and did not detonate and merely buried themselves in the often soft muck on the terrain. And to this day they sometimes emerge from the earth, some of them still live. If you see one, mark its location and back away. DO NOT TOUCH them! They can go off.

The first part of the trail is a boardwalk that crosses a very boggy area. Boggy areas are common in Dolly Sods which is one of the highest large valleys in the eastern United States.

Newly fallen birch leaves on the trail.

Vistas are almost always near at hand. This one was on a side trail that bypasses the main trail and heads upslope.

I'd seen photos of this campsite on the Internet and recognized it immediately. Some enterprising backpackers had made some serviceable chairs out of flat stones here.

There are lots of talus fields in the Sods.

Just because something looks like a trail doesn't necessarily make it one. It's easy to go off route if you don't pay attention out in this open country.

I've been in Dolly Sods Wilderness in summer and now in Fall. I think I prefer the Fall. It just makes for striking scenery in every direction when you have this kind of color all around you.

This photo doesn't convey it very well, but the trail was pretty much nothing but swamp and stream. The area had received quite a lot of rainfall the previous three days, and so it was like marching in muck most of the time.

This temporary pond was beside the trail in a particularly boggy area.

Some of the creeks have a red tint to them from the influence of tannins in the soil from the drop of thousands of years worth of evergreen needles.

At last, I find Blackbird Knob and begin to buswhack off trail toward the summit.

The broad summit area of Blackbird Knob. The views were so gorgeous that I literally stood around whooping. Who the hell cared? I was alone and full of joy.

The wind was horrible on the top. I managed to get a few self-portraits with my camera and tripod, but later a really vicious gust of wind knocked the whole thing down and so I packed the tripod away.

There go my ideas that no one else had ever been here. I found this old campsite situated behind some spruce trees.

I didn't know what these were. Little mounds here and there in open areas. Later, my go-to guys for all things natural told me that they were anthills. I'd poked them to see if any ants would emerge, but none did. Probably all dormant by this time of year.

And just before I got back to the Red Creek Campground area, I turned around to snap a parting shot on the Blackbird Knob Trail. Now I was ready to head over to the Bear Rocks area and see what I could find.

Part II tomorrow...

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