For the second year in a row, we made Dolly Sods our destination for Memorial Day Weekend. A 90% chance of rain all weekend was sure to be an adventure. Wild and wonderful, Dolly Sods is the best of West Virginia.
This year our trip was going to be a bit shorter due to the new addition of our puppy Gaia, whom we didn’t want to leave for too long. Even though it was a 4.5 hour drive, it was totally worth it for an overnight. The forecast was calling for 90% chance of rain all weekend and mid 60’s for the high. We were hoping for a cool foggy adventure and we sure got it! Our plan was to hike out Rohrbough Plains Trail, cross Red Creek and doing some freestyling once we got into the interior of Dolly Sods. Let’s just say the trip didn’t go quite as planned…
The drive in was GORGEOUS in the fog. We arrived at the Rohrbaugh Plains Trailhead a little after noon and suited up in our rain jackets. Last year we had been told that Rohrbaugh was one of the best trails in the Sods but it didn’t fit into what we wanted to do so we decided to make it our focal point this trip. There is a nice picnic area with an outhouse right beside the trailhead. We took advantage of this and then set off on what would be more of an adventure than we initially anticipated.
Within the first few miles we began to wonder why it was called the Rohrbaugh PLAINS Trail as it was 95% in the woods, not much plains. Nonetheless, it was beautiful. The rain dripping from the trees over the ferns and the fog made it look like something out of a Disney movie or the Twilight series. While there are only cairns as trail markers in the harder to distinguish parts of the trail, it is well trodden and easy to follow. We had actually forgotten our map but were decently familiar with it from memory and did just fine. The thick rhododendron bushes make it hard to go off trail for the most part.
The hike to the famed “lookout” is about 2.5 miles into the hike. There isn’t much elevation because you are walking the ridgeline but there are plenty of rocks and mud. Definitely wear waterproof boots on this trail. The fog was so thick you couldn’t see the valley. While it was cool, it was a bit disappointing. We sat and ate a snack and continued on our way.
About a half mile later disaster strikes. As we’re discussing how slippery the rocks are at one of the million water crossings, Bryce went down. First fall for either of us while hiking. Thankfully, he didn’t hurt himself that bad. He twisted his ankle and knee a little but was good to go after gathering himself and making sure the GoPro he was holding was ok…. not in that order of course. We continued until about 3.6 miles in where we hit Fisher Spring Run Trail. The sun started to peak out a bit and the sky was clearing, things were looking up…or so we thought.
Fisher Spring went straight downhill. There were a lot of switchbacks so the downhill wasn’t too bad, but I kept finding myself thinking of the climb back up. We were on Fisher Spring for about a mile before hitting Red Creek Trail. This is where sh*t got real.
I will precursor this by telling you that it had rained almost the entire week before we went on this trip. If you followed our last trip to Dolly Sods you may remember that crossing Red Creek was an adventure then; when it was 80 degrees and totally dry. As we reached the “creek” we noticed the current looked pretty strong. It also looked just as deep as where we had crossed the previous time. I am 5’0… this makes deep crossings while wearing a pack mighty tricky for me. We rolled our pants up as high as we could, took off our shoes and socks and took a deep breath. When I say the water was cold, it was breathtaking. So cold that your skin turns beat red and physically hurts. I said a few choice words and started locking my poles between the rocks to help steady myself. I got about halfway across before I realized it was almost to my waist and the current was too strong for me to keep going. Panic mode set in and awesomely enough I got a charley horse in my foot. Bryce managed to calm me down and we turned back the way we came. Back safely on the shore we reevaluated our plan.
After about 10 minutes of regrouping and chatting with another couple who decided not to cross, we decided to go back the way we had come. There was a nice campsite up by the overlook we were hoping no one had taken. Back UP the Fisher Spring Trail we went. A mile of huffing and puffing and we made it back to Rohrbaugh Trail. We took advantage of one of the water crossings to fill up for the night and trekked on.
Around 6 pm we arrived back at the lookout. Our spot was vacant so we set up camp. It was very soggy and we had to set up pretty close to the fire pit. We weren’t attempting to spend the energy making a fire with it being so wet out anyway. Now that it had stopped raining and the sun was out, we decided to take another look at the overlook. We were in for a real treat. The fog had dissipated out of the valley and the view was stunning. All of the hardship and backtracking was beyond worth it.
Camp was all setup and we made our delicious ramen dinner while Bryce carved utensils. Our packing was done half inebriated the night before and we had forgotten forks. One of my favorite things about Dolly Sods is the awesome camp couches that seem to be at most of the sites. We relaxed and discussed the fact that we couldn’t be happier about this spot and how everything turned out. We are both pretty good about rolling with the punches and making the most of whatever nature throws at us. This trip was no exception. We had started in a misty rain and fog, Bryce took a spill, I almost got swept away in the current… but we were having the time of our lives.
After a bit of a restless night, we were happy that we now only had a 2.5 mile trek out. Bryce’s ankle was hurting from his fall and he hadn’t slept much. We decided to forego making oatmeal and just eat the last few snacks we had brought. It was an absolutely perfect morning. The sun was shining and it was a nice 60 degrees. The dew picturesquely glistened off the spider webs and the trees. We took our time tearing down camp and just enjoying our last couple hours in this beautiful scene.
We hit back on the trail at about 9:15 and took one last look at the overlook. The true beauty of nature was in its finest form that morning. Light fog rising from the creek in the valley and clear blue sky reminded us to be thankful for our health and ability to come to these places. It was a quick hike out for 2.58 miles. It was not such a quick 4.5 hour drive back home but, again, was totally worth it.
If you haven’t checkout out Dolly Sods I cannot recommend it enough. A few tips however are be prepared for slippery rocks, lots of mud, and lots of water crossings. You will get wet. Waterproof boots and extra socks are a must. As I said, there are a lot of water crossings so if you have water purification means you don’t need to carry much with you while hiking. Happy trails everyone!