Winter Camping in Dolly Sods (was Corridor H)
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johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 1, 2002
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I agree with Physics Man about winter camping in the Sods. The weather is truly extreme and vehicular access is virtually impossible. Most access roads are closed and gated in the winter. There's a forrest service road that runs to the top of Timberline (you access it from SR 37 just past Whitegrass), but I believe it is also closed in the Winter. Even in the summer, this road is virtually impossible to negotiate in a vehicle. I've only ridden on it with a mountain bike. You could hike up this road-it would probably be the quickest way in.

The best way to access Dolly Sods is from Timberline with back country skis--just ski off the Salamander trail before the first big turn. People make day trips into the Sods via this access all the time. There are two trailheads back there: Breathed Mountain and Stonecoal. From those trails, you can get to any trail in the Sods

You could try camping near Timberline FS road and if things got bad, you could always ski back down to civilization. However, skiing down Salamander after the resort closes at 9 pm could earn you a fine or even a court date in Parsons. The best bailout would be to hike or ski down the FS road.

MitchH
October 1, 2002
Member since 03/29/2004
41 posts
You can also access the Sods by starting out on the White Grass Ski Touring Center trail system, by going up 3 mile run and then turning off I believe on FS 80. About 3-5 miles to the turnoff from Salamander, and nice cross country skiing when snow conditions are good. And there is NEVER a problem with skiing White Grass trails after regular hours.
PhysicsMan
October 1, 2002
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Johnfmh - I'm familiar with the road you mentioned. I've been on it on skis, MB, on foot, and in my 4wd (3 season only). As you said, its quite difficult to negotiate in a vehicle. Once, I had to winch myself out of a muddy flat section even tho it was dry weather, I had agressive tires, and a vehicle with lots of ground clearance. As you said, it would be virtually impossible to do it in winter in a vehicle even if it wasn't gated.

You are right about accessing the Breathed Mtn and the two Stonecoal trails from the point you mentioned, and its probably wise for a novice winter hiker to keep to these more southerly areas of the Sods in the winter, but to me, these trails don't take you to the truly unique treeless areas of the sods up to the north.

Finally, I wouldn't worry at all about skiing out on Salamander after closing time if it truly was an emergency. I don't think anyone would press charges in that case, and should you not make it out, the groomers or the patrol would find your body first thing in the morning (which wouldn't happen on the FS road).

Anybody else on this board ever BP'ed the Sods in winter?

Tom / PM


PS - John, thanks for starting a new thread. I should have done it myself but was already into responding to that other guy.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 1, 2002
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Tom:

I've hiked the northern Dolly Sods as well. The Blackbird Knob trail is stunning (if you can find it). It is not where the USGS maps say it should be. :-) There are some meadows off of that trail that look like they might be fun on back country or even cross country skis, and they are not too far from Timberline. However, to get BIG vertical, one would have to get to the Allegheny Front or Porte Crayon. The meadows on Porte Crayon look like the ultimate back country ski destination in WV. However, most of the ones you can see from 32 are on private land.

Regarding the Salamander Trail, some of it is actually on leased forest service land, and so you are probably right, in an emergency, no one would care too much if a camper skied back to civilization. Interestingly enough, I've never seen campers back there either in the Summer or Winter. There's no immediate water source at the Stonecoal trailhead and that may be the limiting factor in the summer but in Winter, you have snow. March could be a wonderful time to winter camp--more light and warmer temps. :-)

John

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PhysicsMan
October 2, 2002
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
John -

I've hiked the Blackbird Knob trail many, many times over the years, and yup, she can be hard to find, and ain't exactly where she's supposed to be .

BTW, if you start at Red Creek campground, at the point the trail turns south, there is actually a faint path heading due west which takes you completely across the Sods, and comes out a bit south of Timberline's water tower. That is a fun hike (with a car shuttle), offers some great places to camp if you want to overnight, and you will rarely see anyone else on it.

Just north of the Blackbird Knob trail (about half way across, around where it turns south) if you follow the little brooks back upstream a bit, there are a bunch of small ponds that used to have have active beaver lodges. There is also the wreckage of the old airplane a bit further north of these ponds.

Actually, tho, my favorite hikes begin at Bear Rocks and simply head cross country anywhere in the quadrant from WSW (ie, towards Timberline) to more or less due N along the edge. The country is so open up there, its very easy to navigate without having to stick to trails. These hikes provide an experience you usually can only get in the west or the Whites (NH) above timberline. A great hike is due N from Bear Rocks to a point where you can look down on the more southern of the two Mt. Storm reservoirs.

You are absolutely right about March providing a quasi-winter, on-the-snow experience without the rigors and danger of a real mid-winter trek. You are also right about no significant vertical in that area, but that isn't why I go there. Personally, I favor snowshoes over skis if I'm going cross country or on hiking trails, but skis if I'm going up Jordan Run or one of the FS roads.

Sounds like we've covered a lot of the same terrain. I seem to remember a discussion very similar to this that we had maybe a year ago about hiking into the Mt. Porte Crayon area. If I ever get two seconds to call my own some day, away from job and family responsibilities, maybe we can hook up and compare notes.

Cheers,

Tom / PM

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 2, 2002
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Tom:

I'll have to try that hike north of bear rocks. Sounds like fun. We should definitely compare notes sometime. Unfortunately, the views north of bear rocks could soon be spoiled by a proposed Windmill Farm. Windpower is great, but do we need a farm on the Allegheny Front just north of Dolly Sods? The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has some good information on the proposed Windmill farm in its September 2002 newsletter: http://www.wvhighlands.org/.

Another item of interest is the proposed development of the Blackwater Canyon trail as a logging road and an access for new condos in the Blackwater Canyon. This trail is currently one of the best Mountain biking trails in Tucker County. I wrote about it in the following DCSki article: http://www.dcski.com/news/2002/05_13_2002/wvbike.php

John

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
October 2, 2002
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I am not an activist either but the Dolly Sods and the Blackwater Canyon deserve to be preserved....Happy hiking!
PhysicsMan
October 3, 2002
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
John -

Thanks a lot for the info on those two projects/proposals. I read the newsletter with great interest. Usually, I am not very active politically, but these two put me over the edge, and I will likely be contributing to the Conservancy from now on.

Thanks again. Gotta run.

Tom / PM


PS - BTW, in case you are curious, I'm not trying to be overly formal with the "/PM" after my name each time I post, but there are so many "Toms" in the world, particularly on EpicSki.com where I am reasonably active, and this suffix helps me (and others) find my posts when doing searches.

canaanman
November 10, 2002
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
John-Those windmill projects are gonna suck a ton for me. They are basically gonna be installed on the ridge above my cabin.

Trailwise: If you want a challenge you should start around Laneville and hike up the Canyon and into Fisher Springs. From there you can either hike back out to the FS road up Fisher Springs Trail, or continue up to the Forks. If you go the way of the Forks, I suggest making it a pit stop on your trip, maybe a lunch break. Then head up the left fork of Red Creek and over Blackbird Knob Trail and back down to the stream to camp. The next day you can just hoof it back up Blackbird Knob Trail a little ways to Red Creek trail and take that up to the FS road. Then you just have a few miles to trek back down the road.

My loop: 1st day-Up Red Creek Trail from Laneville to Fisher Springs. Spend 1st night there beside nice waterfalls. Maybe hike up to Pointy Knob. 2nd day-Up to the Forks for lunch/playspot, then continue on up Red Creek Trai/Blackbird Knob Trail back to where it meets the Left fork. Spend 2nd night there. 3rd day-Hike up Blackbird Knob trail and from the top of the Timberline Residential area down to my cabin to restock food and get a shower. Spend 3rd night there. 4th day-Head back up to the rocks at timberline (John you know about these im sure) and over to Breathed Mtn. Trail. From there just follow it back down to the Forks where you spend your 4th night. 5th day-Haul back out to your car and head home for supper. Of course Id only do that in the summer.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 11, 2002
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Canaanman:

Thanks for the hiking tip. Maybe next summer. I saw the windmills this weekend. You can see them driving from Canaan Heights to Davis on 32. They aren't going anywhere soon so I guess I'll have to get used to them. Opinions in Davis are mixed. People like the jobs and the clean energy, but the mills are definitely changing the views.

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 11-11-2002).]

(Anonymous)
November 30, 2002
Nice to see other people experiencing the sods like i have. I have a ton of pictures in both winter and other (winter is my favorite):

http://mtclimber.net

canaanman
December 5, 2002
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
Yeah... the Sods is incredibly unique in the winter.

PhysicsMan and john both spoke of the Stonecoal and Breathed Mountain and where they intersect Salamander. If you did hike off or ski off there in the winter, and headed to your left you would eventually come up on the ridge above Timberline Residential Area. Great vistias around and good sized rocks up there too. If you head down the Northeastern part of the jeep trail you are one (just follow it) you will come down to a stream. Cross it and continue on the trail. When you reach a place a ways down the trail from the crossing of the creek where there are a few toppled trees look off to your left for a path going into the woods. It might be faint in the winter. Anyways, you can head down to it a rustic cabin that is used by hikers. It has a spring outside of it, a stove inside fueled by propane, a food cabinet with some soup in it (of course bring your own and leave some extra there) and 3 bunk beds made from wood. It is great for a place to stay in the dead of winter, and will keep you out of the snow and the wind. I highly suggest it.

PhysicsMan
December 6, 2002
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Neat! I didn't know that was there. That could be *very* handy, especially in winter.

I'm trying to picture in my mind exactly where it is, so let me ask a couple of questions.

1) Are you saying that from the point on the jeep trail just above the Timberline residential community (ie, above the water tower, near a circle of rocks constructed for a windbreak, etc.), you should head NE on the jeep trail (ie, down the gentle grade)?

2) If you are in the vicinity of the cabin you mentioned, and look generally north, will you be looking up at the south side of a quasi-cliff (ie a pretty steep bunch of rocks) that forms an obvious promintory that sticks out to the west.

3) I presume you know about the old silver (ie, Aluminum) 1950's style trailer that is (or at least used to be) parked 50 yards off the west side of the same jeep road maybe 2 mi south the previous starting point. The last time I hiked through there, it looked like a hunting camp & didn't get the feeling that an "outsider" like me would be especially welcome there unless it was an extreme emergency. What's the story on this? Is it still there? Who owns it? etc. etc.


On a different topic, in an earlier post in this thread, I mentioned that maybe 15 years ago, I stumbled upon the wreck of an old single engine airplane as I was bushwacking crosscountry N of Blackbird Knob. Even then, it was quite difficult to see unless you were right on top of it, and its probably even more overgrown by now.

Anyway, I marked the exact position on a topo map, but in the years since then, I've lost that particular quad, and would have to poke around that general area to find it again. Any chance you know where it is & could give me the exact coordinates? I occasionally hike with newcomers to the Sods and the wreck would make a great conversation piece.

Cheers,

Tom / PM

PS - Tmmrw (Fri) will be my first day of alpine skiing for the season - Woo Hoo!!! Early Dec, and natural (or at least semi-natural) snow.

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 12-06-2002).]

(Anonymous)
December 6, 2002
If the cabin you mentioned is the one past the downed pine, there is no longer a propane stove there and the barrel wood burner is gone as well. A good friend of mine, Stinky, has been taking care of the cabin for a while and the Forest Service removed those items for "safety" reasons. Still its a great place to get out of the weather. There's still food there and maybe some blankets. Be sure to sign the log book and say hi to Stinky. As always, try to replace stuff that you use.
canaanman
December 6, 2002
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
Dude, I cant remember his nickname. He's been maintaing the place though, I knew that. Nice guy, but how did they get a stove outta there? and when? I was in there last summer.
(Anonymous)
January 21, 2003
I just ran across your discussion of cross country skiing the Sods and hoped you could assist me with a question about hiking them in the winter. We are planning on a hiking trip in February, hopefully along the west and north and are trying to find the best place to park and start hiking (without spending our entire hike outside the Sods . Right now, we are thinking of coming in off Freeland Rd onto FS 80, then up Cabin Mtn. Trail. Is there anything better/closer to the north? We're planning on a two night trip with a Search and Rescue Venture Crew. (Before you worry, this group has done winter camping previously, including summitting Mt. Washington last February and summitting Mt. Marcy the January before that; we've just decided to do our winter trip a bit closer to home [Columbia, MD] this year and it has been about three or four years since we were last in Dolly Sods.) Any pointers for parking would be appreciated. Thanks.
kevin

kevin.cropper@jhuapl.edu

(Anonymous)
January 24, 2003
The stove came out in late summer/early fall if I remember right. Its really too bad, that could have been a real lifesaver in the winter. Just having shelter is still better than nothing I guess.
canaanman
January 24, 2003
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
<<Neat! I didn't know that was there. That could be *very* handy, especially in winter.
I'm trying to picture in my mind exactly where it is, so let me ask a couple of questions.

1) Are you saying that from the point on the jeep trail just above the Timberline residential community (ie, above the water tower, near a circle of rocks constructed for a windbreak, etc.), you should head NE on the jeep trail (ie, down the gentle grade)?

2) If you are in the vicinity of the cabin you mentioned, and look generally north, will you be looking up at the south side of a quasi-cliff (ie a pretty steep bunch of rocks) that forms an obvious promintory that sticks out to the west.

3) I presume you know about the old silver (ie, Aluminum) 1950's style trailer that is (or at least used to be) parked 50 yards off the west side of the same jeep road maybe 2 mi south the previous starting point. The last time I hiked through there, it looked like a hunting camp & didn't get the feeling that an "outsider" like me would be especially welcome there unless it was an extreme emergency. What's the story on this? Is it still there? Who owns it? etc. etc.


On a different topic, in an earlier post in this thread, I mentioned that maybe 15 years ago, I stumbled upon the wreck of an old single engine airplane as I was bushwacking crosscountry N of Blackbird Knob. Even then, it was quite difficult to see unless you were right on top of it, and its probably even more overgrown by now.

Anyway, I marked the exact position on a topo map, but in the years since then, I've lost that particular quad, and would have to poke around that general area to find it again. Any chance you know where it is & could give me the exact coordinates? I occasionally hike with newcomers to the Sods and the wreck would make a great conversation piece.

Cheers,

Tom / PM>>

Okay, here's the lowdown:
I was up there a few weekends back, and the cabin is a lot harder to find when there is snow on the ground. I mean, a LOT! If you are above the residental community at Timberline (above the watertower and up at the rock outcrop with the shelters) head off to your left down the Jeep Trail. This should eventually lead you down to a stream (Left Fork of Red Creek) and you have to cross it there. You continue on the path for a ways over a few hills, and should be able to locate a downed pine tree across the trail (if its not covered by now). There will probably not be any footprints leading to the cabin, but look off to the left and down the hill and try to spot the white roof, and the brown underneath it. Make your way down to it. This is the only cabin left.

I'm not sure about the rocky face, I didn't take note of that.

As you mentioned, the 50s metal trailer that was once back there, is now gone. The story goes somewhat like this:
Back before it was really the Sods, a bunch of people build these hunting cabins and small camps out in the northern part of what is now Dolly Sods. The Forest Service went through, determined which ones were fire hazards or just hazards and destroyed them. This is the only one remaining in the whole area.

Btw... if you keep going down the trail and miss the cabin, and come to that burnt down 50s trailer, turn around and head back a little bit and keep your eyes peeled for the cabin (it would be on your right now).

And one more word of advice:

You might be better off sleeping outside of the cabin, we measured the inside temperature around 10 degrees, and the oustside around 12 in the morning when we woke up. It gets cold... but it does keep you off the cold ground, and its sheltered from the wind.

Darren-Interesting that you know so much about this cabin, its pretty much unknown by anybody but the locals.

canaanman
January 24, 2003
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
Okay... I dug out a satellite image of the cabins relative location:

The ever so important junction where you want to go right:
http://terraserver.homeadvisor.msn.com/image.aspx?t=1&s=10&x=3211&y=21618&z=17&w=1

Should be in this area:
http://terraserver.homeadvisor.msn.com/image.aspx?t=1&s=11&x=1607&y=10809&z=17&w=1

I suspect it is up in that upper-right area of marshes and springs:
http://terraserver.homeadvisor.msn.com/image.aspx?t=2&s=12&x=802&y=5404&z=17&w=1

Same pic, just satellite:
http://terraserver.homeadvisor.msn.com/image.aspx?t=1&s=10&x=3212&y=21619&z=17&w=1


And just for interest, heres the image of Blackwater Falls:
http://terraserver.homeadvisor.msn.com/image.aspx?t=1&s=10&x=3155&y=21651&z=17&w=1

DC_Skier
January 27, 2003
Member since 01/2/2003
56 posts
Next time anyone makes it out there how about plotting some grid coordinates? That would be a fun land-nav exercise.
(Anonymous)
January 27, 2003
Canaanman, I'm a quasi-local. Live full time in the valley now. Originally from Clarksburg WV. Lived in Morgantown WV for a while with Rich Dunn (Stinky), the guy who
helps take care of the cabin. Just like to watch this website to see what the city folk have to say about the Canaan area.
(Anonymous)
January 27, 2003
I am going with a small group of people on an annual 3 day winter camping trip over Presidents Day weekend. This year's destination is Dolly Sods. I'm curious about how much snow is on the ground up there and how far up the mountain from 55 (Jordan's Run) the road to the top is passable. Thanx to anyone with this information.
canaanman
January 27, 2003
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
Well... right now there is a ton of snow in the Valley. Not accurately measured but about knee to waist deep right now (2+ feet) is in my yard up there... and more will likely fall. So bearing a major blizzard or thaw (or flood, hey this stuff happens), expect about 2 feet of snow to be on the ground. I wouldn't expect anything in the Sods (roadwise) to be passible, especially the road running through the Sods to areas such as Bear Rocks and Red Creek Campground.
Volleyball3
January 28, 2003
Member since 01/28/2003
9 posts
I'm also interested in camping in the southern Dolly Sods area- Roaring plains, etc... what's the snow, parking, and trails like? Any suggestions/ tips? Thanks
canaanman
January 30, 2003
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
I always considered the Roaring Plains area to be in the northern part of the Sods, but if you want to explore the souther part I'm sure Red Creek is very neat in the winter. The only problem is that crossing Red Creek in the winter is not much fun. You don't want to get anything wet. I would say your best bet would be to head off the side of Timberline's Salamander (actually saw a group of guys do it a few weekends ago), head down Breathed Mountain Trail and either camp at a campsite up on the hill (where there are open plains, and a water supply, ask for more details) or head down the mountain to the Forks of Red Creek. You can get many, many campsites there and that allows you to head up Blackbird Knob trail and explore in the northern part of the Sods, yet have your site in a position where you can also explore the Red Creek Canyon.

Another option you might want to consider is going into Otter Creek. I can give more details, but I can't find my maps right now and haven't been in there for about 2 years.

Volleyball3
January 31, 2003
Member since 01/28/2003
9 posts
Thanks for the information. By Roaring Plains I meant the area south of Lanesville... but I haven't been there before, so you probably know more than I do. I think the area is also known as Flatrock plains... again, anything south of Lanesville. Any info. on this area would be extremely helpful and greatly appreciated. Thanks.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 31, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I was at Otter Creek over the summer on a hiking trip. It's nice area, but I don't think it gets the same snow as the Sods, given its lower elevation. This year, however, may be an exception.
Volleyball3
February 20, 2003
Member since 01/28/2003
9 posts
Well, we just got back from the Dolly Sods... 50" of snow in 3 days... we snowshoed up Flatrock run, camped on top of the ridge, then decided to turn around and go back down when we opened our tents in the morning and met 1-2ft. of new snow... And some wonderful people down at the bottom of the trail let us stay in their stables... Overall, it was a great trip. My suggestion to anyone planning on going to the sods in winter-- check the weather reports thoroughly, but don't trust them... always be prepared for the worst.
canaanman
February 20, 2003
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
Just so you know before you go:

Otter Creek has a very good tendency to flood like crazy during periods of snowmelt in the winter, leaving you stranded, whereas in Dolly Sods you can usually get out.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
February 21, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Also, be carefull fording the usually benign creeks near Laneville. Even a small creek running fast can be treacherous. Consider using ropes when crossing fast flowing water after storms.

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 02-21-2003).]

MitchH
February 21, 2003
Member since 03/29/2004
41 posts
A few years ago I was stranded by a flood on Otter Creek during Memorial Day weekend. Best to avoid camping there until the summer.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
February 21, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Mitch:

What's the best access to Otter Creek if you are coming from Canaan Valley. I usually use the access off of 72 but that is kind of a long drive.

John

canaanman
February 21, 2003
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
I would think that you could go 32 South out of the Valley to 33 East until you hit the pull-in area on the right-hand side of the road (somewhere between Shavers and Cheat Mountains). It's a pretty good drive back in there... but it takes you in.

The enterance from 72 is the one with that huge swinging bridge isn't it? Boy am I glad they finally repaired that thing a few years ago.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
February 22, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I guess the swinging bridge 72 entrance really is the closest access from CV. In July-August, I prefer Otter Creek to the Sods because it has more trees and is less exposed to the sun. The Sods is a place I enjoy in June and September. However, I'll go out in late July/early August looking for the berries. I made a great pie with blueberries and huckleberries from the Sods last year.
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