Tales from the Trail: Dolly Sods Wilderness, Day 2

The morning of Day Two. After a quick breakfast of (somewhat)instant oatmeal, I broke camp and retraced my steps back up the hill to the intersection of Red Creek Trail and Rocky Point Trail and took the latter trail west.
The trail definitely lives up to its name. A majority of the path consisted of rocks that ranged in size from your standard grapefruit to your grand champion, weighs-over-a-ton pumpkin. Combine this with the seclusion that comes from parts of the trail winding less than a shoulder’s width wide through rhododendron thickets and you get a very interesting hike in a relatively short distance. 

I also met an amphibious friend!
Just before I reached the “point” in the Rocky Point trail, I noticed a path going up over some large rocks to the right. So I strayed from the main trail (sorry, Mom) and climbed this path for a ways until the ground leveled out and I came into a pine-needle carpeted campsite (a destination of a future hike for sure!)
And, to top it all off, on another side of this campsite was a little gap in the brush. In just a few steps, the mountains burst into view.

I stopped here for a much needed rest and some appreciation of the stunning view.
After some time of trying to find the right angle to see the famed Lion’s Head rock in this area (and after needing my Suunto compass to find my way through the thick brush and back to the pine-needled campsite) I scrambled back down to the main trail and continued west to the Big Stonecoal Trail.
As I followed Big Stonecoal north, I was able to pause and take in a beautiful waterfall…

and to really put my Katadyn Vario water filter to the test. Stonecoal Run had a reddish tint and accumulations of whitish foam in places. However, after finding a place along the run where neither of these were too bad, the Vario worked like a charm: clear water with no trace of an off-taste.
After a few miles, Big Stonecoal Trail meets up with the western trailhead of the Blackbird Knob Trail. I took the latter east and began to look for a campsite for the evening.
This campsite search was complicated somewhat by both the weather and by signs of the local fauna.
This part of Blackbird Knob Trail, much like it’s eastern end, travels through large meadows full of blueberries, a variety of St. John’s Wort, and apparently not too long before I was on the trail, a black bear.
Its tracks were noticeable along the trail for a few miles: each were about six inches wide. So, not wanting to surprise that fella, I kept my head on a swivel and made as much noise as I could as I walked through the meadows.
On top of the bear tracks, the weather also added some stress to the situation. Dolly Sods is notorious for its quick changing climate, and as I was walking through those lovely, high, open, exposed, meadows. It looked like a storm was about to come in.
Just my luck.
So, I made it a point to go as quickly as I could to the first sheltered campsite to hopefully beat out the foul weather.
I found a site that met all these criteria and more along the Left Fork of Red Creek.

Camp was made. The storm that seemed to be lurking on the horizon never became more than some stiff winds. And I was able to sit and read some Whitman and watch the deer walk along the banks of the creek.
I'll take that any day.
Still to come: the final installment of my Dolly Sods experience.

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