Breaking into Winter in the Dolly Sods
December 11th-12th, 2004
She hadn’t really been backpacking before; excepting a bit in Australia…so we decided to hit the trail for a weekend and see how carrying a pack suited Apryle. We left Saturday at around 7:30 AM and drove south out of the ‘Burgh in some miserable weather. By noon we were at the trailhead, packed and laced and ready for a proper lesson in misery. The wet snow and 40 degree temps reminded me so much of that Week in Patagonia where we stayed at Zapata high camp and suffered. Our proposed route took us across Red Creek; a raging torrent if I have ever seen one. A few folks warned us of the difficulty of the crossing on our hike in. We scanned the river…it looked do-able though miserable. A wet crossing for sure. We continued beyond the Big Stonecoal crossing and on up to Fisher Spring Run. Scrambling across the rushing feeder stream, I thought I saw a realistic crossing. Dropping packs, I hopped my way across the stream. The last little bit required some confidence…after a deep breath I plunged my foot four inches into the icy water and launched across to the oppsite shore. Deep sigh of relief! Then I turned around. Damn! There was no way I would be able to reverse the manuever that I had just pulled off! Apryle laughed from the opposite shore, snapping pictures and shouting suggestions over the rush of the water.
“Use the log!” she cried.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought, eyeing up the massive trunk that lay on the shore. The rotting wood wasn’t as heavy as it promised to be, and with adequate flailing about in several inches of water, I had arranged a potentially effective bridge, of sorts. I crossed back as carefully as I could. Arriving on the other shore, I helped Apryle rewarm her hands and declared my intention to not cross Red Creek again on this trip!
We bushwhacked a bit, finding a snug spot higher up a feeder stream in which to pitch her little tent. The snow was falling rather heavily at this point, so we worked quickly to make a comfy home in the open forest. Before long, we were tucked into lofty sleeping bags, curled up under a blanket of snow with a tremendously bad dinner of cheesy pasta somehow eaten, talking for hours as darkness completely overtook the Dolly Sods. A beautiful ten or eleven hours of restful sleep later, we awoke to snow still falling on the purple nylon rainfly. A lazy morning ensued…finally rousing ourselves to brave the tempest around midday. We packed up and hiked back to the car amidst a winter wonderland…reminiscent of the Daks in so many ways. It was colder, low 30s, and beautiful. Snow therapy, to be sure!