Trip report: Dolly Sods + Roaring Plains (MO/VMO, 32mi, Oct 2018)

As is to be expected, we had a muddy time in Dolly Sods despite no rain on the hike.  Dolly Sods does have some variety compared with the rest of the local trails, so it was encouraging to see so many other backpackers out on the trails.  In addition to two other smaller DC UL groups, we probably saw about 100 other backpackers over the course of the weekend. And maybe another 50-100 people out day hiking.  My guess I saw at least twenty muddy but happy dogs.


The deepest crossing of the Red Creek that we did was just above knee high, which wasn’t too bad as far as these things go.  On the final crossing, Kyle accidentally dropped a hiking pole, but was able to recover it by quickly hiking downstream then doubling back to find where it was floating against a rock.


The original plan called for splits of around 1.5/24/11mi.  However, comparing GPS measurements with the Caltopo estimates shows that actual distances were about 10-15% longer, which I’ve seen before when I don’t estimate every zig and zag into the Caltopo track.  As the mud was slow going and the main DC group only did 0.5mi the first night, we wound up camping about 5 mi short of the originally intended campsite.

The DC crowd attempted to leave DC at 5pm on a Friday.  Folks living in the DC area will readily recognize how bad traffic is likely to be.  For reference, Andrew left work in MD at 3pm and wound up at the trailhead at around 10pm.  Subtracting 45 min for a dinner stop, that’s still 6:15 of driving just to get there. Google indicates that without traffic it would be 3:30 to make this same drive.  Thus this is a good reminder to start trips leaving from Vienna metro at either 7:30pm or drive early on Saturday morning.

Wisely, we had planned to regroup at the fording of the Red Creek in the morning.  Thus the DC crowd could take the first dispersed camping that they came across. On the Friday night, there was plenty of camping off of the Red Creek trail from the Southern parking lot.

For camping on Saturday night, the area near the overlook that we stopped at was fairly full of other campers, so we elected to eat dinner on the overlook, followed by finding dispersed camping down the trail at night.  The overlook was a nice place to hang out for the sunset and seeing the stars. Erik provided some insight into which stars were visible. As it was near the new moon and reasonably clear, we were able to see the Milky Way, which is always a treat.


On Sunday morning, we regrouped at the picnic area and replanned the day. Some folks needed to be back in DC, so headed directly down the forest road to the cars.  Others were able to squeeze in a 7mi loop through Roaring Plains. We ended up splitting into multiple groups for the post-hike meal due to the different directions that we were heading.


Weather wise, it was warmer than normal for October.  Most of our group was hiking in shorts due to the mid-70s temperatures.  Some of us even got too much sun on the northern portion of the loop.

Overall, it was another pleasant outing with friends.

-Andrew L. (Camel)

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