It was about 7pm on Sunday evening.  My feet were soaked from crossing through bogs and streams, my back ached under the weight of my pack and my neck was burnt from the hours of exposure to the sun, despite the layers of sunscreen that had been applied earlier in the day.    But as I paused for a moment to take a sip from my camelbak and feel the breeze cool my sweat soaked shirt, I took in my surrounds and all the discomfort melted away.  This was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

My and my friends Dave, Mike and Jeff were at the tail end of an 8 hour hike that had started earlier that morning from the campsite we made the evening before.   We had drove out the morning before from Mike’s house in Reston, and made a quick stop along the way for a hearty breakfast of slapjacks, bacon and eggs (and the best biscuit gravy ever).

We had covered over 12 miles of the Dolly Sods wilderness and in the process saw rolling fern meadows, walked under the thick pine forests that blocked out the sunlight so much, you’d swear it was nighttime.  We’d scrambled to the top of Lion’s Head to see the incredible views it holds, stumbled over boulder covered railroad trails and marveled at the Rhododendron forests that I didn’t existed anywhere.  We stood under a waterfall  and we even came upon a sand covered beach alongside the banks of the Red Creek.  It was varied, ever changing and absolutely incredible.

So we got little lost along the way and had to traverse a giant marsh and fight our way through the thickest pine forest I’ve ever seen.  So our legs were tired and bodies aching.  Standing there, looking across the fern meadows with the Breathed and Blackbird Mountains providing the backdrop, my only regret was that day was almost over.

But as I tightened my pack and caught back up with the group, I remembered how close we were to getting back to camp, my thoughts turned to the half bottle of blackberry brandy and freeze dried chili mac that awaited me.  I quickened my pace and pushed myself up the next hill….

 

 

Family Traditions, home of the best sausage gravy ever!

 

Heading out from the parking area

Nothing to see here!

 

 

Like nothing else on the East Coast!

 

Dave using his fancy schmancy GPS device

 

 

The dark pine forests, how spooky!

 

 

Resting by the river after a long day

 

Enjoying a few well earned comforts at camp

 

Our neighbors

 

Starting off on our second day of hiking, Dave looks enthusiastic

 

A flock of Monarch Butterflies. Talk about trail magic!

 

Mike chillin' out in the Rhododendren forest

 

Dave being Dave on top of the Lion's Head

 

Your author, trying to look stoic

 

Nothing like a quick shower on the trail!

 

I hope that bird doesn't come back looking for it's feather!

 

Sandy beaches? Why didn't I bring my speedo!?!

 

Heading back to camp. Sore, tired and sweaty, but in good spirits

hallelujah brothers! We are redeemed!

 

 

Happy trails!

 

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