Dolly Sods North Loop Day 2
My husband and I woke up around 6:30 am and saw mist all around us.
Our tent also had a lot of condensation on it, both inside and out. There was so much condensation that, when we were packing later, and wiped the tent down with a towel, the towel became soaked! We even had to wring out the towel. This experience led us to decide to switch from our Kelty Salida 2 tent, which does not have ventilation, and upgrade to the REI Quarterdome 3 tent, which does.
Having breakfast and packing up took about two hours again. It seems that’s how long it takes for us. We were on the trail by around 8:30 am. There was no one but us on the trail for a while and we enjoyed the solitude.
Wildflowers on Dobbin Glade Trail
We continued our way along Dobbin Glade Trail and soon found a lovely small meadow filled with Flat-topped White Asters and Canada Goldenrods.
Flat-topped White Aster
Flat-topped White Aster, or Doellingeria umbellata, is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae). A native flower, it grows throughout eastern North America and blooms August to September. It favors moist thickets and meadows, as well as swamp edges. They can grow 2 to 7 feet tall. I was able to identify this Aster from others because (1) the color; (2) the flower cluster is relatively flat on top; and (3) the elongated flat leaves with smooth edges.
As you may have seen from previous posts, this wildflower is quite common throughout Dolly Sods in August, and I can also confirm in September (from a later hike).
Canada Goldenrod, or Solidago canadensis, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms July to September throughout most of North America. They can grow between one and six feet tall.
There are many species of Goldenrod that grow in Virginia / West Virginia. I identified this one from (1) the distinctive lines of blooms that grow on top of the stems, and (2) the medium-wide, serrated leaves.
It is lovely to see so many of these flowers bunched together, stretching into the distance.
Hiking along, we passed through some forests, but most of Dobbin Glade Trail is flat or hilly meadows with marshes. This environment means there is plenty of sun for wildflowers!
In this meadow you can see lots of Goldenrod and Flat-topped White Asters.
At one point we passed through an area completely overgrown with these wildflowers. Depending on the variety, Goldenrods can grow anywhere between one and seven feet tall. Similarly, Flat-topped White Asters can grow as much as seven feet tall. I’m about 5’5″, so some of these Flat-topped White Asters were reaching six feet or more! It was so much fun to be surrounded by wildflowers like this.
Wildflowers in the Meadow
In a marshy meadow, we also encountered other flowers and plants.
Meadowsweet, or Spiraea alba, is a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae) and blooms June to September. A native plant, it grows throughout northeastern and central North America. It favors meadows, old fields, and low moist ground.
Bulrush, or Cattail, is a member of the Cattail family (Typhaceae). There are 30 different species in the Cattail family. They like to grow in shallow water or moist soils and can grow to be ten feet tall, depending on the variety. Since these were quite large, perhaps they were Giant Bulrushes.
Along the way, we passed by Beaver View Trail, but kept going on Dobbin Glade Trail until we met the junction for Ravens Ridge Trail.
Ravens Ridge Trail
We turned up onto Ravens Ridge. Until then, the going had been quite flat and easy. All of a sudden, we were going uphill! I think under normal hiking circumstances this hill wasn’t actually so bad, but with nearly 30 pounds of hiking gear on each of our backs, it felt tough.
Going up the hill, the grassy meadows stretched far, dotted with spruce and other trees.
The sky was overcast for most of the day and the temperature was perfect for hiking. The cloudy sky was deceptive, though, and we skipped putting on sunscreen in the morning. The result later was sunburns on our necks, forearms (the upper-side mostly because we were holding poles), and on top of our heads. Usually I wear a Japanese cotton cloth bandanna called tenugui, but on this trip I thought it would be great to hike with braided pigtails. Yeah, the braids were comfortable when I was hiking, but the sunburn hurt for about a week after. Not doing that again!
Wildflowers on Ravens Ridge Trail
I found this lovely wildflower growing by the trail. I’ve tried researching it in every resource that I usually consult – the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers Eastern Region, USWildflowers.com, VirginiaWildflowers.org – and found nothing! I will keep my eyes peeled for more information on this wildflower.
Orange Hawkweed, Devil’s Paintbrush, or Hieracium aurantiacum, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and a non-native plant that originally came from Europe. It blooms June to August in fields, clearings, and along roadsides throughout most northern areas in North America, but also some areas in the south. In five states it is deemed a noxious weed. Hence the name “Devil’s Paintbrush”!
Near the top of the hill there was a glade that was filled with the pretty little bud-like wildflowers.
Pearly Everlasting, Western Pearly Everlasting, or Anaphalis margaritacea, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae). A native flower, it blooms from July through September in dry pastures, waste places, and along roadsides throughout most of North America. They can be used in dry flower arrangements.
Bear Rocks Trail
After slogging up the hill on Ravens Ridge Trail, we finally got to some more flat areas as we turned back on Bear Rocks Trail.
We knew that if we kept going along, we’d reach the parking lot by around 1 pm, so we decided to stop off next to the river about a mile from the trailhead. We boiled some water and cooked up some Mountain House Rice and Chicken, which was surprisingly delicious.
During the last mile of our hike beautiful mist started rolling in across the hills of spruce and wide meadows. I’d been hoping to see some mist at Dolly Sods since before the first time we came because I’d seen some enchanting photos on Twitter taken by Jen Johnson and Larry Brown.
I snapped a bunch of pictures. After walking a short distance, the mist and the angle of the field would change and I’d stop and take more photos. That last mile probably took us about an hour.
The trailhead area, which is also the entrance to Dolly Sods Wilderness, is called Bear Rocks. There are huge sandstone boulders on a cliff that looks out into a breathtaking valley. On this day we could not see anything due to the mist, but when it is clear you can see several layers of mountains stretching into the distance on both sides, as well as in front of you. The last time we were there we could even identify Shenandoah National Park’s mountains as the furthest layer in the distance.
Recommended as a Backpacking Trip
The Dolly Sods North loop is excellent both for a day hike or for a backpacking trip. The only downside is that there really is only one area with decent campsites next to water. We went on the weekend that had great weather, so it was probably one of the busiest times. Even so, there was only one other group that camped at one of the neighboring sites. I think there’s a good chance that if you go, you can get a campsite there.
Overall, it was a beautiful and memorable trip. I’d love to go back and do the loop again.