Friday, 31 July
|Destination: Blackbird Knob Trailhead||Today’s Miles: 2.9|
|Start Location: The Forks Campsite||Trip Miles: 21.9|
The rain continued through the night, heavy at times. I stayed dry in my tent but did not sleep as soundly as the earlier nights. I started packing things inside the tent about 6:15. I woke Liv and Jordan a little earlier than the planned 7:00. Everyone stayed dry through the night. We still had our coffee and packed up in the rain. We were on the trail before 8:00.
Fortunately, it was warm, about 65 degrees. The trail was a stream. Because of erosion caused by hikers on the same path, the trail is the lowest point so the water collects on the trail and runs further downhill. It continued to rain all morning so it made no sense to try to keep your feet dry. We started uphill on the Red Creek Trail and turned on to the Blackbird Knob Trail. After 0.3 miles on the Blackbird Knob Trail we had a decision to make. Our planned route included part of the Dobbin Grade Trail which our guide described as “a muddy mess”. Earlier the guide described the Dunkenbarger Trail as “very muddy” which proved accurate. The Blackbird Knob Trail continued to Forest Road 75 and would lead us back to the car. We were trying to get back to the car around noon. The rain had slowed our pace considerably. We decided that we would head to the road and continue to the car along the road where we would be able to pick up our pace.
None of the trails we hiked in the Dolly Sods Wilderness were marked. Usually, there were signs at trail junctions. Because of the numerous wet and boggy spots on the trails, there are many paths around the wetter areas. There are also “unofficial” trails which are not on the maps. This made following the official trail a bit of a challenge at times. In many places there are cairns, a mound of stones, designating the official trail.
Our first creek crossing was on Red Creek. The water was flowing fast because of all the rain. There were cairns in several places marking crossings which all appeared a little treacherous. We saw a group of three hikers on the other side and a woman who had already crossed helped guide us to a safe crossing point. After getting across, they told us they could not find the trail to follow. After about a half hour of walking back and forth through the campsites on that side of the creek, Jordan found the trail and was awarded the Lewis and Clark Pathfinder Award by Liv and I. It turns out that the cairns marked “unofficial” crossings and the Blackbird Knob Trail crossed a little further downstream. Finding the trail again, we were back on our way in the steady rain.
Just before we got to the road, about twenty Boy Scouts were hiking in and they were already soaked. When we got to the road, we met a hiker who we had spoken to a little earlier on the trail. Even though we were thoroughly drenched, he offered to give us a ride two miles up the road to our waiting car. It was an offer that was too good to pass up since the rain was still coming down pretty good. I loaded my pack into his trunk, Jordan and Liv put their packs on their laps and we were off in his Camry.
There were crowds of hikers unloading at the parking lot. You could tell it was the weekend. We had a set of clean, dry clothes in the car, changed and headed back home with an anticipated stop at a Sheetz we had seen earlier. There was much talk of milkshakes flavors in the car. Soon we found our stop for gas, milkshakes and lunches including breakfast sandwiches, sliders and a chicken Caesar wrap. We met Alan at 2:30, dropped off Liv and Jordan and returned home for that long awaited hot shower. A wonderful couple of days under our belt.