Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This past weekend Zach Fowler and I headed into the Roaring Plains to do some backpacking. The Roaring Plains is a Wilderness Area that is located in the Monongahela National Forest on the opposite side of Forest Road 19 from Dolly Sods. The weather was great and everything was really dry, but the dryness sped up the turning of the leaves in the area so it left us with some really spectacular views.

We started our hike on Saturday morning from the main Roaring Plains Trail head just up the road from Red Creek on Forest Road 19. We started by heading down the South Prong Trail for about 2 miles until it connected up with the Hidden Passage Trail. This trail isn't in the Monongahela National Forest guide book, but it's there. In the past it was a hidden trail that supposedly only a few knew about, but now it is a pretty well travelled trail. It was a pretty easy left hand turn off of the South Prong Trail. It's also pretty noticeable because there are several large campsites that are located around the mouth of the trail. 

Once on the Hidden Passage Trail you hike up through some really cool forest where the trees are sparsely situated around small groupings of granite rocks. You then climb up to what makes the Roaring Plains and Dolly Sods so special, large alpine meadows. The leaves had already started to turn, and the ferns and blueberry bushes seem to have made the switch before most of the trees. The meadow on the Hidden Passage Trail was a brilliant display of reds, oranges, greens, and yellows. It looked like the whole meadow was on fire. 

After about 4 miles of hiking we decided to stop and have lunch. It's been a learning curve with what I should bring into the woods for food, but on this trip I think the two of us got it right. Zach had an old favorite of PB&J with sesame sticks, and I had a pouch of tuna with some gorp (good old raisins and peanuts).  Tuna that is packaged in those sealed bags is really easy and good for you, not to mention it is super quick to eat and then keep moving. After a good lunch and some pictures of the scenery we got back to the hiking. 

We then hiked down the trail until we hit the natural gas pipeline located in the middle of the Roaring Plains. The Hidden Passage Trail ends there and you follow the Pipeline down until it meets a private dirt road. The Roaring Plains Rim Trail then picks up on the right hand side of the road. The Rim Trail then follows the edge on the Roaring Plains and makes its way out to a rock outcropping at the eastern point of the wilderness area. You know when your there because a 270 degree view is waiting for you. 

We then broke out the cameras and Zach knew a cool photo spot on one of the rock outcroppings. Basically the idea is that there are two major rock formations at the edge of this cliff. The first is a four foot rock that is behind a six foot rock that is behind a hundred and fifty foot cliff into a rock garden.  So you go and stand on this rock and jump as high as you can onto the rock in front of it. Your buddy (in this case Zach) is standing behind you with your camera on shutter. After about twenty photos and a couple tries we both got cool looking pictures of our last moments before jumping off the cliff. Also at this point is a pretty amazing realization of how high up you actually are. When looking to the left of the view below next to that tree branch you see a "small" rock outcropping, and guess what, yup that outcropping is actually Seneca Rocks. I mean it is small enough that you can put your thumb over it. 

Then we packed up and made our last 2 mile push to the campsite for the night. After several small and one really big rock garden, we made it to the Roaring Plains Trail where it intersects the Rim Trail. There is a great campsite right in the middle of the trail merger. Zach rolled out his tent and got his gear all setup, and I pulled out my ENO DoubleNest Hammock and found some trees to pitch it in. Zach showed me some cool techniques on how to put up an A frame with my tarp and we got to building a fire and eating some dinner. 

Now Zach was cooking with a MSR Whisperlite International with a MSR Stainless Pot set, while I opted for a little lighter and faster approach with my Jetboil Stove and Squishy Bowls. Both worked great and it was cool to see a Whisperlite International in action. A cool little tidbit about this stove is that it has a little cup at the bottom of the burner that has a wick in the middle of it. When you first turn the stove on it pours a little bit of liquid fuel (White Gas, Kerosene, or Unleaded Auto Gas) into this cup. You then light that wick and the flame heats up a metal pipe in the middle of the stove burner. This pipe has a very small hole in it an when the metal becomes hot enough the stove can be turned on and liquid fuel from the bottle is heated up and turns into a vapor when it hits the metal pipe. The stove then runs fuel vapor and is a lot more efficient and has much greater heat. With dinner done the rainstorms moved in. Just as we finished our bear bag and the fire got good the big raindrops started falling. We both jumped into our shelters and set in for the night. 

The next morning we woke up, ate some breakfast and broke down camp. We then hiked back the Roaring Plains trail until we hit the Pipeline again from a spot further west than previous. The Roaring Plains trail is pretty neat because almost the entire time you hike on it, the trail is made up of these little white rocks. It feels like your at a white sand beach, and we basically concluded that the bigger conglomerate rocks were made up of these small pebbles. Over the years the cement that holds these rocks together must have broken down leading to all these little rocks everywhere. Once on the Pipeline again you follow it until you meet back up with the Hidden Passage Trail. Turn left and retrace your steps back down the Hidden Passage Trail back to the South Prong Trail which then takes you back to the car. We packed up the car and did what you have to do when near Davis, WV; head to Siriannis Cafe for a pizza and a beer. 

All in all it was a great 2 day backpacking trip, that was roughly 16-18 miles. My gear for the weekend was as follows:

Backpack: Lowe Alpine Air Centro 45+10 
Tent: Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock w/ 8'X10' Sil Tarp and ENO Slap Strap
Ground Pad: Therm-a-Rest Prolite 4 
Sleeping Bag: 20 degree 750 Down 
Stove: Jetboil 
Cookset: Squishy Bowl w/ Light my Fire Spork
Water Purifier/Filter: SteriPen Classic and MSR MiniWorks EX
Food: Tuna Packets, BackPacker's Pantry (Pad See You Later w/ Chicken), Oatmeal, Cheese Sticks and GORP
Boots: Asolo Fugative GTX
Socks: Wigwam Merino Light Hiker and Wigwam Merino Silk Hiker
Shell Jacket: Marmot Minimalist Gore-Tex Paclite
Insulated Jacket: The North Face Thunder Jacket (800 fill Down) 
Cameras: Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 14 MP and GoPro HD
Sunglasses: Oakley Inmate Polarized 

For any questions please feel free to get a hold of me at the shop, and Thanks for reading!