Keys: Trails were easy to follow at this time of year due to the break in vegetation and numerous cairns. Major stream crossing are often ad-hoc, but the trails are easy to find on the other side. Just use common sense for the most part. Most of the trails we followed were rocky - as is all the terrain here - so be sure to wear boots with good ankle support. We saw many deer tracks, but no deer. In fact, we didn''t see much wildlife at all aside from the occasional bird. We saw very little litter, and what we did find was from the '60s (an old punch-top beer can). This is a beautiful preserve.
We arrived at Dolly Sods late on a Friday, stopping first at Bear Rocks Preserve (owned by the Nature Conservancy) and taking the nearby hiking path SW toward the interior. After only a mile or so, nearing darkness, we went off trail for about half a mile up to the top of a ridgeline. Visibility was low, but we located an area where we could pitch a tent. High winds and driving rains awakened us to the beauty and solitude upon which we had stumbled in the night. Our camp was on a large mountain top covered with blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and gooseberries. The blueberries were ripe, and a welcome addition to our breakfast. The strawberries were in bloom, and will probably ripen toward the end of July. Due to the number of species present, there will be berries here from June through September.
After a heavy downpour, we made our way down the Wildlife Trail, Fisher Spring Run Trail, Rohrbaugh Plains Trail, and Red Creek Trail. We tested the water of Fisher Spring Run using our MIOX test strips and found the water to be purer than the tap water in our home. After a rain, this is quite a testament to the quality of water here. The trails pass near many waterfalls which make great photo ops. Our second nights camp was at the junction of Red Creek and Big Stonecoal, in the late afternoon shadow of Coal Knob.