Like many small business owners, I struggle with taking time off. And yet scheduling time for rest and relaxation is vital for sustainability, creative energy and life satisfaction. The same goes for pushing photographic boundaries. Trips and personal projects are often where the most growth can be achieved — when there isn't the pressure to produce anything specific, but rather just photographing for the pure pleasure of it.
So this is an entirely personal post about a personal women's only backpacking trip to one of the most beautiful spots in West Virginia.
If you've never been to Dolly Sods, make a plan to go now. It's probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.
Dolly Sods Wilderness is part of the Monongahela National Forest in Tucker County, West Virginia. The ecological system there is incredibly unique for the region — more commonly found in southern Canada than Appalachia. The weather shifts quickly — moving from downpours to sunny skies to fog rolling across the landscape, pushed by wind that visibly engulfs the vista only to be gone again in minutes.
My companions were college friends — two of whom I'd studied abroad with in Spain and Morocco, the third someone they met in nursing school. I also brought along Bo, our youngest dog, and the only canine we own who was both well behaved enough and young enough to be an enjoyable addition (he needed to be able to physically hike the distance).
The plan was to do hike a 21-mile loop over three days. The weather that weekend was extremely wet, though, and after having to break down our campsite in the rain the first night, we decided to cut the three days, 21-miles into about 14-miles in two. For us, the point wasn't to accomplish an arbitrary distance, but rather to enjoy hanging out, being outside and seeing the beauty of the wilderness. And that goal was definitely achieved. (And not going to lie — showering and sleeping in my own bed after 24-hours of being wet is incredibly delicious and satisfying.)
If you aren't big into backpacking, but still want to explore Dolly Sods, there are lots of day hikes you can do from the parking areas. If you want to camp by your car, there are car camping spots too. I hope, maybe in the spring, to return with Austin and our other pups to car camp and day hike a bit. It's one of those areas I don't think I could ever get tired of that always provides something new to see. If you want to elope in this area or do an engagement session or couples adventure session I'd be there in a heartbeat.