Dolly Sods Wilderness, in the Monongahela National Forest, is part of the Allegheny Mountains.  The USDA Forest Service provides this description of the area:

The Monongahela National Forest was established in 1920. Located in the north central highlands of West Virginia, the Monongahela straddles the highest ridges in the State. Elevation ranges from just under 1000′ to 4863′ above sea level.  Variations in terrain and precipitation have created one of the most ecologically diverse National Forests in the country.
 
Visitors to this beautiful place will enjoy breathtaking vistas, peaceful country roads, gently flowing streams, and glimpses of the many species of plants and animals that inhabit the Forest.  
 
The 17,371 acre Dolly Sods Wilderness is located in Grant, Randolph and Tucker Counties, West Virginia. The Dolly Sods Wilderness contains much of the Red Creek drainage and contains bog and heath eco-types, more commonly typical to southern Canada. Elevations range from 2,500 to over 4,700 feet. 
Excerpt taken from the USDA’s Website.

This was my husband’s fourth (maybe fifth) trip to this beautiful park, and my second.  I remembered the hikes were hard, but views were rewarding.  When we go, we we hike and camp.  It was stunningly beautiful, and reminded me of some of the beautiful highs and lows of a park like Yosemite.  We hiked up to Lion’s Head and I was not expecting that kind of dramatic view.  Not only that, but there were only two other people that were up there and they disappeared into their own world and so it was basically a beautiful vista all to ourselves.  These are the moments you can’t plan for, and make my top list of experiences. 

The park is about 5 hours from Columbus.  It’s a little too far for a day-trip, but makes an awesome 1 or 2 night get-a-way.  After our hike back to the car, we stopped at a restaurant called Big John’s Family Fixins’.  It was only about 10 minutes outside the park, and their food was hot and good and rewarding after a sweaty hike.  

This time hiking and camping, we brought our dog.  She did wonderful, and she loved every minute of it. Even though she had to work twice as hard, her little legs seemed to keep up just fine with us.  Although, at the end of the day, she passed out by the campfire and we could hear her snoring.  A few people commented on how rare it is to see a little dog doing what the big dogs are doing, but she’s no ordinary small dog!  She’s a trooper.  Preparing for a hiking/camping trip is not easy, and fortunately my husband does most of it. I am not as skilled at these sorts of things, although he’s a great teacher and teaches me as we go.  Some of the things that he hasn’t been able to teach me, that I’ve had to learn myself, is how I can be comfortable as a woman camping.  I recently wrote an article for Travel Fashion Girl about some products to buy to make camping easier for women.  Check it out here: What to bring on a camping trip: a practical guide for girls.
 
There were a few things I learned this past trip that I thought might be worth sharing.  
 
My bathroom near the campsite.  A branch and below is a hole.

1.  A make-shift toilet.  Sure, it’s gross, but I wish someone had told me this earlier.  One thing I learned is that finding a fallen-over tree branch makes a great toilet.  Instead of trying to find a nice clearing to squat, finding a branch you can sit on really helps.  (You can actually have two hands free!)  If you’re thinking, “that’s gross,” allow me to remind you that it’s far less gross to sit on a dirty tree branch in the middle of the woods than it is to use a public bathroom where thousands of other women are putting their bare butts on the same surface and flushing their waste particles all over the air you’re breathing.  Once I remembered that, the tree branch actually felt better and healthier.  (And easier at night because once you pick a place, you don’t have to sleepily stumble through trying to find a clearing.)


2.  Coconut wipes are the greatest.  These babies cleaned my face and moisturized it, and cleaned my body and smelled delicious.  I really didn’t feel that gross, they surprisingly made me feel refreshed.

 
3.  You can’t get the cheap coffee.  We learned that the cheap instant coffee sucks.  Sure, it’s seven times less expensive than the Starbucks VIA packets,which makes them hard to buy.  It’s hard to look and see $1.19 for one box, and $7.79 for a box of the exact same amount.  But, cheap instant coffee tastes terrible.  You have to pay for the good stuff.  We brought Starbucks VIA Vanilla Lattes and those a delicious treat!
 
4.  Bandannas are cute and practical.  They make a great headband, sweatband, or when it’s chilly a little neck scarf.  I always thought they looked cool, but I didn’t realize how practical they are.  My husband used his to dry off his water filter as well.  The uses are endless.  (Well, not endless, but you know what I’m saying.)

5.  Hammocks are a nice perk.  My husband always brings a hammock, even if he’s sleeping in the tent.  The hammock is a nice place for a light snooze, or just a place to relax.  He also used it to stretch out his lower back in the morning, after a night of sleeping on the ground.  

Camping is something that really has grown on me.  I started off thinking I never wanted to do it and that I wouldn’t enjoy it.  Now, I actually look forward to it and research cool places to go that a car just can’t get you to.  The perks far outweigh any inconveniences.  In fact, the inconveniences can turn into blessings in disguise.  No electricity for a few days?  Actually, it’s pretty liberating.

Nina Thomas

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