Ode to Thomas Lewis, who braved this untamed land in 1742 to conduct a survey of Lord Fairfax's property boundary. He encountered steep precipices filled with flora that made travel nearly impossible. And to early hunters who would enter the tangled laurel brakes only to never return -- lost to the labyrinth of spruce, oak, and large swaths of heath. Ode to the German Dalhe family who grazed their sheep in the mid-1800s on the wind-swept grasslands shaped by lightening induced fire, persistent westerlies and harsh winters. Oh, how lucky were they to pioneer such a beautiful and rugged area. Since then, this area has seen logging, railroads, and a barrage of artillery from World War II training exercises. Fires decimated topsoil, exposing the erosion resistant Pottsville conglomerate sandstone, and wiping out the majority of red spruce that once carpeted this area. Today, the introduced balsam wooly adelgid is killing much of its native host plant. But Dolly Sods is resilient. She persists even through the most blistering westerly's, record precipitation, and decades of human impact. The toughness of this place in conspicuous and makes its atmosphere even more mysterious.
In 2011, I was lucky enough to visit Dolly Sods on a short solo backpacking trip, and I've been there five times since. The first week in October is surly the best time to visit as chlorophyll vanishes from plant leaves while their colorful pigments remain. Here's a tribute to one of my most memorable and long standing traditions since moving to the midwest seven years ago. I've had the opportunity to share this place with some of my favorite people and look forward to bringing others in the future. Cheers!