Hiking West Virginia - Sods Circuit

Carroll, Steven and Miller, Mark

"This is a highly recommended hike encompassing the best of what this wilderness has to offer. The trail hikes along the cascading Red Creek and Stonecoal Run and travels through the wonderfully scenic and unique barrens of the Sods. A steep climb up the ridge keeps you honest, but a rocky ridge-top view of the Red Creek Valley adds icing to the cake. Truly one of the most unique ecosystems in West Virginia is that contained in Dolly Sods. Today, northern hardwood forests characterize the lower elevations while open heath barrens and wide-open sods occupy higher elevations. The beauty of the area is stunning. Even though this wilderness is one of the most popular hiking destinations in West Virginia, the sense of solitude is strong. You can truly feel alone when standing in the open sods while the gentle breeze whispers the only audible sound. While the landscape may be beautiful to behold, it is the unnatural history of Dolly Sods that has created this ecosystem. When settlers arrived in the area, the red spruces averaged 4 feet in diameter and the forest floor consisted of a humus layer more than 5 feet thick. During the late nineteenth century, most of the eastern forests were cut; the Dolly Sods area was not spared. The years after the logging saw forest fires rage through the leftover slash timber, burning the humus layer to bedrock. The extreme environment that was left was barely hospitable for the red spruce to regenerate and was subsequently used for grazing livestock. It is a family of sheep farmers, the Dahle family, for which the area is named. As time progressed, nature and man have attempted to heal the area's wounds. The Civilian Conservation Corps reclaimed the area in the 1930s, but it was not until 1975 that Congress officially protected the 10,215-acre wilderness. Special attractions: Wide, windswept plains, heath barrens, mountain bogs, crystal clear streams, ridgetop vistas."

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From Guidebook: Hiking West Virginia