Silence isn’t the only thing that’s beautiful in Dolly Sods
A narrow bit of state-maintained highway winds its way through West Virginia’s highest elevations. No logging trucks come here. No dump trucks use their jake brakes and tonnage to find shortcuts. And then the pitted surface is no more. The next road is just a dirt surface, wide enough for a snowshoe hare or possibly a Volkswagen beetle.
Roads are not the attraction when coming upland to the Dolly Sods, a vast 17,776 acre expanse that roams through sections of Grant, Randolph and Tucker counties in what is purposefully labeled “The rooftop of West Virginia.”
It’s high country … West Virginia style.
It’s not Montana’s Big Sky Country or Colorado’s Rocky Mountains or the Grand Tetons.
Yet it’s high enough for West Virginians who prefer wide-angled vistas, wind-weathered boulders and a place far removed from the grinding snarls of Interstate traffic and a too-fast paced Monday-Friday workplace life.
The so-called Lower Sods has elevations of about 2,500 feet while the High Sods shows the visitor 4,700 feet of gnarled trees, wind-smoothed rock outcroppings and vegetation found in northern Canada.
Even in mid-July the sunny days in Dolly Sods are often cool and even brisk at times. Don’t come for a bare-chested sun tan, come with a fleece-lined jacket just in case.
It’s quiet. But not serene. It’s naturally beautiful. But not cuddly and playful.
In all that acreage there are a few mountain meadows, but generally there are many more two-foot high shrubs, unobstructed views of distant mountains and a feeling you have entered “God’s Little Acre.”
Water is held in bogs that may yield blueberries or huckleberries. Ferns don’t need the shade of impressive conifers or damp recesses.
If you were inspecting the English countryside, you’d find the same sort of heath that Shakespeare told about at times.
In the High Sods there isn’t much soil to lay one’s head at night as a camper using a sleeping bag.
Any “exploring” done along the provided foot paths and hiking trails has to be done while walking because no off-road vehicles are allowed.
Your neighbors while traipsing around in the cool could be beavers with their ponds or black bears out in search of lunch.
Turkey and grouse also might give flight if disturbed.
Finding Red Creek and its waterfall is the destination of some not-too-timid souls.
When the fall comes early to West Virginia’s highest country the land will be carpeted with the colors red, orange, yellow and the bright greens of hemlocks of other conifers. Above 3,500 feet there won’t be any timber-tall trees or courage-deprived vegetation at all.
The usual fierce winds of fall and winter sculpt the rocks, trees and brave vegetation.
Dolly Sods issues a siren song to those who have heard others tell of its unusual natural features. Listen to that song and visit … if it’s nature and West Virginia beauty that fill your dreams.