As I wrote last week, I had made plans to go to a place called the Dolly Sods wilderness for a weekend of backpacking. I’d been planning for months, to return to this place that I was so familiar and comfortable with. A place that felt like home to me. As fate would have it, a fire ban was instituted in the area, which quickly put this trip into an unsafe endeavor. Being wet and cold at 4000+ feet in December is not something one just says “oh well” to.
Yes, this area is basically the same type of terrain (a high plateau), around the same altitude, and about 6 miles south of Dolly Sods. That is largely where the similarities ended, and to my worst fears, it was a larger struggle to want to stay than to hike out to depart. I had never been here before, but I had heard good things.
After the enjoyable hike in, my camp was a disappointment to say the least. It was the only cleared, vaguely level area for miles. I set up, stringing my tarp and unpacking my gear, and the optimism quickly faded. The resources I had nearby had been completely stripped of anything useful by previous campers, leaving me with frozen, spongy, rotten logs. I was already becoming chilled, so starting a fire became a priority.