Sunday, March 1, 2009
Lying along the top of the Big Allegheny Front nestled in the southeast corner of Tucker Co. WV is a mysterious land call Dolly Sods. A search of Wikipedia will show you that this is the highest plateau east of the Mississippi, reaching its pinnacle at Mount Porte Crayon at 4770 feet in elevation. First seen by white men in 1764 by the Thomas Lewis surveying party it was mostly avoided as too impenetrable until the late 1880's when railroad logging made the spruce, hemlock, and hardwood forests accessible. Although few records were kept of the size of the trees harvested one white oak was measured to be 13 feet in diameter at a height of 16 feet and estimated to be well over 1000 years old. In the early 1900's fire ravaged the area limiting the regeneration of the forests. Soon afterward a family of German descent named Dahle homesteaded parts of the area and used the burnt over lands to graze sheep and cattle further hindering the regrowth of trees. In time the Dahle name was localized to Dolly and the grazed lands were known as sods so this is how the area came to be called the Dolly Sods
A land of immense silence, of impenetrable rhododendron tangles, of massive boulder fields, of red spruce forests that stretch on to the horizon, of breathtaking vistas, of misshapen spruce with limbs growing only on their eastern side battered by near non stopping western winds, of tempestuous weather that can one minute be a azure blue sky and suddenly change to a choking thick fog that cloaks you in swirling mists. It is a land of bear hunters with their packs of Walker, and Redbone, and Bluetick hounds, of birders sporting binoculars and long lensed cameras, of city bred yuppies bent under backpacks filled with the latest gadgets of survival seeking the solitude that is so alien to them. This is also the land that I and a few other birdhunters come questing to each fall for the meager numbers of grouse and woodcock that call this magical place home. Surely not to fill our gamebags but to experience this thing call DOLLY SODS.