Dolly Sods Wilderness WV
We headed off to Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia to avoid the rain headed towards us. Our vacation week was a game of cat and mouse with the rain. Some days we felt like the cat, and some days we felt like the mouse, but the good Lord had it perfect every day for us and our adventures...right down to the awesome weather forecast of RAIN. They were calling for rain on the weather station, so a quick look at the Doppler Radar on our phone app (Wilson House Wi-Fi to the rescue) showed a heavy rain headed towards us in Monterey VA. If we headed North to West Virginia, it looks like we might miss it by a few hours at least and get some adventure time in for half a day anyway. So we packed up all our rain gear and food for the day and headed off on a 1.5 hour ride to Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.
We plotted the course in our GPS to 39.065973, -79.301609 and barrelled down the road to our destination within Dolly Sods Wilderness, a rock formation known as Bear Rocks Preserve. It's at the northernmost end of Dolly Sods Wilderness and has some incredible views to say the least. What a better place to be during a possible storm than perched high upon a rocky bare mountain wide open to lighting, right!?! Well, it sounded like the place to be to get great pictures. You know what they say, "Nothing risked, nothing gained," and what the heck bring and umbrella too.
Often times before we go to a place, I have already researched and have a plan of attack for photography and exploring. So I do extensive searches online (Cough: Google Images) to find good places to photograph. Dolly Sods Wilderness seemed to be a hot spot for great photos. I noticed the majority of the professional photographers shoot it in the fall and at sunrise specifically. The amateur photographers shoot in beautiful blue skies with big white puffy clouds. I didn't want photographs already shot 500 times by everyone else. What seemed to be missing online were the foreboding, looming, dark storm shots on top of that mountain. You probably don't see them because nobody is dumb enough to stand on a VERY HIGH mountain in the wide open spaces to get whacked by lighting, but if you do go, bring an umbrella with ya too.
When you mix dark with light, to me, it produces some incredible shots, especially with drastic lights and darks during an oncoming storm. It makes for incredible drama in a photo, and Dolly Sods Wilderness was the place to be on that day. I was 100% sure of it. As we arrived after our 1.5 hour ride, I was in awe already of this place. Our first stop was a pond by the side of the road, or so I thought it was a pond anyway. Upon further inspection, it seemed this was not a natural pond and not a man made pond, but instead a BEAVER made pond, and a very nice one it was. As I looked across back into the bushes, I could see a sizable beaver lodge too, and there were freshly cut trees everywhere. I was hopeful to get a photograph of a beaver playing around out there. Unfortunately, he didn't make an appearance, so we rode down the road to Bear Rocks Preserve. At certain points, it looks like the road goes off into the sky, it was truly beautiful. As we headed over our last hill, we came upon the parking area for Bear Rocks Preserve. It was starting to sprinkle, but that didn't deter us from a short run outside to check everything out. As the wind started to really blow harder and the rain came a bit harder, we ducked into the truck for a bite to eat, and let the weather cry it's self out a bit.
The rain quickly fizzled out, and we were back rocking hopping, climbing, and taking photos of Bear Rocks Preserve. Kim got a little too close to the edge for her liking and her knees started to tremble while posing for a picture, but us boys were at home at the edge of the world sky high.
The light was awesome with the dark clouds at the same time. We couldn't have timed it better, thank ya Lord. I got one of my best light shots yet. I called it "The Sacrifice." It looks like the rocks on Mt. Moriah where Jacob offered Isaac and the photo just captures that. We had a great time hopping around from rock to rock exploring everything and the breathtaking vistas on top of that mountain. They were awe inspiring. The time was getting later though, and we had more exploration to conquer that day, so we decided to take off. I had beavers on my mind.
We drove back to the beaver pond, and I strapped on my fishing waders to get up close and personal with the beaver lodge and explore the ecosystem created by the beaver's creation. So I did exactly that and got an up close view of it, but not too close as to anger my beaver friend. Beavers can be aggressive if need be. After we didn't catch a glimpse of him, we headed down the mountain. I was enjoying the scenery outside my driver's side window as we descended when all the sudden, I slammed on the brakes and said to everyone, "Did you see that?" It was a resounding, "NOPE." So I backed the truck up about 30 yards and pointed out the sun shining on some type of old hard wood tree perfectly encircled by dark pine trees. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen for a photo. I had to get out of the truck and shoot a photograph of this striking tree. It looked like some tree out of a magical forest you see in a movie. After returning home from vacation, I searched online to find a name for this tree. It was such a bizarre thing. Surely, someone has given this thing a name, and everyone knows about it. I found nothing online about this tree or even a picture of it anywhere. It was odd to say the least.
Anyway, we stopped at a few more overlooks on the way down and finally, we headed back to the Wilson House for some dinner and relaxation after an awesome time at Bear Rocks Preserve in Dolly Sods Wilderness West Virginia.