Other Hiking Adventures




Alabama’s Sipsey Wilderness

Sipsey Wilderness is known as “The Land of 1,000 Waterfalls

Johnny has been working on a book called 50 Hikes in Alabama and it was late spring when he hit the Sipsey for several hikes that he worked into a 3 night backpacking trip. Heavy rains preceded the trip, which meant the waterfalls were fallin’ good! However, the trails were muddy and the woods were wet throughout the trip. But to see the waterfalls was more than worth it. This Sipsey also has other beauty – clifflines, giant boulders, rockhouses, rapids and an everywhere-you-look-beauty — after all the Sipsey Fork is a federally designated wild and scenic river.

       

    Waterfall near the Tunnel of Borden with Borden Creek below

Johnny left the Sipsey Picnic Area on County Road 60 and headed up the Sipsey Fork before turning onto the Borden Creek Trail. He passed more waterfalls then came to the Tunnel of Borden, a place where boulders have blocked the trail and you must crawl through a tunnel or scramble over it then reach a waterfall and continue the trail. Johnny found the camp just beyond here.

                                  

       Waterfall near the Tunnel of Borden Waterfall from the Tunnel of Borden

Johnny then headed up the Bunyan Hill Trail, heading for the Big Tree, the largest tree in Alabama, located along East Bee Creek. The woods were completely deserted as he traveled the sodden trails to reach East Bee Creek Canyon. The Big Tree is a tulip tree and is very large!

             

     East Bee Creek Falls The Big Tree East Bee Creek Falls

Johnny headed down to Sipsey Fork, traveling the primitive and overgrown trails down Bee Creek to get there. Once there, he headed up the Sipsey and set up camp along the river, relaxing by the fire on a cool, overcast day. Johnny explored the immediate trails and geological features such as the Needles Eye.

  

Sipsey Fork Wild and Scenic River

The evening cooled to 50 degrees, leaving a surprising chill in the early May air. Johnny still hadn’t seen a soul on his weekday trip.

     

Tulip tree bloom Johnny at camp on the Sipsey Fork

The next morning Johnny did a 10 mile loop hike before returning to his campsite, loading the pack and heading up Thompson Creek, then joining the Northwest trail which took him over to Braziel Creek. He couldn’t find a campsite on this stretch of Braziel Creek, so had to continue on to Hagood Creek, where he found a site but also extended his day beyond 20 miles.

                

            Another Waterfall Sipsey Fork Rapid on Sipsey Fork

Johnny left Hagood Creek, did a 13 mile loop on the Mitchell Ridge Trail, then began working his way back to the Sipsey Picnic Area. He saw much more beauty along the way, including more waterfalls rockhouses and an area truly deserving of its wilderness designation.

Johnny’s camp on Hagood Creek

         

Umbrella magnolia Rockhouse Braziel Creek


Ocean-to-Lake Trail

Johnny Molloy and Jeff Cochran at Lake Okeechobee

Johnny and tough hiking pal Jeff Cochran excitedly left Lake Okeechobee, heading east on FL 76 before turning into DuPuis Wildlife Management Area. There they picked up a footpath that wound through a mosaic of South Florida forest. Pine flatwoods dominated in higher ground. Wetter areas often had prairies, still other areas were covered in cypress. Just a few feet in elevation change can make a big difference in the vegetation here.

         

     Orange Blazes mark the trail              Obligatory trail sign         Dark clouds on the horizon

Their 12 mile first day ended at the Loop 4 Campsite. The evening was fairly warm as the clouds continued to build and the rain fell overnight. Johnny was sleeping under a mosquito net and had to rig up his rain shelter  in the middle of the night. Jeff was snug and dry under his new tarp.

             

               Jeff poses by his new tarp                                        Loop Four Campsite

Johnny intrepidly started a fire despite the morning rain, and the two of them cooked breakfast and broke camp in the rain. Luckily, the rain held off for the rest of the dark afternoon as they made 12 more miles, reaching the Little Gopher Campsite. They left Dupuis WMA, entering Corbett Wildlife Management Area. The weather radio announced big storms coming and the rain eventually hit about 6 p.m. Johnny scrunched under his tarp, feeding mosquitoes. Jeff fell ill during the storm, due to smoking a big cigar that hurt his tum-tum. He also broke out into a massive sweat. It was hilarious. After the rain, they hung out by the fire a little bit before returning to their respective shelters. Overnight cold air followed the rain front, completely changing the weather situation.

                     

Jeff hiking away the day on the Ocean-to Lake Trail

The third day cleared, became sunny and cool, great hiking weather, and pushed out a long day, camping in an area known as Hungryland, named by the Seminoles as they were hunted by the U.S. Army. Since the north winds were blowing they found a sheltered campsite and hung close to the fire.

       

Ocean-to-Lake Trail

The fourth day was quite short, as they rambled 7 miles, ending up near the Hungryland Canal. It was quite cool and windy all day long and they enjoyed hiking in the sun. That night went down to 33°, very chilly weather for South Florida.  Jeff was laid up, as he had twisted his ankle getting water.

             

        Hiking along the Hungryland Canal             Jeff and Johnny at their palm encircled campsite

The Ocean to Lake Trail then cut through a little bit of civilization before reentering wilderness at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. They kept pushing past the Loxahatchee River and made the Scrub Jay Campsite after 16 miles, despite Jeff’s ankle. The north wind had been relentless all day and continued into the night. Their campsite was vulnerable to such blows, as it was sheltered only by a little bit of low lying palmetto scrub. Their final and fifth night was another cold one.

       

                        Palm Cathedral                                 Classic pine flatwoods

The final day led through Jonathan Dickinson State Park and a short road walk to the ocean. They crossed a bridge and ended up on Jupiter island and reached the ocean at Martin County Beach Park, completing the Ocean-to-Lake Trail.

Jeff leaving JD State Park

         

                 Johnny by a sign identifying who he is               Jeff on Jupiter Island

                

The Atlantic Ocean!                                    Jeff on the beach

Johnny runs for dry land after dipping his foot in the Atlantic Ocean


Backpacking at Yosemite National Park

Johnny and Tom depart the High Sierras

I took a trip to California, ostensibly to see the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team play the UCLA Bruins. Yosemite – the land of granite

However, before the game my friend Tom Lauria and I went backpacking at Yosemite National Park. It is the crown jewel of the High Sierras—a land of granite domes, dramatic waterfalls, alpine lakes, and enough trails to keep you busy for many a year. If you haven’t been here before consider giving it a shot. The classic tourist places such as Yosemite Valley are good for auto touring but it is in the backcountry where you can really get the sense of remoteness that is found in Yosemite National Park.

  

 Granite Mountains Sunset on Chain Lakes

How Yosemite Came to Be

Inspired by the scenic beauty of Yosemite and spurred on by the specter of private exploitation of Yosemite’s natural wonders, conservationists appealed to Senator John Conness of California. On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill granting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to the State of California as an inalienable public trust. This was the first time in history that a federal government had set aside scenic lands simply to protect them and to allow for their enjoyment by all people.”

Johnny Fishes Chain Lakes

We took off from the south end of the park and headed for the South Fork Merced River. Central California was in the midst of a heat wave so temperatures were mild in the normally chilly Sierras. We camped on it for two nights before heading into the Chain Lakes, which offered superlative alpine scenery. We fished the Chain Lakes, catching many trout and hiked  around the treeline.

Campsite on South Fork Merced River

They then headed to the car and on to the Tennessee-UCLA game.


Mount Rogers High Country Trek

Johnny has had the distinct pleasure to update and revise his Mount Rogers book. To that end, Johnny and long time friend John Bland took a three night tour of the Mount Rogers High Country. They started at Elk Garden, and took the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail To Deep Gap, barely reaching a designated campsite before dark, since they waited at the trailhead for  summer storms to abate.

 Mount Rogers High Country offers a superlative scenery

Next morning, John and Johnny continued their scenic loop using a combination of trails to circle around Wilburn Ridge, then descend into the Wilson Creek drainage where they set up camp.  The weather started foggy but then cleared off. Despite being July, the temperatures never rose above 70°.

         

John Bland crossing stile Johnny trekking a mile high

Their campsite was a mixture of woods and meadows beside the raging torrent that is Wilson Creek. Johnny engaged in his usual campfire cooking, conjuring up a meaty gastronomic challenge that left John reeling. Overnight, a light drizzle saturated these majestic highlands, but didn’t dampen their spirits nor get them wet since they were sleeping under a red maple.

              

 Ponies in the High Country Rock Outcrop on Pine Mountain

Next day, they ate blueberries on their way to Scales.  From there they took the Crest Trail, which has unbelievable views, then joined the Pine Mountain Trail,  trodding onward among the rock outcrops, heath balds, and fairy tale-like spruce fir woodlands.

John Bland and Johnny have a laugh at their camp beside Wilson Creek

Beyond Pine Mountain, the pair walked in the shadow of Mount Rogers before dropping down on the Cabin Ridge Trail, finding a remote campsite. A high country drizzle ensued, but Johnny simply set up the tarp and they proceeded to enjoy the evening unhampered by the precipitation.  John was challenged by the evenings fare: kielbasa, pinto beans and rice. A moon rose overnight, illuminating the nearby meadows.  Next day, the pair took the Appalachian trail back to Elk Garden, Completing another adventure in the Mount Rogers High Country.

Want to go on your own adventure at Mount Rogers?  Check out this book!

Mount Rogers Outdoor Recreation Guidebook

ISBN: 0-89732-328-9

Enjoy all the natural beauty that Mount Rogers National Recreation Area has to offer with the first comprehensive guide to this reserve in southwestern Virginia. With complete descriptions and condensed trail lists, it’s easy to pick among scenic, remote, easy, or challenging trails. Waterway descriptions, tips for fly and spin-cast fishing, and recommended scenic drives are also included.


Isle Royale National Park

Ellie Connolly and I started in early August for a cross island traverse of Isle Royale National Park.  We started on the Minong Trail and camped at Todd Harbor.  The mosquitoes were troublesome.  We jumped some ridges and made our next short day to Little Todd Harbor.  Took a swim, then explored the shoreline.

             

Lake Superior shoreline Typical trailside aspen woods

We left to climb Mount Desor, and enjoyed great views along Minong Ridge, then made camp at Lake Desor.  I tried to fish but no luck.

                                             

View atop Mount Desor

       

Ridgetop view of Superior Grass waves in the stream

We left Lake Desor the next day and trucked it all the way to Windigo, then took the ferry on back to the mainland, ending our trip at Isle Royale.

Sunset on the lake


Buffalo River Trail

Johnny and hiking pal Bryan Delay traversed the length of the 37 mile Buffalo River Trail during the fall season.  They had stellar weather.  After leaving the upper terminus at the Ponca trailhead late in the afternoon, the two of them wound up at Arrington Creek, where they listened to the Vols beat Georgia.

Johnny and Bryan under rockhouse beside Buffalo River

They continued along the ridge above Boxley Valley, known for its elk population, then stopped by the Villinas homestead, then completed the 9 mile day at a campsite on the Buffalo River.  They fished some nearby holes, catching a few bass and bream.

    

                   Villinas Cabin Campsite in woods near Buffalo River

The next day had the most ups and downs, as they climbed over mountains and back down to the Buffalo River.  They entered the Ponca Wilderness and ended up camping on Beech Creek, where a cool breeze drifted down the valley.  Johnny trekked up to Big Bluff, on of the largest on the river, while fishing.  Bryan relaxed at the campsite.

              

      Overlooking Buffalo near Steel Creek Bryan splits rock walls

The climbs eased up and they stayed mostly along the river, then camped on a gravel bar overlooking a bluff.  The day was warm and cloudy, but little rain.  Next day, they passed through the historic Erbie area, where homesites aplenty are fun to explore.  Old fields allowed views of the mountains.

50 Hikes in the Ozarks: Walks, Hikes and Backpacks in the Mountains, Wildernesses and Geological Wonders of Arkansas and Missouri (50 Hikes)

This hike is detailed in Johnny’s book 50 Hikes in the Ozarks. Click on the cover to learn more.

This book details 50 hikes that take place in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri, from the Buffalo Wild and Scenic River and Ozark National Forest of the Natural State, where incredible views await the hiker, to the special destinations of Missouri, including the highlands of Taum Sauk Mountain and the open vistas of Hercules Glades Wilderness in the Show Me State.  Many treks along the master paths of the Ozarks, the Ozark Trail and the Ozark Highlands Trail, are included.

The wind blew later that day, the sky cleared and cooled off. Despite the frontal passage, they managed to catch a few fish in a hole directly in front of camp.

              

Bryan casts a line Johnny at gravel bar campsite

The final day, they took it on in to Pruitt Landing and ended their trip, just as an icy mix was falling.


Alaska’s Resurrection Pass Trail

Scott Davis and Johnny flew from Washington, D.C. to Anchorage, got a ride then took off for the Resurrection Pass Trail in the Chugach National Forest.  While at the trailhead they met up with Dallas Debatin, who was looking for someone to hike with, as they were entering grizzly country.

Scott and Johnny fixing to backpack in Alaska

They headed up fast flowing Resurrection Creek, camping for a couple of days, keeping their days relatively short, til they made it over Resurrection Pass, entering Juneau Creek, which was more fisherman friendly.  The scenery was unbelieveable throughout the trip, however, and Johnny was marveling and taking in every moment of the trip.  Johnny saw moose and black bear while fishing, as well as Dall sheep on the mountainsides. The weather was mostly cool and cloudy, but little rain.

Sun sets on peak near their campsite on Juneau Creek

The water was cold when fishing but they ended up having trout for supper three nights, cooking the trout over the fire.  The arctic char were especially good..

                  

Johnny with stringer of fish Fireweed grows all over Alaska

Though they didn’t see a griz, they saw some huge prints on the trail and Johnny saw prints on streamside sandbars while fishing.  Luckily, forest service provided bearproof storage boxes were located at campsites along the trail

 

   Trailside griz prints Johnny, Dallas and Scott at campsite.  Note bearbox

Meadows near Swan Lake

The last night, Scott had a special surprise. While camped in an aspen grove, a continual strong wind blew a tree over and it fell on Scott’s tarp and hit him, but the blow was eased by the tarp ropes and a little luck.  Scott made it.  Next day they walked out, passing Juneau Falls.  Their 7 nights out were over all too soon…

                  

Scott with the tree that fell on him Juneau Falls


A Thru Hike of the Florida Trail

Swamp Sloggin’ Thru Bradwell Bay Wilderness

Johnny started the adventure on January 14, at Loop Road, the south trailhead of the Florida Trail.  From there he walked north, walking 1,100 miles in 78 days, averaging 14 miles a day, 7 days a week.  The longest day was 26 miles, the shortest day 3 miles.

  

Near the Gulf at St. Marks Refuge Sunset over Lake Okeechobee Like any long distance thru hike, it had its ups and downs, but far more ups than downs. Johnny met and made new friends, saw beautiful new wild places, and had plenty of adventures — life’s little surprises that will make for a great true adventure story book.

              

Pines Aplenty on the FT          Pitcher plants in Blackwater River State Forest

The Florida Trail is underutilized as a hiking resource, and is a great alternative to the busy Appalachian Trail.

    

Palmetto Prairie Restored Kissimmee River Prairie

Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two pairs of Boots and One Heck of an Adventure

ISBN: 0-8130-2110-3

“Molloy takes us through an often soggy paradise that few people see or experience. It is a must-read for anyone wanting to hike a mile or 1,100 miles on the Florida Trail. You can almost taste the swamp water.” –Doug Alderson, author of Waters Less Traveled: Exploring Florida’s Big Bend Coast


Hiking Through Bradwell Bay Wilderness On The Florida Trail

 

February is a good time to be hiking in Florida.  Johnny and Bryan Delay set off to to trek a part of the Florida Trail in the Apalachicola National Forest south of Tallahassee.  This was Bryan’s first backpack in Florida so the experience was brand new for him.

 

The Florida Trail passes thru burned forest

Wet trail amid pines

Walkin’ through a swamp

The first five miles had been freshly burned and it was after they had crossed the Ocklockonee River before they could find a campsite. The first camp was amid open pines and it went down to freezing. Next day they entered Bradwell Bay Wilderness and the infamous four mile section of swamp walkin’.  Luckily the day had warmed, but they faced deep water, mud and general confusion as the swamp had burned too, yes the swamp burned, too.

The Hiking Trails of Florida's National Forests, Parks, and Preserves

This hike is in the above book, the Hiking Trails of Florida’s national Forests, Parks, and Preserves

 The trail was hard to follow.  They camped on Monkey Creek, and a big moon brightened their night.

Johnny with a black nose after walking thru burned woods

Violet along the FT

Along the Sopchoppy River

 

The final day found them along the Sopchoppy River, which was very scenic.  They camped along the Sopchoppy the final night before completing the 40 mile trip near the town of Sopchoppy.

 


Backpacking in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming

 

Johnny and long time backpacking buddy Bryan Delay set off in the Big Horn Mountains, specifically inside Cloud Peak Wilderness, which features some of the best alpine scenery in the US.  Much of their 7 night backpack was above tree line, but they also explored creeks, lakes and meadows. The fishing was great but the temperatures were cold. They were snowed on 3 times during their 65 mile loop on the Solitude Trail.

 

Bryan and Johnny eating lunch near Geneva Pass

 

They were surprised at how cloudy, cool and rainy and snowy it was, but you just have to play the weather hand you are dealt.  But an after effect of the weather are beautiful scenes like the creek by our campsite after an overnight snow.

Clear Creek after an Overnight Snow

Highland Park in the Cloud Peak Wilderness

The beauty and great scenery kept on going from the first step to the last and they were at the car after a very quick 8 day trip.

 


Cohutta Wilderness

 

The Cohutta Wilderness of North Georgia was the setting for this 3-night adventure. Johnny and friend Levi Novey, a park ranger whom Johnny met at Everglades National Park set out from East Cowpen Mountain, where the leaves were just budding out, then dropped down into the lowlands via Panther Creek Trail. Panther Falls and the accompanying vista were a highlight of the day.

View From Atop Panther Creek Falls

We continued down and forded the Conasauga River, then set up camp. The day was cool and clear. After cooking out we slept beneath the stars. Next day we headed for the nearby Hickory Creek Trail, which crossed low ridges broken by creeks aplenty. Finally, the Rice Camp Trail led to Jacks River, where we were determined to do some serious trout fishing. I ended up hooking only one trout but numerous Coosa bass, a smallmouth subspecies that are numerous in North Georgia.

Mountain Laurel grows profusely in the Cohutta Wilderness

A big storm hit the next morning — we were lucky to get breakfast — French toast — cooked before the rains hit. Levi led the way as we made our way up Jacks River to another campsite. Unfortunately the rains were persistent, muddying Jacks River and negating the fishing. Strong winds blew, snapping trees within earshot. We slept under the tarp, which was pounded by soaking rains all night. The rivers and creeks were even higher the next morning. We had to do some rugged off trail hiking to avoid a dangerous ford, finally meeting the Hickory Ridge Trail, then trod 8 wet miles back to the trailhead. I’ve hiked every trail in the Cohutta Wilderness and it seems I have been rained on during every trip there!

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Another adventure occurred in early April, 2003, on Cumberland Island National Seashore. A cold front blew across the Southeast, resulting in less hardy campers canceling their camping reservations. I needed to get on Cumberland for a book, The Best in Tent Camping: Georgia. Cumberland Island has a fantastic campground, but also has four backcountry campsites. After documenting the campground, I set off, northbound on the Parallel Trail, making my way on a cold clear day 11 miles to Brickhill Bluff campsite. The forests were beautiful, live oak stands, pine woods and occasional wetlands. Wildlife was plentiful. Most notable were the wild horses, relics from days gone by, as are the ruins of former mansions. The wind blew hard from the northwest, and I set up camp behind a palmetto thicket. No fires are allowed in the backcountry, so it was a chilly night.

At Stratford Beach campsite

Next day, I returned south to Stratford Beach campsite, using a variety of trails, passing by Plum Orchard Mansion, which the park service is restoring. The afternoon warmed. I relaxed at the campsite, listening to the pulsing ocean from behind the tall island dunes. Met several other campers and we shared a camaraderie only found on the trails and rivers of our country.

An early morning departure was necessary to catch the first ferry back to St. Marys, then I hopped in the jeep and continued exploring Georgia, looking for the best in tent camping.

Down in Texas Helping Write 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Austin & San Antonio

I went down to Central Texas to help write a day hiking guide for greater Austin and San Antonio. The trip was interesting, as I had never hiked the area. I delved into urban greenways, state parks, and other public lands, including the Lost Pines of Bastrop State Forest, Hill Country State Natural Area, and Lake Georgetown. The hikes varied — some greenways traversed skyscraper canyons, while some hikes in the Hill Country offered solitude aplenty. The February trip has varied weather as well. Austin got its second snow in 15 years while I was down there, other times I could put my flip-flops on at the campsite after hiking. Overall, temps were colder and rainfall was more excessive than normal.

On the Comanche Bluffs Trail at Granger Lake

The camping was interesting, too. McKinney Falls State Park is very appealing and so close to Austin, Beuscher State Park was quiet — one of three campgrounds where I was the only mid-week guest.

I was lucky enough to have befriended Eric Salys at the Everglades just a month previous. He’s an Austinite and went on some hikes with me. Unfortunately, on one hike, an urban greenway in Austin, a thief busted out Eric’s window and tried to steal stuff from his car. So much for urban hiking…

As usual, the whole trip was a learning experience and an opportunity to see yet more beauty of the great United States.


Off Trail Hiking in the Smokies, Backpacking the Florida Trail and More

Hiking off trail near Panther Creek, Tennessee

The year 2000 brought numerous adventures. In Florida, while writing a book covering the hiking trails of Florida’s national forests, Aaron Marabel and Chris Phillips and I backpacked a section of the Florida Trail in the Apalachicola National Forest. On the last night, we were camped beside a small lake when a major storm struck – lightning flashed in the sky, thunder boomed all around and rain fell so quickly that it pooled on the porous sandy soil.
The day cleared and I soon found myself in the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River Gorge. The woods were deserted. After 12 miles I found a riverside camp in a hemlock copse. To keep weight down I didn’t bring a stove, cooking over the fire and having a little coffee. The Chattooga sure lived up to its wild and scenic status. Sunrise found me tending the morning fire, then heading north, past Burrells Ford and over Medlin Mountain. The first front of fall had left the air crisp and idyllic. Camped near Grassy Knob. The high was 68 degrees! Next day I drifted into Whitewater Gorge, simply one of the most scenic watersheds in the country. Whitewater Falls was the first of many falls I passed that day, between climbing over low hills separating the gorges of the Thompson and Horsepasture rivers. Finally stopped at Bear Creek, where the radio poured forth more information about the massacre. It was surreal listening to the aftermath while in such a superlatively beautiful setting. I climbed over the Cat Stairs the next day and onward around Lake Jocassee, then up Laurel Fork Creek. The day warmed and the sweat was flowing. I was glad to end this 14-mile day. Next day was clear again, and much cooler. It was below 60 as I topped out on Sassafras Mountain, at 3,554 feet, the highest point in South Carolina. Here, I took the Foothills Spur Trail toward Jones Gap State Park, straddling the North Carolina-South Carolina state line. The solitude was ever-present. I camped in the high country as the temperature went down to the low 40s. My 60-degree sleeping bag left me chattering and I had to keep getting up during the night to stoke the fire. Next day, I took it back to the Jeep enjoying the awesome Middle Saluda River, with waterfalls galore. The Foothills Trail ended up being my all-time favorite long hike … so far!


Big Cypress Swamp, Florida

Thirteen Mile Camp on the Florida Trail in Big Cypress National Preserve
Johnny had an extended hiking adventure in Florida, started in the Ocala National Forest, walking the Florida Trail and all the other marked and maintained trails in the national forest.  He combined day hikes with overnight backpacking trips, using Hopkins Prairie as his primary base camp.  This was followed by a time in Everglades National Park, hiking the unsung trails there, and also going on a week-long canoe trip in the watery backcountry.
During the 1800s, it was in
the current Big Cypress National Preserve
where Seminole Indians hid away from US
troops, who were bent on removing the
Seminoles from Florida.  However,
within the Big Cypress Swamp and the
Everglades, which adjoins the Big Cypress to
the south, they outfoxed the US troops until
the federals gave up.

Our trip through the
700,000-acre expanse was much less
hazardous, though challenging. We started on
Loop Road, the southern terminus for the
Florida Trail and immediately began “swamp
slogging” through picturesque sawgrass
prairies that often gave way to pine islands
and cypress sloughs, offering continually
changing landscapes.  At 3.5 miles lay
a dry camp, shaded in pines.  Next day,
we pushed on to Tamiami Trail (US 41).
This nine-mile trek between Loop Road and
Tamiami Trail makes for a good overnighter.
We continued north on the 32-mile segment
between Tamiami Trail and I-75.  This
walk is best done in 2 or 3 nights.
There was little vertical variation here,
but the slow traveling through water and the
challenging task of keeping with the orange
blazed path made for slow going.  We
occasionally had to contend with crossing
muddy swamp buggy roads.

Our second night was spent at
Seven Mile Camp, also a pine island, which
are habitat for deer.  And where there
are deer, there is the Florida panther, for
deer is its preferred fare.  The
panther needs remoteness, too, and the Big
Cypress has plenty of that, especially in
the far north, where tree islands become
more lush.  At our third island camp,
tropical gumbo limbo trees provided
afternoon shade for me, while I dried my
boots in the sun — wet feet are the norm on
this end-to-end trek.

We found the 41 miles of the
Florida Trail here, rough, rugged and
remote, and in places, poorly marked. And
after tromping through the Big Cypress,
backpackers will understand why the
Seminoles chose this place to make their
last stand.


Dolly
Sods, West Virginia

Johnny and  Bryan Delay in the
Dolly Sods, Monongahela National Forest,
West Virginia

Another adventure was
exploring the wilds of West Virginia
while writing Day & Overnight Hikes in
the Monongahela National Forest.
There are several wildernesses and
designated backcountry areas that were
fun to explore.  An exciting trip
in the Dolly Sods took place with my
friend Bryan Delay.  Open fields,
rock outcrops, trout streams and thick
spruce woods characterize the Dolly
Sods.

We took off from
the Bear Rocks area in the northern Dolly
Sods just around dusk.  Darkness had
enveloped the Red Creek drainage by the time
we stumbled into a creekside campsite.
It cooled down into the 40s on that night as
we cooked burgers over a warm fire.
Next day we worked our way through vast
meadows and clearings reminiscent of the
West.

We hiked on, but were often stopped
by nature’s offerings.  There was a
bounty of fruits to be enjoyed: cranberries,
huckleberries, blueberries and apples.
We ate our fill, though the cranberries were
kinda sour.

After arriving at Harmon Knob, we
were rewarded with a fantastic view from the
outcrop.  The Canaan Valley lay to the
west and the bulk of “the Sods” to our east.

We dropped into the wooded Big
Stonecoal Run valley, onto an old rail
grade.  A rain fell but we continued on
to a creekside camp on Dunkenbarger Run,
where we spent our second night.  The
following morning broke clear and sunny.
The two of us forded Red Creek, which can be
dangerous in high water, then made the big
climb on the Boars Nest Trail up to the
Flatrock Plains, which offered more views
and a chilly wind.

Our continued southbound trek to the
Allegheny Front was over a closed forest
road and a gas line, but the vistas of North
Fork Mountain and waves of mountains east to
Shenandoah National Park were awesome.
Our campsite that night was in a gap,
through which wind poured all evening,
chilling us.  Strangely, some hunters
cruised through our camp at 3:30 A.M.

It was still windy the next morn as
the two of us got on the upper South Prong
Trail to the Flatrock Plains and more vistas
(the Sods are full of views).  Next,
the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail led to the
kingpin vista of them all: the Rohrbaugh
Overlook.

Here, you can view the heart of the
Dolly Sods into the Red Creek Gorge, Rocky
Point and all the creeks flowing into Red
Creek (so named for the tannin from tadalafil goedkoop spruce
trees that colors the waters).

After dropping down to Red Creek, we
proceeded directly up the gorge, first on an
old easy-to-follow rail grade, then came the
hard part, heading directly up the stream,
boulder hopping.  Numerous waterfalls
caused us to abandon the stream and battle
through thick vegetation hovering around Red
Creek.  We popped out late in the
afternoon near Blackbird Knob, then proceed
through high country grasslands to a wooded
campsite near upper Red Creek.  It
chilled down to near freezing as we
chattered in our summer bags.

Next day dawned clear and I made an
off trail beeline for Bear Rocks and the
jeep.  Over the fields and wood there
were more incredible views.  The Dolly
Sods are a unique treasure of West Virginia.