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  1. #1
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Default Cranberry Wilderness Backpacking

    Cranberry Wilderness
    Monongahela National Forest, WV
    May 15-16, 2010
    24 mile loop

    I followed the route mapped and described here. Highs were in the low to mid 70's F, with lows around 56 F.

    The many river crossings were swift in places, with water mid-thigh deep... if you avoided the deeper pools.



    I don't have many photos of this section of trail because I was busy swatting mosquitoes, putting my shoe back on after having it pulled off my foot by the mud multiple times, and hanging on to small saplings above steep river banks as I bushwhacked through the washed out sections where there was once a trail.

    I collected 3 quarts of cold, swift water from Birchlog Run into my collapsible water container (Nalgene Cantene) before heading up the mountain to the North South Trail where I would camp for the night. I really needed to stop and boil the water, or at least treat it with Aquamira drops so that they would disinfect it while I was hiking. The sun was setting fast, and I wanted to put some miles behind me and get up higher where things would be a little cooler and there would be less bugs. I didn't even want to take the 5 minutes to mix up the Aquamira drops though. Plus, I was hoping to boil once I setup camp to avoid the chemical taste. I also had 10 Micropur tablets, but I was reserving them for emergency use.

    Once I finally made it to the top, it was around 9:45 pm. By the time I pitched the tent, I was thirsty and so tired that I wasn't hungry. I decided to just use the Aquamira drops and wait 45 minutes for them to disinfect. (The time varies 30 min - 4 hours with water temperature, and this was my best guess.)

    As soon as I had returned to camp after hanging my food for the night, I spotted the eyes and nearly invisible silhouette of a curious black bear just outside the range of my headlamp. Maybe he was checking to see if I had remembered to hang my food?

    Right after I zipped up the tent and crawled into my bag, it started to rain, and it continued all night. I really enjoy being out in rain or snow.



    A few quick snacks for breakfast, and I was on my way. Sometimes I wondered if I had made a wrong turn off the trail and into a stream...



    The Laurelly Branch trail switchbacked and followed an old logging road downslope here. I stopped to take a photo on this short dry stretch between mudpits.



    I stopped because I smelled campfire smoke, but hadn't seen a human all day. I followed the source 30 yards down a short side trail, and discovered a still smoldering campfire in a very nice campsite along Laurelly Branch. I only saw one human in the distance the day before, but now knew someone must not be too far ahead of me.

    There are several very scenic campsites along the Middle Fork and near this waterfall where Hell For Certain branch meets the Middle Fork. You can't hear anything except the waterfall and river here.



    Along the Middle Fork of the Cranberry River:


    Ahead of me, I heard voices mixed with the noise of the river. I encountered two men and a dog who seemed to be making a significant production out of the river crossing. These were the only humans I saw at a close distance the entire trip.

    At around 4500 feet elevation, the forest becomes boreal. It was like I had started daydreaming about hiking in Canada or somewhere in Scandinavia.




    Things I learned or want to do differently:

    1. With all of the slippery mud and water, a pair of trekking poles would have been more useful than my single wooden hiking pole.

    2. I don't like having to rely on chemical water treatment due to taste, and boiling takes too long if I want to keep hiking. I decided the weight of a water filter is worth it due to improved taste over chemicals or boiling, and that I would need to carry less water. Carrying less water would actually save me at least a pound or more, compensating for the 1 pound water filter. It's nice to be able to just quickly filter and drink the water right away without feeling like I'm processing it first.

    3. I slept much more comfortably in a bugproof tent than I would have with my tarp and a headnet. The Shangri-La 3 with floor and netting I Velcroed in between the two worked ok. I never got the netting to work smoothly with the door, and ended up just using binder clips to close the netting at the door. A bug bivy or the nest sold by Golite for this purpose would have been better. I have since purchased a Tarptent Scarp 2 to try out.

    4. The 3/4 length foam pad (Ridgerest, 1/2 lb) was light and fairly comfortable when sleeping on the soft forest ground. It did get snagged and scratched up several times in the many deadfalls blocking the trail. I'd prefer a sleeping mat that goes inside the pack, so I might start taking the heavier (2 lbs) but even more comfortable Exped Downmat 7 I use for winter trips.

    5. Don't forget the digital camera memory card and have to rely on taking lower quality photos and saving them in the internal camera memory.

    6. Hot food is a luxury. And, since I'm not going to be relying primarily on boiling to purify the water, I don't need a large cookpot. I might start taking a smaller and lighter pot and a light alcohol stove for when I don't really need a fire. I've been experimenting with using a large (24 oz) Heineken beer can pot along with a Penny alcohol stove to cook small meals in freezer bags. I'm able to boil 2 cups of water in 4 minutes with less than an ounce of alcohol with this setup, which weighs around 4 oz (including stove, stand, windscreen, empty fuel bottle, and pot).

  2. #2
    It's always something... PuddleRiver's Avatar
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    Beautiful pics! I love this place and Dolly Sods. They are two of my favorite places in the state. I've never been that far back in the Glades, though. Lucky you! It's a special place and I'd definitely go for the two trekking poles. I hate to fall. lol.
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  3. #3
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    Great description and photos of your hike & camping experience! Thanks for sharing!

    Last week I made some initial purchases of camping stuff - a nice sleeping bag (15 degree one, down feathers), a mat, and a headlamp. Bare basics. It's an expensive thing to get all the gear. Next purchase down the road will be a tent. But until/unless I would start solo camping, my friends have the other 'essentials' that I could utilize and we could share, or that they'd let me borrow - stove, water filter, the tent, etc.

    I'll be doing some car camping in a few days, and will be climbing/hiking a couple of 14-ers as well. Crossing my fingers that we don't have any storms, as that would nix the hike. Storms/rain isn't so good when you're up at high elevations and totally exposed.
    "...On and on and on and on he strode, far out over the sands, singing wildly to the sea, crying to greet the advent of the life that had cried to him." - James Joyce

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  4. #4
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllAboutSoul View Post
    Beautiful pics! I love this place and Dolly Sods. They are two of my favorite places in the state. I've never been that far back in the Glades, though. Lucky you! It's a special place and I'd definitely go for the two trekking poles. I hate to fall. lol.
    Thanks! Those are my favorite places too. They even top the Smokies, but part of that is due to the number of people visiting that national park. I hope to do another trip in Cranberry this winter. I had one planned for February, but that was snowed out. I was prepared to ski and snowshoe in deep snow, but I figured camping beside the road with my car stuck in a snowdrift wouldn't be worth the 6 hour drive.

    Quote Originally Posted by cascadeco View Post
    Great description and photos of your hike & camping experience! Thanks for sharing!

    Last week I made some initial purchases of camping stuff - a nice sleeping bag (15 degree one, down feathers), a mat, and a headlamp. Bare basics. It's an expensive thing to get all the gear. Next purchase down the road will be a tent. But until/unless I would start solo camping, my friends have the other 'essentials' that I could utilize and we could share, or that they'd let me borrow - stove, water filter, the tent, etc.

    I'll be doing some car camping in a few days, and will be climbing/hiking a couple of 14-ers as well. Crossing my fingers that we don't have any storms, as that would nix the hike. Storms/rain isn't so good when you're up at high elevations and totally exposed.
    Thanks! That's exciting that you're gearing up! Good choice on the down bag. I have a synthetic 3-season (30 F) quilt, but my winter bag is down, and I prefer down. I might actually skip water treatment entirely on my next trip to WV, but that's getting a little risky. I blame Ne.

    Your climbing and hiking sounds like tons of fun! I'll keep a lookout for photos.

  5. #5
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    lovely pictures JAVO! I'd love to see it, but I'm the lazy sort who tends to rent a cabin to stay in as to avoid having to carry much with me
    “Oh, we're always alright. You remember that. We happen to other people.” -Terry Pratchett

  6. #6
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whatever View Post
    lovely pictures JAVO! I'd love to see it, but I'm the lazy sort who tends to rent a cabin to stay in as to avoid having to carry much with me
    See, the great thing is that I wasn't carrying much either.

    Not counting food and water, I was carrying around 12 pounds on my back. With 3 pounds of food and 2.2 pounds (1 quart) of water (average), that totals 17.2 pounds. I could easily shave off another 2 pounds from this.

    I'm even thinking of taking a 1-2 night trip there again where I carry much, much less. ...as in not even needing a backpack.

  7. #7
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO View Post
    Thanks! That's exciting that you're gearing up! Good choice on the down bag. I have a synthetic 3-season (30 F) quilt, but my winter bag is down, and I prefer down. I might actually skip water treatment entirely on my next trip to WV, but that's getting a little risky. I blame Ne.

    Your climbing and hiking sounds like tons of fun! I'll keep a lookout for photos.
    Yes, I had a friend help me out with the sleeping bag selection; it was pricier than I liked, but I wanted one that was good quality and that would be excellent for the long run.... I didn't want to do one of those things where I got a moderately priced one temporarily and then a year or two later spent money on the really nice one. Done deal, this way!!! (or..so I hope..lol )

    I'll take photos, I'm just not sure they'll be great ones. I've noticed at high elevations everything becomes kind of colorless, and many mountains look pretty much the same when looking down! And, we've sadly passed peak wildflower season, so there won't be much of that to speak of. But yeah, you know me and my photography! Love it. I'll get something.

    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO
    Not counting food and water, I was carrying around 12 pounds on my back. With 3 pounds of food and 2.2 pounds (1 quart) of water (average), that totals 17.2 pounds. I could easily shave off another 2 pounds from this.

    I'm even thinking of taking a 1-2 night trip there again where I carry much, much less. ...as in not even needing a backpack.
    17.2 pounds total is very impressive. You must have a very lightweight pack? Were you including that in your total? My camera alone is close to 5 pounds I think!!
    "...On and on and on and on he strode, far out over the sands, singing wildly to the sea, crying to greet the advent of the life that had cried to him." - James Joyce

    My Photography and Watercolor Fine Art Prints!!! Cascade Colors Fine Art Prints
    https://docs.google.com/uc?export=do...Gd5N3NZZE52QjQ

  8. #8
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascadeco View Post
    Yes, I had a friend help me out with the sleeping bag selection; it was pricier than I liked, but I wanted one that was good quality and that would be excellent for the long run.... I didn't want to do one of those things where I got a moderately priced one temporarily and then a year or two later spent money on the really nice one. Done deal, this way!!! (or..so I hope..lol )
    Down bags not only last much longer, but they're much more comfortable.

    Quote Originally Posted by cascadeco View Post
    I'll take photos, I'm just not sure they'll be great ones. I've noticed at high elevations everything becomes kind of colorless, and many mountains look pretty much the same when looking down! And, we've sadly passed peak wildflower season, so there won't be much of that to speak of. But yeah, you know me and my photography! Love it. I'll get something.
    Staying overnight is a huge advantage in being able to catch the interesting and magical light slightly before and after sunrise and sunset. Things won't be colorless then.

    Quote Originally Posted by cascadeco View Post
    17.2 pounds total is very impressive. You must have a very lightweight pack? Were you including that in your total? My camera alone is close to 5 pounds I think!!
    Yes, that includes the lightweight backpack (Gossamer Gear Gorilla), weighing about 1.5 lbs. The frame and hip belt are removable, taking it down to 1 lb. Previously, I used a Kelty pack which weighed 3 lbs. I only took a small digital point and shoot weighing around 6 oz. My film 35mm SLR with 3 lenses and a few filters weighs around 3 lbs, and I have a cheapo but light tripod weighing 2 lbs. I often don't bring the SLR because I enjoy the freedom and simplicity of not carrying it. I'm sure I'll bring it along on a more photography-oriented trip soon. It would be difficult to take a trip in the middle of fall foliage without it!

    And then there's the 4x5 large format system, weighing in at around 10-15 lbs! I just never use it anymore, and carrying it turns an enjoyable hike into a forced march. :horor:

  9. #9
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO View Post
    6. Hot food is a luxury. And, since I'm not going to be relying primarily on boiling to purify the water, I don't need a large cookpot. I might start taking a smaller and lighter pot and a light alcohol stove for when I don't really need a fire. I've been experimenting with using a large (24 oz) Heineken beer can pot along with a Penny alcohol stove to cook small meals in freezer bags. I'm able to boil 2 cups of water in 4 minutes with less than an ounce of alcohol with this setup, which weighs around 4 oz (including stove, stand, windscreen, empty fuel bottle, and pot).
    I wouldn't recommend this. The liner of the beer can and the plastics of the freezer bag might leach carcinogenic or other toxins into the food.

  10. #10
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    Default Correction

    The photo labeled "Middle Fork of the Cranberry River" is actually the Middle Fork of the Williams River.

    I knew where I was when I was there, but got lost after I left.

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