Somehow I have managed to go all of 2009 without going on a backpacking trip. A few friends and I planned to break the streak by spending a night at Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia; but the weekend we chose (this past weekend) proved to be ill-fated. The weather has been terrible up and down the eastern seaboard this weekend, and West Virginia was not spared. We decided to soldier on anyway, along with a surprising number of other hardy outdoorspeople that we saw on the trail once there.
So our group of four, plus canine friend Roxy, set out on Saturday morning in 35-degree temperatures and horizontally blown snow. To stay warm, we had to keep moving, and so I didn’t spent too much time setting up great photos; that said, it’s extremely easy to take pretty pictures at Dolly Sods, so I’m still pretty happy with some of what I got. (Above, windswept and snow-covered grasses on Raven Ridge.) Here’s a shot of our group at a quick break for food, taken from a nearby ridge that provided a nicely elevated viewpoint:
While the four of us were warm enough with all of our insulated clothing, Roxy was shivering and clearly uncomfortable after a few hours, although she was still having a grand time and running all over the place. So we decided not to stay the night, and to make it a long loop hike instead. So I guess I still haven’t technically gone on a backpacking trip all year. But getting Roxy back into the warm car was a very good decision, as she was shivering uncontrollably after the last stretch of our hike brought us out of the relatively sheltered Blackbird Knob Trail into the exposed part of FR75 near the north end of the plateau.
I brought my D700 (no MB-D10) and 24-70/2.8. The lens selection was a tough decision. I decided not to go with the 14-24/2.8 as my main lens because the exposed front element would have been impossible to keep free of snow and moisture. I found myself craving a telephoto at times, but there’s no way I’m lugging my 80-200/2.8 on a backpacking trip. Perhaps someday I’ll pick up a cheap used 70-300. That said, the 24-70 served nicely for the trip, and I didn’t really notice the weight at all. I just carried the D700 slung over my shoulder - no fancy pack attachment or anything like that. That’s how I’ve always carried SLRs when backpacking; I’ve never felt it overly bothersome, and I always have the camera at hand to take photos, instead of having to dig into my pack.
Of course, the weather was wet, but the nature of it - snow rather than sustained rain - was such that I was never worried about the D700. It was completely exposed for the entire trip and the moisture was never an issue, except I had to clean the lens a couple times, and water got under the plastic LCD protector, which I eventually just took off.
One nice thing was that my three companions were each wearing rain shells of different bright colors: one red, one yellow and one blue. Perfect for creating points of interest in the sea of white and grey. (I took several landscape photos that are full color, not B&W conversions, but could easily be mistaken as such, as the palette was so muted by the weather.) The above photo is a decent example.
The full gallery of photos is here. I’m in the middle of writing an actual trip report that I’ll link to when it’s ready (it won’t be on this blog as it won’t be photography-focused at all).