Roan Mountain – 6/7/09 – Appalachian Trail – 10 miles
This morning I woke thinking that another 24 hours of sleep would be great. BUT I was scheduled to hike with the Carolina Mountain Club, including Danny and Lenny, in the Roan Mountains. I was very much looking forward to seeing the Roans, but I sure didn’t want another fast hiking day.
Not to worry – I give two thumbs way up to the CMC group for a delightful day! The drive to the trailhead was long, but I was neither driver nor navigator so no effort on my part. The group assembled at the Carvers Gap parking area was varied and included four who had not hiked with CMC before – myself, a woman from Shelby, and a father-and-young-adult-son team from the Midwest who were traveling on their way to the beach and wanted to do something in celebration of National Trails Day. (CMC's hikes are show-and-go, not sign-up in advance.) Our hike leader had everyone sign in and give an emergency contact number, then reviewed the hike plan. He went over the guidelines of a lead and a sweep and that they would wait at junctions for the group to reassemble as a whole. Pinch me! I was thrilled.
My husband and son had been to Roan Mountain back in their Boy Scout days but this was my first experience there. Yesterday’s hike in Shining Rock Wilderness gave me a taste of mountain balds and this hike was similar. The Roans are well-known for their rhododendrons but we were a little early for peak blooming (mental note: third week of June is best). Today we headed north on the AT. The hiking pace was leisurely, not too slow, certainly not too fast, and we frequently stopped to identify anything blooming (someone was keeping count of how many different species could be found.) We went up and over Round Bald, down Engine Gap, and then over Jane Bald. The day was spectacular and I was having fun now!
We took a right turn up off of the AT to our first destination of the day, Grassy Ridge Bald, one of the SB6K peaks. As of today it is official – did any of you doubt it? – I am working on the SB6K Challenge. In the interest of my sanity I am not putting a time limit on this challenge, though. I am simply looking forward to exploring many different areas in the Southern Appalachians as I work toward this goal. And it will take me back to the Smokies! I summitted the SB6K’s that were directly on trails there, but some are off-trail and I passed them by.
Here is Lenny pointing out something of vital importance – not sure what! I have some great photos of Lenny.
From Grassy Ridge we backtracked a bit and chose a lunch spot. Some people sat together while others took the opportunity to sit alone and chill in a front row seat for this special place. This woman enjoyed her apple and then pulled out a book to read. I would have loved a nap, but it’s hard to appreciate the view with your eyes closed!
Our backtracking continued nearly all the way to the parking area, and we crossed the road to continue south on the AT, climbing steadily on switchbacks up to Roan High Knob, our second SB6K of the day. Here we explored the shelter, which at 6,285 feet is the highest shelter on the entire AT. It is two stories and sleeps 16 friendly hikers. Here is a lovely photograph of the shelter in snow and further description. (BTW, this website, Appalachian Treks, is one of my favorites. He posts photos nearly every day with a short quote, story or Bible verse. A great way to start the day.)
The true summit of Roan High Knob is atop a rock outcropping a short distance from the shelter. This benchmark is embedded in the rock. Here’s a hint if you decide to become an SB6K enthusiast yourself: the placement of the benchmark is not always the very highest point. Look around and see if there is anything higher than where you are standing (or check your GPS). Of course you are on the honor system anyway, but I’d hate for you to miss the summit by a few feet.
Most of the group planned to backtrack to the parking lot from this point, but Danny and Lenny had worked out a plan to continue on to summit the third SB6K at Roan High Bluff. Five of us pressed on and drivers from the return bunch offered to retrieve us and return us to our cars. (In the end, the returners hiked more mileage than we did!) Our route took us past the former location of the Cloudland Hotel, once a luxury hotel that straddled the NC-TN state line. Appalachian Treks has a humorous summary about the demarcation line. We followed the Cloudland Trail out to the Bluff Overlook, a wooden platform constructed to keep people from throwing themselves off the edge. There are several parking areas up near this end of the trail for easy access to the overlook, i.e., we were not alone. Adults, kids, dogs – everyone was enjoying the day.
I most thoroughly enjoyed hiking with the CMC group. Staying together afforded the opportunity to talk with everyone and I learned some new flowers and the opportunity for more hikes, including a backpack trip that the group makes every year to do the more difficult off-trail SB6K’s in the Smokies – yay! This was just the hike I needed today.
Our trail angels delivered us back to our cars and we began the long drive to Asheville. We decided that sushi was called for, and we stopped at the Bernsteins’ home so I could retrieve my car.
Well, no day is perfect – my battery was dead and we had some fun resurrecting it. After a delicious meal and goodbyes, I popped in my favorite CD’s and went on auto-pilot to Charlotte, arriving late but happy. Two big goals in one weekend – Cold Mountain and Roan Mountain! And I’m still alive! My list of destinations is growing longer…
Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go... So...be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea, you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way! ~Dr. Suess "Oh, The Places You'll Go"