Thursday, March 22, 2012

Roan Mountain offers a variety of trails and views for the casual hiker to the elite. The parking lot at Carver's Gap is an ideal starting point and in either direction the views are worth a little sweat and heavy breathing. The Appalachian Trail crosses the road at Carver's Gap and travels south toward the botanical gardens and the Roan High Bluffs or you can cross the road and head north on the AT across the balds towards the towering Hump Mountain in the distance. The balds are a beautiful spot to take unobstructed 360 degree photos of mountain ranges from Mt. Mitchell to Holston Mountain. The trail winds casually up Round Bald rising in elevation and thru small patches of old growth pine trees, before clearing with some of the best views on the AT.

The weather recently has been mid-summer quality and it was in the low 80's as Jeff and I left to hike on Roan. I wore a sleeveless shirt and shorts and he had a t-shirt and shorts on. Once we parked at Carver's Gap and opened the door, it became obvious we would need more clothing. The wind on Roan Mountain must never stop! Each time I've visited the wind has gusted throughout my hikes, and today was no different. The temperature had to be hovering in the low 60's if that. Luckily I had a couple of extra sweatshirts and we proceeded on up Round Bald. I had brought along my brand new high tech DSLR camera and was stoked when I arrived at a rock outcrop for some perfect photo ops. I unpacked and steadied my camera, I pushed the button and a message on screen said "no memory card" In my excitement to get going, I had forgotten to put the card back in from loading photos the night before! I now was carrying a thousand dollar paperweight. Once again luck was on my side however, Jeff has a quality camera and all the pics from today's post are courtesy of Jeff's camera! 
from Round Bald looking into North Carolina
From Round Bald the trail descends slightly and then rises up the higher Jane Bald. The trail once again descends off Jane Bald and as we hiked along I was surprised to find a mailbox along the trail with "goat info" on it. During the summer, Friends of Roan sponsors a program that keeps goats on the balds to graze and maintain these fragile ecosystems. The brochures in the mailbox allow you the chance to Adopt-a-Goat for the summer which gives you the right to name one! I immediately decided this was a worthy cause and named my future goat, Nibber! Here's me with the mailbox.
I can't wait to meet Nibber!
The next part of the trail rises steeply and ruggedly  to the intersection of the Grassy Ridge Trail. Jeff and I were feeling the up and down climbing in our legs and arrived at a nice set of boulders and decided to go no further, the sun was getting low in the sky and a hike out at night would most certainly get cold in a hurry. The cloud cover as the sun set allowed for some spectacular photos and no two looked the same. As we made our way back towards Carvers Gap the sun was disappearing in the distance along the ridge line, I hiked further ahead of Jeff and was lost in thought, sometimes I believe I could hike for miles in silence. By the time we arrived at the truck it was dark, we headed off the mountain and recanted the days hike to kill the time on the hour drive home. I was sad that my new camera would have to wait another day to capture Roan in all it's glory but it provided me with a good excuse to be back soon. Who knows, I may even make the 16.6 mile RT hike from Carver's Gap to Hump Mountain. Until next time, happy trails...
Hump Mountain (bald mountain top)

always looking for the next good photo, guess I should have looked left.
storm clouds blowing across the balds
good ol rocky top--Jane Bald
breaking along the AT
dusk on the AT, descending Round Bald

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