Friday, June 29, 2012

nice shot from just off the observation deck

Roan Mountain has quickly grown as one of my favorite places to hike, it offers a wide variety of trails and spectacular views via the Appalachian Trail. During the winter months the access road to the Rhododendron Gardens and the Cloudland Hotel site is closed, but recently the gates were opened and I was thrilled to get up on that side of that mountain to do some hiking. In the past three weeks I have been on Roan three different trips, the first with my dad during the Rhododendron festival and the plants were about 80% bloomed, they're a beautiful sight if you are lucky enough to catch them in bloom. The second trip was with Jeff and was filled with adventure, including multiple severe storms with hail, thick fog, and an upset stomach that couldn't be settled (mine) and the last trip was yesterday when my wife and I caught the mountain on a perfect night to watch the sunset at the Roan High Bluffs. All pictures featured in today's blog will be from those trips.
observation deck at High Bluffs
sun getting close to the mountain, really putting off some glow

The High Bluffs have been on my radar for a long time, I have just patiently waited for the access road to open so I could investigate. I was unable to find much information online about them so I wondered if they were really worth visiting. I can assure you as you read this, there are no finer views in all of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The high bluffs are at an elevation of 6237ft while Carver's Gap (road at top of mountain on TN/NC line) is only around 5500ft. The Access road leads you by the former Cloudland Hotel site and forks to dirt on out to the gardens you will pass the parking lot for cars and buses on your journey to the bluffs trail head. Just past the loop to return to the gardens a half mile spur trail leads you to the observation deck hung out over the high bluffs. I was surprised at the sheer drop off the deck rails, a fall would most likely be fatal and your only hope of survival would be a narrow five foot ledge just about ten feet below the deck, from there it's another 200ft drop and certain death. On the trip with Jeff the weather was a constant hindrance, storms blew in and out limiting visibility but also changing picture to picture. Amber and I were blessed with the finest weather I've had on Roan, with about a 10m visibility and comfortable winds. Dad and I also had nice weather but we only toured the gardens.
high bluffs after some storms and the sun beams cutting through

The Gardens were beautiful but crowded, everyone we talked to though was nice and the park service had paved a concrete path through the gardens making it a smoother walk for older hikers and gaining access to folks in wheelchairs. I was really happy that this move was made, I think everyone should have the opportunity to see the sights I take in on my hikes.
strolling through gardens

If you ever find yourself in need of a break from the summer heat and the stress of everyday life, I suggest you make your way to Roan Mountain. It's a nice park and the whole family from toddlers to the grandparents can enjoy a day here. If that doesn't convince you, just look at the pictures...happy trails!

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