Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pisgah National Forest: Grassy Ridge Bald

I’ve been wanting to get up to the Roan Mountains for some time now. This area, on the North Carolina/Tennessee border is reputed to be one of the most beautiful areas in the southeastern US. Some friends at work had been talking about going for a hike and we decided a few weeks ago that this would be our destination. Everybody backed out of the hike except for me and my friend Burke and so this morning I drove up to Johnson City where I met Burke at the mall for the drive up to Roan Mountain.

The drive was non-eventful until we made our way through the town of Roan Mountain and started to make our way up the mountain. There was a bicycle race going on and on the narrow, winding road it was difficult to safely pass the riders. If I were in charge of putting on the race I would think a closed road would be a lot safer. Eventually we made our way to Carvers Gap where we parked and hit the trail. Our trail was the Appalachian trail and it was my first time on this section of it since my thru-hike over 13 years ago.

The trail has been greatly improved since my thru-hike. Gone are the deep, muddy ruts that passed for a trail. The ruts have been replaced by a sturdy gravel footpath.
Start of Hike
The gravel footpath wound its way into and out of a thick stand of spruces and into the grassy bald area that the Roans are known for. There was some rhododendron lining the trail here and there as well. The blooming rhododendron is one of the highlights of the trail, but unfortunately we were about 2 weeks too early for the display.

We slowly made our way up Round Bald and Jane Bald.
Jane Bald
We took a break on Jane Bald
Rest Break
and then made our way further up the trail. At a junction we left the AT and took a well-defined user trail up to Grassy Ridge Bald.
Amongst the Rhododendron
It was a beautiful hike on the ridge with lots of great views
Burke in the High Roans
and fewer people than on the AT. We passed the summit area and followed the faint path to a cliff with a nice overlook where we ate a snack. After our short break we headed back to the summit area where Burke took my photo
On Grassy Ridge Bald
and then we headed back to the Appalachian Trail for the return hike to the car.
Roans Trail
It was a great hike. It almost reminded me of hiking out west in the some of the high alpine meadows in Colorado and northern New Mexico. I will definitely be returning to the Roans, especially since 3 of the summits in the range are part of the South Beyond 6,000. Grassy Ridge Bald is one of these SB6K peaks, but the route I took today was not an approved one, and so I will have to do it over again. That’s okay with me as it is one of the most beautiful spots in the eastern United States and I’m looking forward to returning soon.   

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