Saturday, June 15, 2013

Roans Beyond 6,000 Feet

What a beautiful morning! I packed my day-pack and headed out to Carver's Gap on the North Carolina/Tennessee border to hike all the peaks in the Roan Range above 6,000 feet. There are three of them: Grassy Ridge Bald which I hiked a few weeks ago, Roan High Knob on which is the highest shelter on the Appalachian Trail, and Roan High Bluff which I have never been to.

It was a pleasant drive into North Carolina through Allen Gap and up Franklin Mountain Road, through the Shelton Laurel area, and back into Tennessee at Devil Fork Gap. Then I drove through Erwin to the town of Roan Mountain and up, up, up to Carver's Gap. I parked along the road at Carver's Gap. I arrived early enough that the trail was not too crowded as I followed the Appalachian Trail south into the spruce forest.
Roans Trail

The hiking was extremely pleasant. The trail was not too steep and the air was nice and cool. I made good time as I climbed to the spur trail that led to Roan High Knob Shelter and the summit of Roan High Knob itself. The last time I was up there was during my AT thru-hike in 2000. A dog barked at me as I approached the shelter, an old firewarden's cabin.
Roan High Knob Shelter
Someone was staying in the upper bunk are of the shelter, but I did not see them. I did find it a bit odd that they slept in so late on the trail. After signing the shelter register,
I made my way to a small outcrop, the highest point in the Roans. I took my photo on the summit and then headed back to the AT.
on RHK summit

On the AT I headed south towards Roan High Bluff. I passed the remains of an old chimney
and then found myself at the site of the old Cloudland Hotel. There's not much left of the old hotel, just a few stone foundations and walls. From the hotel site I passed through a massive parking lot and found the trailhead for the Cloudland Trail at the other side.
cloudland trail
The Cloudland Trail was a pleasant, mostly level hiking experience.
I pretty much had the trail to myself as I gently ascended on the sometimes gravel and sometimes paved trail. There was a small overlook shortly after leaving the parking lot and I enjoyed the view out over the surrounding area.
view point

Eventually I made my up to an overlook at Roan High Bluff. There were sheer cliffs below the overlook.
View from Roan High Bluff
It was apparent, however, that the overlook was not the true high point. I followed a ridge of rock just a bit higher to a benchmark and the true highpoint
RHB summit
which laid just outside of a restricted area of rare plants.
closed sign
I rested a bit on the highpoint. A black slug paid me a visit.
black slug
Then I noticed some out of place looking pieces of white gravelly looking rocks, as I presumed them to be. As I looked at them harder I realized it was not rock I was seeing, but small pieces of bone. I think I may have stumbled upon some scattered human cremains. After that revelation I headed back to the trail for the return trip to Carver's Gap.

The hike to Carver's Gap went pretty quickly. I was surprised to learn that the Cloudland Trail is a designated ski trail, probably the only XC-ski trail in North Carolina.
ski trail
Once I arrived there my hike was not over though. I headed north on the Appalachian Trail
Eric on Trail
into the grassy balds to return to Grassy Ridge Bald. I was returning because my previous hike to the peak was not long enough to count for the official South Beyond 6k recognition. I made my way up some now familiar area including Jane Bald. The views were just spectacular!
expansive view
grassy view
panoramic view
Eventually I made my way to the side trail that leads to Grassy Ridge Bald.
hikers approach
I quickly made my way up the trail, tagged the summit, ate a snack there, and then headed back down towards my car at Carver's Gap.

The hiking back to the gap went fairly quickly. I did, however, stop several times to admire the wonderful views and take some photos.
near the end
rhodos and view
view from grassy ridge bald
Roans view
I just love it up there in the Roans. I think I may bring Sierra and Noelle up here before we leave for our road trip to the Outer Banks and Philadelphia. While there were some rhododendron flowers in bloom,
pink rhododendron
I think the rhododendron should be peak right before we leave for our road trip.                          

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