Roan Highlands

Day 134

We enjoyed our time at Station 19e and slept well…until about 4AM when the rooster started to crow.  Those cute roosters we were watching at the neighbor’s gate yesterday suddenly seemed much less cute. We ignored it for a bit but eventually decided to get up and make coffee. It was about an hour earlier than we had planned to get up and then remembered it was daylight savings.  Arghhh!!  We knew this day would come.  For the final few weeks of our hike we’ll need to go to sleep and get up earlier to maximize daylight.

The coffee was brewed and Hayley made some pancakes in the hostel kitchen. We packed up and made our way back to the trail. It was a nice and relaxing zero but we were excited to make our way up to Roan Mountain. This is one of the southern peaks we were looking forward to since the beginning.

The trail was slippery, sloppy and muddy from the rain the night before.  Fog lingered throughout the morning and seemed to be caught in the spruce, fur and pine trees.  Thankfully it has been unseasonably warm so the dripping water was refreshing.

After 3 miles of steady climbing we arrived on a grassy ridgeline above the clouds.  We enjoy great views and a blue sky as we traversed over several bald peaks for several miles.  In the distance Roan Mountain was hidden in the clouds.  The trail left the ridgeline and we dipped back into the trees and fog for the final ascent to Roan Mountain Shelter.  At 6,275 feet this is the highest shelter on trail.  By comparison Mount Washington is 6,288 feet.  The geological differences of the northern and southern Appalachian Mountains is amazing.  Roan Mountain is tree clad and nondescript whereas in the Whites hikers are above the treeline usually around 3,900 feet with most summits composed of granite.

We reached the shelter by 4. It is a fully enclosed cabin with a loft. We enjoyed the shelter to ourselves and opted to stay on the bottom floor as there clearly were mice in the loft. The fog lingered so most of our time was spent in the shelter. It was strange to see impacts of daylight savings. By 6 it was completely dark and it definitely is starting to feel like we are approaching the end of our thru-hike soon.

Day 135

The fog remained trapped in the tall spruce trees all night.  The morning was misty and we were quickly drenched when we started out.  Again even at this elevation,  we started hiking in shorts and tee-shirts. The air is strangely warm. We definitely are not complaining!

We did experience hiking in the light on and off rain for most of the day.  The trail continued be muddy and we trudged along.  The next few days are looking good but we’re also following hurricane Nicole which is likely to impact us on Friday. Eric knew there was one more hurricane waiting for us on the trail.

The miles melted away with limited views.  We arrived at our campsite.  We were able to find enough dry wood to enjoy a small fire.  It was nice to be in our tent again. The moon was so bright we could see the glow through the tent walls.

Day 136

We emerged from our tent to full red moon and packed up under pale moonlight before twilight.

We ascended Unaka Mountain and enjoyed the peaceful summit clad with tall spruce trees. It felt more like the pacific northwest with it’s mossy trees and springy earthen floor covered with pine needles.

The trail was mostly in the trees until we climbed to Beauty Spot summit and took in the 360 degree views.  In the distance we can see some very tall summits.  The mountains seem to expand outwards in contoured tree clad layers. While they don’t have the exposed granite the way NH and ME do, they aren’t quite the fluffy green lumps you see in VT or VA. It’s a mesh of all the mountains we’ve seen so far. We are very excited to be getting closer to the Smoky Mountains.

For the past few days the trail has crossed back and forth over the Tennessee and North Carolina borders.  This will continue until we get into the Smokys. We have enjoyed our hike through the area so far but we have noticed there is more trash at the shelters here than anywhere on trail so far. It makes sense why there are so many bear issues.

We arrived at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel.  Eric has good memories of staying here in 2011.  We completed a few chores and caught the 5PM shuttle to town.  After eating McDonald’s we headed over to grocery store.  Remember when we claimed to figure out this resupply thing?  Well…that proved to be false.  We got way too much again. We returned to Uncle Johnny’s and found Backtrack, Grazer and Lennon sitting by the fire. We joined them and started to make a dent in our excessive groceries. A good night!

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Comments 2

  • Shocktop : Nov 9th

    Love the ‘fluffy green lumps’ description of the mountains here in VA! Perfect! Happy trails and thanks for the laugh.

  • Carolyn Foster : Nov 9th

    I grew up just a few miles down the road from Old Roan. Gap Creek was where I lived and went to school. East Tennessee has some beautiful mountains. Most of my kin folk still live in and around that area!!! Happy hiking a d be safe!!!!


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