Yesterday we wanted to do a longer hike, so went up on the Roan to hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT). We started at Carver’s Gap at the North Carolina / Tennessee line (5,512' elevation) and headed north toward the Balds. (On this mountain, there are open grassy spaces at the tops of many of the ridges, which are called Balds). The valley below on the NC side was just starting to show fall colors, and was just beautiful with the sun shining on it.
Unfortunately, clouds rolled in just as we were parking and getting ready to start our hike. The wind up on the balds is always more than you expect as there is nothing to block it, so it can be a lot colder up there than in the parking lot, so without sun, we considered aborting our planned hike and coming back another day, but in the end decided to go. We’ve been up this trail some before, although not as far as we planned to go this time. Two years ago, we hiked up to the first bald (Round Bald), and stopped and had lunch on some big rocks up there where there is a nice view. That was all the hiking / climbing we were up for on that day, since we both weighed 60+ pounds more each and were not in the habit of exercising. I remember being really tired and out of breath when we got to the “lunch rock”. Here I am standing on the "lunch rock" and in the lower right the cars in the parking lot below where we pick up the AT.
On this day, however, we just stopped and took a picture and laughed at how we could go no further two years ago. The “lunch rock” is about ½ mile from the parking lot, although the trail has a fair bit of elevation gain on the way, as you can see. Anyway, on we went after having our chuckle about our old “lunch rock”. We still had several miles to cover before our planned lunch break on this day. We had planned to get to the top of Round Bald (5,826'), continue down and up to Jane Bald (5,807'), and then up to Grassy Bald, and then to hike another couple of miles on the AT, depending on the weather.
Here is a shot of us between Round and Jane Balds, and the highest one you can see in the background is Grassy Bald where we planned our lunch stop.
You can see how the clouds were lowering and in the open areas, it was pretty windy. Some rare sunny breaks allowed a view of the Roan Valley.
To get to Grassy Bald, you have to leave the AT and climb up a different trail. The AT continues north from that point but along the sides of it, rather than up and over the top. The trail up goes through some Rhododendron (not blooming now of course).
Then finally reaches the top of the bald, which is capped by another big rock. There is a memorial plaque to a local man who loved the mountain.
And of course, there is the inevitable USDA Cadastral Survey marker in the rock at the top.
Why is there always a rock at the top, even on the balds? And why does this one not show the elevation? I looked it up though from the number, and it is at 6,160'.
We had a nice lunch there at the top of Grassy Bald, watching the clouds rolling in and out and getting peeks at the valleys on both the NC side and the TN side. At times we were in the clouds, (which were damp and quite cold), but at least when you’re in the clouds, the wind stops. Since the clouds were lowering so much, and so damp it seemed it might rain, we decided to not go further on the AT, and once we climbed down from Grassy Bald, we just returned by the AT.
The hike was a round trip total of about 5 miles (according to my Garmin at least) and we climbed a total of about 1300 feet, (according to my Fitbit). After we got home, we did some other walking to finish out the planned distance of 10 miles for the day, and also to get the additional 20 flights of stairs (200 feet of climb) to get my newest 150 flights badge, so all in all, quite a nice day with some good exercise.
It was such a treat to know that the only reason we decided not to go further on the AT was weather, and not being out of breath or having legs too tired! Thank you Spark People for helping me to get my life back and to be able to do the things I want to do!!