Twig Adventures

AT Day 88: Roan Mountain Highlands

Wednesday Oct 20th 2021, 1000-1800
Mountain Harbor B&B to Cloudland Hotel Site, SOBO AT mm 1814.6
16.9 miles
5840 gain, 2500 loss

Mud slept in while I was up early as usual, working on my phone. Breakfast was at 8 am and not a minute was to be missed. I made sure to wake Mud just before. The hostess gave a long explanation of what was what in the huge spread, half of which I didn’t catch because my eyes and stomach were going wild. The fresh baked pastries, quiches, and biscuits were straight out of that British Baking show. I couldn’t sample something of everything and fit it all on one plate, so naturally I had to go back for seconds and thirds. Tic Tac even made sure to send us away with to-go cookies, which I had with lunch. I can honestly say it was better than any other breakfast or brunch I’ve ever had…all for just $13.

Given our feasting and consequent slothfulness afterwards, we didn’t get on the trail until 10 am. We had a big day ahead, going through the famous Roan highlands. Roan Mountain is one of the tallest on trail at 6,270′ and is surrounded by a series of balds that offer sweeping views. We’d been warned to take our time enjoying the area, so that’s what we did by planning a shorter day.

First we climbed to the top of Hump Mountain, reaching a number of false summits to break at each for some peak-finding. The weather was the best that could have been ordered up: warm, clear skies, no wind. There probably aren’t too many days like that up there. I could see for what seemed like over 100 miles. I pointed out Katahdin to my companions but they called my bluff. Still, I could see the tallest peak on the East Coast, Mt Mitchell at 6,684′. I could also see a far line of mountains that were apparently too distant for even my peakfinder app to name them. It showed them as dark shadows in the profile but wouldn’t list them…strange. I think they were the Smokies. And finally I could see Mt Rogers way back in VA, looking like a tiny little bump compared to the rest. Katahdin must have been obscured by some clouds. Maybe next time.

Me, Old Army, a section hiker that gave me spare food (sorry I forgot his name!), and Mud.

We collected some sparkling fresh spring water and took a break near Grassy Ridge Bald, watching the day hikers stream by. A popular road leads to a huge parking lot at Carver’s gap, allowing very easy access. It’s always a little frustrating to do all the work of humping gear up a mountain only to find people stepping out of their cars for the same view. Their loss I guess. The 2 miles of balds to the lot were all in the open, certainly worth the drive and a 4 mile RT stroll. I later read some comments that complained about the difficult climbs to these several balds… I didn’t even notice any elevation change, I was too busy looking around. The complainers can go walk through some of the areas like the Baldpates in Maine, see how they fancy those climbs.

We passed heaps of day hikers and weekend backpackers, shortly catching up to all the people that had left the hostel before us. I teased the section hikers that had given me their extra food, accusing them of trying to weigh me down to slow me down. I did have way too much… but it was free and I knew I’d eat it all eventually. I was of course very grateful for their generosity and the weight wasn’t too noticeable. I actually found the trail to be pretty easy…maybe it was the knowing that we were doing less than 20 miles this day.

Past the parking lot, the day hikers ceased. A series of dull switchbacks through the dense spruce forest led to the top of the mostly forested Roan Mountain. We got to the shelter, the highest on the trail and our planned destination for the night. I found it disappointing, dark and and gloomy. I’d been thinking there was a view at the top but no. It did have a good spring, so we collected water and moved on. The next best thing to sleeping at the highest shelter on the AT is camping in a spruce forest at 6205′. At the site of an old hotel, we found some open grassy areas with a partial view of the sunset. Here was a gem of a campsite…in good weather, which we had. A few nights before and we would’ve been freezing our butts off.

As it was, the setting sun still brought a cold breeze. We settled into the nearby treeline of spruce…Mud needed them for his hammock and I prefer them for their protection. I dragged my quilt out into the grass to have my dinner and watch the changing colors. I beckoned Mud to join me and when I heard footsteps approaching, I assumed they were his. I looked up from studying something on my phone to find an animal staring me in the face only feet away. I let out a startled yelp then laughed. It was a hound dog we’d heard baying for some time, circling around us. He had his GPS collar on, turned loose to hunt some other unfortunate animals, likely bears or coons.

Like many hound dogs, he appeared thin and weary, with scars on his face. These dogs seem to live a hard life compared to your typical spoiled companion doodle. He shied away from my hand when I reached to pet him, indicating past abuse, but quickly warmed up to me. I couldn’t help feel pity for him, turning to my food bag to fish out my only stick of beef jerky. He scarfed it down so fast. So I spooned out some of my beef stew onto a rock, which no doubt he’d smelled to find me in the first place. Mud tried to feed him some of his beef jerky but he wouldn’t come near him, seemingly too afraid of strange guys. Poor old hound dog, I wish I could have helped him more. Eventually he ran off to go do his thing and I went to bed. It was a lot of excitement for one day.

How could I resist this face.

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