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Roan Mountain State Park & Carvers Gap 11/2-4/18

We had been wanting to return to Roan Mountain State Park since our last visit in August of 2017, but were unable to reserve a spot all spring or summer. November was later than we would typically go mountain camping, but it’s Roan Mountain and when you can get a spot there, you go. So, we went. We had a hard time getting out of town due to systems issues, Wiley was having to manage for work. We left Sapphire just in time to catch a take your breath away Maxfield Parrish sunset over the Ingles in Brevard. While Wiley worked in Happy, I went in the grocery to get our weekend’s provisions. Stocked up, we hit the road again, making it as far as the TN line before we had to stop again for Wiley to put out some more fires at work. We went ahead and ate dinner while stopped at the TN Welcome Center near Erwin, TN. We did not arrive at Roan until 9:30 Friday night, which is unusual for us. We typically arrive for a weekend of camping in time to at least do a short hike, but with daylight savings and work crises, that was not the case. Wiley was none too happy, plus, to add insult to injury, the scenic more wooded and private campground loops, where we had camped last time, were closed for the season, so we were, basically, in a field type parking lot campground loop, which is not at all the type of camping we are used to and it was cold to boot. Wiley wanted to know, why I had brought him there at that time of year, and said to make note to not do it again…

Saturday morning, it was in the 30’s. We bundled up and hiked from the campground just across the river to hop on the moderate to difficult 2.35 Fred Behrend Trail. The fall foliage was bright and beautiful as we hiked along the Doe River then up the mountain to the ridge. We shed layers pretty quickly as we hiked up and up. I had been worried that all the leaves would have already fallen, but we were treated to some great vibrant color all along the way. I was thrilled! Got some great pics. After our hike, we went back to the van and ate some lunch. We chilled for a while after that then went for another short late afternoon hike before the sun went down. We just hiked from our campsite to a bit of the Fred Behrends Trail, to the easy 0.5mi River Trail, to the Wetlands Trail, by the ampitheatre, and back through the campground. We ate dinner in Happy and turned in.

Sunday morning, we got up and packed to make our way to the Miller Farmstead. Near the cabins, we spotted a herd of deer in the meadow, so of course, we had to pull in. We got up close then rolled down the windows for the puppies. This is their favorite way to start the day, indeed! They were twitching and fixed on the numerous deer. Wiley had to keep a hand on each of them to avert disaster. So glad we drove the van, knowing better after our killer 8mi hike to the farmstead and back, we’d done the previous year. It was really cool to return to the farm to see how different it looked draped in fall, rather than summer, like our last visit. We descended through the grain covered hill to the farm, where they had set up some fall decorations. Nigel and Pippa promptly began hunting in the haystack in front of the barn. We almost lost them in the hay, but it was big fun for them! After we walked around the farm, we headed across the road to the Chestnut Ridge overlook. We took in the long range views of the Highlands of Roan, that were both icy atop and still colored in fall below. It was neat to see the mountain range covered by two seasons at once. After the farmstead, we drove over to the Grist Mill Visitor Center. The bright yellows and oranges of the trees along the river, by the water wheel, and around the mill were just gorgeous. We did a quick tour of the park museum in the mill then set out to do the two short trails from behind the visitor center. First we did the 0.35mi Peg Leg Mine Trail, which took us through the fall painted forest to a former iron ore mine. We then hiked the lovely 0.5mi Cloudland Trail through the forest and along the river. It was a nice little morning hike to get the day started.

We left the Grist Mill and climbed up the mountain in Happy through what was left of fall and up into the icy Roan Highlands to Carvers Gap. We had heard there was snow up there the day before and were thrilled, like little children, that it was still there. On the drive up, there had been a huge drop in temp down into the 30’s. Upon arrival, we bundled up in downs, hats, gloves, and puppy sweaters. Nigel and Pippa were surprised to see and feel the snow when we jumped out of the van. They were so cute and curious in the snow. We hopped on the AT from the parking area, climbing moderately 3/4 mi. up towards Round Bald, which sits at 5,826′. We hiked through the alpine forest, covered in a thin white blanket. It was just dreamy through there. Children were climbing all over the hillside through the trees, throwing snowballs, and squealing in delight. It was such a joyful sight. Once we emerged from the forest, the wind was so strong and gusting, that it almost blew me over. I was having to really dig in and lean hard to keep my footing. It was crazy. From atop Round Bald there are 360 degree simply breathtaking views. On a clear day, you can see north into the Virginia highlands, west to the Clinch Mountains and plains of Tennessee, east to Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains, Grandfather Mountain, Sugar Mountain and beyond. South lies 6285’ Roan High Knob. I shot some video and took pics, but it was hard to hold the phone up or steady to shoot. I felt like Jim Cantore in a hurricane. So glad we had made the trip up and did not pass on this stop before hitting the road for home. Loved experiencing the state park and Carvers Gap, once more and in a different season. Thank you, Roan. We’ll be back!