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…
We camped at Cheoah Point CG, but don’t recommend it, because there’s no hiking from the campground. We drove Happy to hike at the gorgeous Joyce Kilmer Forest. If you just plan on doing day hikes in the area and/or on the AT, I recommend camping in the National Forest sites just outside Joyce Kilmer on the beautiful river or in the Horse Cove Campground right there too. We left JKF and stopped at lovely historic, Tapoco Lodge on the Cheoah River, which a friend had recommended was worth a visit. We did another hike on their Bear Creek Falls Loop, followed by drinks at the tavern on the river. Tapoco is a nice place to stay at the lodge or cabins, to take a hike (lots of trails and connectors to NF trails), or to just have food and drinks, after a long hike or multiple hikes, in our case. We drove Happy on the Moonshiner 28 route along the Little Tennessee River, just below the Tail of the Dragon. We passed the Cheoah Dam, which was where they filmed the scene from The Fugitive when Harrison Ford jumped off the dam. That was some jump! From there, we went to visit Fontana Dam. The AT crosses over the top of the dam, into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park on the other side. Fonatana is the largest dam East of the Rockies. It was impressive! We had already done two hikes that day, plus, dogs aren’t allowed on trails in the GSMNP, so we did not hike much, except around the dam. Great area for a weekend of hiking!
The first weekend in August, Happy took us to TN to Roan Mountain State Park. WOW! So glad, we finally made it to Roan. It is one of my new faves. The campground is in a lush hardwood forest with the Doe River running through it. There are numerous trails from the campground, which is always a bonus. The park had live music at the campground amphitheater, both Friday and Saturday night. Both acts were really good, particularly Saturday night’s act, Marshall Bellew, of WNCW’s Frank on Friday. He rocked!
On Saturday morning, we decided to hike to the Miller Farmstead in the park. Little did we know, the road in was straight up a mountain with no switchbacks…It was one of the toughest hikes we’ve ever done. We hiked back on the Chesnut Ridge Trail, thinking it had to be easier, but it wasn’t really. The ridge went up and down and back up several mountains…It ended up being a 12 mile butt-kicker kind of day. All that said, the trip to the Miller Farmstead was well worth it. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. The farm was settled in 1870 and the house was built around 1908. The farmhouse and outbuildings are an example of the Appalachian lifestyle of subsistence farming in secluded mountains from the early to mid-twentieth century with minimal alterations. The Millers never had a road into their property nor a motorized vehicle. The family lived there until 1962. Did I mention, we brought our lunch and picnicked, while two old bluegrass musicians played all the old timey standards?!! I want to live there!
So, you know how I said, the hike was extremely difficult? Well, think about the length of Nigel’s little legs and imagine how strenuous the hike had to be on him. Then imagine if you can, how said puppy, had the energy to bolt from the RV as soon as we got back from the hike…I started yelling to the neighbors all around us for someone to grab him, because he would go to them, but run from me. Fortunately, Nigel ran to the campsite next to us between their truck and trailer and their grandson was waiting at the other end and scooped him up. Whew! I didn’t have anything left at that point to go chase him. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to.
On Sunday, we packed up and headed to the AT at Carvers Gap on the NC/TN line. It was a short hike through a mossy, fir-filled forest to the first bald, Round Bald, and the beautiful Roan Mountain views. Truly, breathtaking panoramic views. We have now hiked on the AT in TN, GA, and NC. We are working on hiking a section of the trail in every state it passes through. After the short hike, we drove up to the famed Rhododendron Gardens, which was quite a let down. I imagine in June when the Catawba Rhododendrons are blooming, it’s nice…I guess we’re spoiled living in Sapphire, because our yard, neighborhood, and surrounding area are far more dense and plentiful than the sorry paved trail through the famous gardens.
We’ll definitely be returning to Roan Mountain. It is a gorgeous park with fabulous hiking. Want to do more of the AT there next time, but was too sore after Saturday’s 12-miler to do much Sunday. Can’t wait to go back!
We camped at the fabulous Roan Mtn SP for the weekend, which I highly recommend. Love it! So much great hiking from the campground, plus the AT nearby.
On Sunday, we drove happy up Roan Mtn, parked the van, and caught the AT at Carvers Gap on the NC/TN line. It was a short hike through a mossy, fir-filled forest to the first bald, Round Bald, and the beautiful Roan Mountain views. Truly, breathtaking panoramic views. Want to do more of the AT there next time, but we were too sore after Saturday’s 12-miler, to do much on Sunday. Can’t wait to go back!
We have now hiked on the AT in TN, GA, and NC. We are working on hiking a section of the trail in every state it passes through. Have a long way to go!
We camped for the weekend at one of our faves, Standing Indian CG in Nantahala NF, near Franklin, NC. On Sunday, we packed up, but before heading home, we wanted to do a small AT hike. We couldn’t be right there and not hike on the AT. We parked Happy at the Rock Gap trailhead parking lot, just outside the campground. We jumped on the AT, southbound. After Saturday’s 10-miler, we only did a two hr hike, an hour in and an hour out. It was great being a part of the AT culture, if only for a couple of hours.
At the trailhead, we met a full-timer, 7, who “lives” on the AT. He was waiting for some thru-hikers to give them a ride to the hostel in Franklin. 7 was fascinating and full of stories. Check out his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwjpBT4fyuBBCznQDy_QYsw). On the trail, we passed the Rock Gap Shelter, which had lots of hikers camping there, just beginning there day. We hiked a bit then met thru-hikers from Denmark, Germany, and Washington resting at the overlook. Loved hearing their experiences from the trail and about being in this country for the first time. Fabulous views at the overlook too!
When we were coming off the trail, “Trail Angels” were there with a table set up, feeding a bunch of thru-hikers lunch. Perfect day on the AT!
Go West Travel Journal, Day #1 10/12/17, WNC
Last October, Wiley, the puppies, and I took our biggest adventure yet. We drove our “Happy Camper” from our home in the WNC mountains to the Grand Canyon on an almost 3wk trip. I haven’t shared the experience previously, because I had planned on writing it as a blog post on our website, that just came to be. The website was on the back burner, because my live-in tech support husband was busy on his own work projects and had not gotten to building our website. Now, that we’re live, I can finally share the journey. I’ll post it one day at a time, so you can get a sense of what it was like for us, as we traveled. Hope you enjoy the ride and that it inspires your own cross country road trip. Here we go!
We were set to leave on Saturday, 10/14, to drive as far as the Nashville area, from our home base in Sapphire, NC. After work on Thursday, being all packed up days in advance, and busting with excitement, we decided to leave a couple of days early. Got a last minute campsite at one of our nearby faves, Standing Indian CG, which we took as a sign. We were off!
Standing Indian is a dream of a campground, hidden deep in the Nantahala National Forest. It’s “surrounded by 5,000′ peaks and crossed by several natural streams. It sits at an elevation of 3,880 feet at the headwaters of the scenic Nantahala River, amidst lush forests of evergreen trees and rhododendrons”. There is tons of phenomenal hiking from the campground and the AT Rock Gap trailhead is just outside the campground, as well.
We hiked upon arrival along the river and streams in the campground, before turning in. Got up bright and early and hiked one of our favorite trails, the Kimsey Creek Trail, before heading out towards Blue Ridge, GA to boondock at a friend’s mountain place. So long NC, thanks for the fabulous send off!