Backpacking in the Roan Highlands, Part I


Hey everybody! Happy Wednesday :) Today's post is part 1 of our backpacking trip from this past weekend. If you missed it, my last post had directions to an amazing waterfall that you need to check out if you're ever in the Roan Mountain area- read it here. The Roan Highlands are something else. Earlier this summer Michael and I checked out the Grayson Highlands which were stinkin' amazing but I have to admit the Roan Highlands, in my opinion, are so much more beautiful.
We arranged for Mountain Harbor Hostel to shuttle us to Carvers Gap where we would begin our hike back to the hostel. The whole way to the drop-off I was trembling with excitement and forcing myself to eat some food. My eyes were trained out the window the whole time trying to catch a glimpse of the Appalachians out to the west as we climbed higher and higher up the side of the mountain. In 30 short minutes we were scrambling out of the truck into air that was about 10 degrees cooler than in the valley below and strapping on our packs to begin our adventure! With our packs strapped on and skin covered with goosebumps we started off hiking through a forest that I swear was taken right from the Pacific Northwest and planted down on the TN/NC border. It was full of lush pines of all shapes and sizes, ferns covering the floor, little fungi growing out of all types of dead logs and trees, and moss covered all the rocks and tree trunks. The air was cool and moist- it was not what I was expecting right off the bat! We then hiked out of the forest onto a grassy bald and immediately had vast views of the surrounding mountains. To the west was Tennessee and out to the east was North Carolina. The clouds were low enough that they were grazing the tops of the mountains and blowing through the gaps around us. It was truly magical. On top of the amazing views, cool temperatures, low clouds, crisp breeze and everything else there were thousands of wild blueberries that were RIPE! As we hiked along I plucked juicy berries right off the bushes and popped them in my mouth. They were so good! Seriously getting goosebumps recalling all the little details of this place- I might be in love! After hiking the grassy balds we went back into the forest where the trail was narrow and we had to almost bushwhack through hundreds upon hundreds of wild flowers. Little natural springs ran from rocks beside the trail and bees buzzed all around us.

We hiked 5.8 miles our first afternoon to the Overmountain Shelter where we pitched the tent on a soft patch of grass and watched the valley become blanketed by a soft golden light. At the far end of the clearing there's a big red barn that backpackers frequent. A bunch of guys had set up their tents and hammocks in and around the barn. There is a natural spring about .15 miles from the site where we were able to fill our Camelbaks with fresh, filtered mountain water. As we made our dinner (Mountain House Mac and Cheese for the win- our favorite) and drank some whiskey (a tradition when Dee and I backpack together), we chatted and watched the fog blow in and briefly take on the pink and purple hues of the sunset before the light was gone. At one point I was laying on my back watching the clouds blow right overhead. I swear I felt like I could reach my hand up and have it be covered in cool mist because the clouds were so close to us. We had to put on our jackets and leggings soon after pitching the tent because the temperatures dropped steadily with the sun. The view from the tent door was unreal and all night long I would wake up and peak my head out to see fog or a bright sky full of stars and meteors! The first night we were there was the peak of the meteor shower which was so lucky.

Stay tuned for next post where I'll tell about our second day and give details about our trip/how you can do it too!