Its always great to have a single goal for a day. Roan Mountain and the highlands are some of the prettiest hiking in the southeast, so excitement was high.
Where a dense forest keeps your eyes close, the open sky keeps you gazing at the horizon.
We woke up at the base of the Stern Peak to enjoy a fat climb for breakfast. Individually the group climbed the attainable steepness of a recent reroute. About a third from the top the new trail work had run out leaving a straight, entrenched traverse.
I met Rock Kelly and Snugz at the shelter on top, one of the highest on the Appalachian trail. The damp day gave way to a dungeon feel for the shelter. We ate lunch and descended from the conifer covered peak. Just a few miles after Roan puts you into an amazing section of balds that scour the ridge. Where a dense forest keeps your eyes close, the open sky keeps you gazing at the horizon. The strong wind gusts really make you miss cover as well. With 25 mph gusts, the smallest rain drops really slap you in the face.
It rained on and off after the peak but no one cared. The open balds around Roan weren’t natural, but the perspective and view has been unparalleled so far.
Our group decided to sleep at the Over Mountain shelter that night. The shelter was built out of an old converted barn that could sleep at least 30. By the time we arrived around 6 pm the insides were mostly full. When you have an awesome shelter in a beautiful valley people flock to it. “The Lost Boys” seemed to have made a home there. These dozen guys and girls had been traveling together a few hundred miles and picked the name from Captain Hook. These folks weren’t a rival gang per se, but miles on the trail had pushed each click from the honeymoon phase of meeting and talking to everyone to a more insular and closed approach to socializing.
This far you loyal readers have heard so much about my personal bubble, but as of yet no name had been stuck (willing or unwilling) to our ragtag band, and was thus still up for debate. On Roan we democratically decided to henceforth introduce ourselves as the Thru Tang Clan (which beat out by a significant margin the second runner, the thru Klux Klan). All of a sudden alter egos emerged. Patch Face Kills and Old Dirty Snuggles were born with the clan. Our group got a little closer and we like to think our trail cred got a little more legit.
On Roan we democratically decided to henceforth introduce ourselves as the Thru Tang Clan (which beat out by a significant margin the second runner, the thru Klux Klan).
It started raining after dinner with no sign of stopping. Before bed Chewy asked to keep his backpack up under my DSM tarp rather then getting it wet under his Hennessey. I happily obliged taking it as a high compliment and a selfish slight to Hennessey.
The next morning started like every other town push. Ten miles of balds and high winds worked up a handsome appetite for Roan mountain’s famous barbeque.
…OK so it wasn’t famous but it was there.
The last milestone before getting into the town of Roan was saying goodbye to my beloved homeland, North Carolina. I stood and reflected on the amazing and difficult trail but really thought of my friends and family back home. I’ll have to do my best to make them proud.
Another town, another afternoon in my purple kitten shirt. The beauty of dressing the fool is the subtle social push of the line. Jack Attack and Chewy decided Roan, Tennessee was their mark for the southern bell challenge. For full completion a hiker would have to find a dress, put it on and hitch hike out of town. They picked up dresses for 2 dollars each at a local GoodWill and slapped them on. I had serious doubts for a progressive rural Tennessean happy to scoop two bearded ladies.
We all watched in amazement as the two worst looking women in Roan got a ride.
Not 5 minutes went by before a kind gentlemen with most of his teeth was all too happy to pick them up. He was quite friendly and was delighted to give the guys a ride. We all watched in amazement as the two worst looking women in Roan got a ride.
All fat bellied and tired, we hiked the shortest possible distance to a campsite with water. It felt great to have a town stop and get back in the woods. It’s too easy to grab a place to stay in town every few days and blow your budget. We found a great site a few miles out next to a Christmas tree farm. It would be cliche to say it felt like Christmas with the new year, a new state, just around the bend.