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Roan Mountain, TN (smiles, blooms, and a tarp)

I fell in love with this place last year and chose the opportunity of visiting with Gonzan and his entourage to return in 2012. 

It's been fun hooking up with fellow backpacking enthusiasts this last year or so. I had missed a shot with Tipi Walter the week prior and didn’t want to miss this one too.

I had two nights to use this time and finagled my way to getting off work at 3:00PM last Friday so I could offset the 3 hour drive.






 I was starting from Carvers Gap so as to meet Gonzan and Co on Grassy Ridge (a high elevation spur ridge/trail off of the Appalachian Trail.








 The first climb was up to Round Bald.









 Looking good Catawba!









 Well to my surprise I ran in to Gonzan and part of his party while ascending towards Grassy Ridge! I’ll let him tell his tale if he chooses but at that moment he had been awake for 30 something hours. I fell in with them as we ambled on up towards 6000 feet.

I was running my mouth on our way up the mountain and embarrassingly didn’t see the turn up Grassy Ridge. There used to be a sign but it wasn’t there this time. As it happened we made the correct turn off the AT anyway, (shaking head and smiling).



One of the tasks for the day was to find the water source on top of the ridge. I had been told about it last year (after the fact) and also found a blurb on a geo-cache website about it but didn’t know for sure where it was.









 I had found it! It was a good source but I didn’t like that rusty piece of metal.



After cooking dinner I sat around to visit with the crew while they settled in.











Well, the somewhat recent Trailspace thread about tarps really piqued my curiosity; I decided to bring a tarp and a 2mil plastic ground sheet as my only shelter this time.

This would be my first night tarp-only (always used a tent) as an adult backpacker up on the mountain. I went away from the group and found a little clearing in the middle of the blooming rhododendron to pitch my tarp.

Gear Note: The tarp is an Equinox Egret nylon (urethane coated) 6x8 basic rectangle tarp. It weighs 1 pound 2 ounces according to the manufacture’s website. I bought it on sale for $28 last spring to supplement my UL tent in wet weather.










 Here was Gs little brother waiting on the adults to get set. He was a quite a pleasant young fellow.










 This was the beginning of the sun setting as seen from the Grassy Ridge saddle camp where Gonzans crew setup (at about 6000 feet).










 They were running late and still cooking in the dark. It was prime camp entertainment to watch Gonzan perform and direct dinner tasks by headlamp. Good stuff man! I really enjoyed meeting his Dad and brothers. Great folks all….










 So this is interesting: One of the things I’ve read concerning tarps is their good ability to handle condensation. I had pitched this tarp about 8:30 PM (did not spread out the ground sheet at that time). I returned sometime after 10PM and it was completely soaked with condensation. Can see you the color change swaths where I involuntarily wiped it down with my head?









 Here is another view to show how high I had pitched off the ground.

Editorial Note: the head end pole (farthest from the camera) was set at 125 cm and the foot at 120 cm.











 OK, OK I’ll stop now. But look at the water beading up the next morning! Fascinating…










 I had to grab a quick photo of the creative bear bagging performed the night before by Gonzan ( I assume) as I hiked by their camp before heading out for the day. Cool.

I sat and made breakfast on the rocks near their camp to see if anyone would stir (hoping to say goodbye). Eventually older brother came out and we talked for a few minutes before I shoved off.










 This was the view looking back at Little Hump and Roan from Hump Mountain that I summated about 10:30 that morning. I lost 2100 feet and gained 1600 on the down and up route from Grassy Ridge to Hump over about 9 miles (from where I camped). A great route all in all.










 I decided to backtrack on the AT and explore some side trails on my way to the Yellow Mountain Overlook. This photo was near Bradley Gap.










 I explored this faint unmarked side trail in the Bradley Gap camps area. It led to the lower prominence of Little Hump.










 Somewhere off trail….










 I cut across this field near Little Hump and bush wacked a ways to get to the Yellow Mountain overlook trail (not an official trail---that’s just what I call it).










 On the way out the YMOT I was eyeing all semi-flat spots as potential campsites. This one had my attention.













 I had made it to the main overlook area about 12.5 miles into the day. I hung out for a while to rest and absorb some of the awesome views from this little known place. AT Thru-hikers won’t go this far off route (unless food is involved) and I suspect not many know about it.










 I had considered camping out on the bald but the forecast called for rain so I decided to go find some woods for my second night under the tarp. This was my “storm pitch” with the foot end all the way to the ground. I actually had pitched the whole thing that way but it was just too short for comfort and I had to raise the head end. I chose that location because the ground was really soft there and seemed like it would drain well (trying to avoid pooling water).










 Just a few steps from my camp spot was this fine overlook.









 Here I was enjoying a special health food snack made by my friend KayB. It’s cocoa, dates, walnuts and water. No sugar. KayB didn’t like it but I thought it was excellent! I like bitter. Thanks Kay!












 I spent the afternoon exploring the ridge. I day hiked out to the main overlook three or four times which was about a quarter mile away from camp and another half to the end of the main bald prominence.








 Dinner time: three bean salad with spring mix on whole wheat flat bread. I really like food to be simple most times. Paper plates dispense pretty well from a pack.










 Wow that peak is Grassy Ridge where I camped the night before with Gonzan. It looks like that storm cloud is making itself known over there..










These red mites were all over the rocks at my private overlook.










 Here was the YMO trail on my way out the next morning. It didn’t rain on me that night at all. And somewhat surprisingly there was ZERO condensation on my tarp (even with the lower pitch). The vegetation is a factor maybe?










 Check out those tents on the hillside above the Overmoutnain Shelter. Nice.



I stayed on the AT until I thought I was paralleling Grassy Ridge and decided to try and bush whack off-trail to the top just for fun. AS it turned it was only partially fun. By the time the briars became nearly impassable I was too invested and had to keep going! Lol










 Eventually I came up between the Rhodo pictured here (turned around for this pic).










 Cool pic of this Mountain Hardware tent. I bet he had a loud night in the wind.












 I went back out Grassy’ for another look and lunch before it was time to go home.











I’ll end on this photo of some wild azalea I encountered on my way back to Carvers Gap. Ah…… what a great trip with great company!


 Hope you enjoyed,


I always enjoy your reports. Thanks.

Pat, you took some really excellent photos on this trip! I haven't had the time to go through mine yet (I took an absurd number of pics and video)

It was really great seeing you up there, even if our time hanging out was very brief. I would like to have explored and hung out more, but the limitation and challenges of it being my Dad and brother's first trip kept me scrambling to get everything done.


This is a fine fotog.  I've only been to Roan once and it was back in 1990 so I need to get my headgear squared away and my maps and pull a decent trip myself. 

Question---is there a good website or forum devoted to Roan?  Is there a decent place I could leave a car for three weeks??  I don't consider Carvers Gap a good place for long-term parking.

Anyway, thanks for the great pictures!

Thanks 1border4manu! I appreciate the kindness.


The feeling is mutual. It was great to trek with you again, however briefly. Yeah, I could tell you were in “guide-mode” with your crew. I have much respect for that; I’m often too selfish to bring first timers and don’t want to limit my days. I would love to know where you guys went after I left and how Js dad fared with the rest of the trip. I hope I can do half as well when I’m 76!


Thanks much!

I’ve only used Carvers and the Harbor Mountain Bed and Breakfast for parking. Harbor Mountain charges $2 per day I think, so that would be pricey for one of your trips (but I bet they would give you a deal for that many days and possibly a shuttle: they are really nice folks).

Roan Mountain State Park might have some information. I also have a number for a local farmer that may be willing to let you park at her apple farm on the cheap. She shuttles hikers for extra money. I can give you her phone number if you want.

Another thought: I haven’t seen it yet but there is a little known trail head for the Overmountain Victory Trail that is 2 mile access hike to the area.

If you did wind up parking at a public access place I would tell the local law enforcement. Last year I was going to park on 19E and notified the Carter County Sheriff (1-423-772-4813). An investigator named Chad Grindstaff offered to send a cruiser by my car to check it out daily; really nice fellow. I wound up not parking there but how cool was that?

As far as a web site for the area I don’t know of a comprehensive one. Most of the stuff I learned was from meeting locals on the trail last year. I’ve yet to buy a map for the area but intend to.

I will definitely post a full report as soon as I can, I am excited to share the amazing sights! 

I am glad you posted that number for the Carter Sheriff's office, as I need to report two "gentlemen" who were poaching the highly protected and endangered Gray's Lily from the top of Little Hump Mountain. I just spoke with the  Appalachian/Toecane Ranger's office,  and want to report the poachers to as many pertinent authorities as possible.

They were actively digging up a specimen in full bloom when I passed them. I had stopped for a moment on the west side of the peak to take some photos of the vista, so I was straggling behind my group who had continued on over the bald and into the trees on the other side.  As I hurried to catch up to my party, I noticed  two oddly paired men: one was probably in his fifties, a little heavy, had mostly shaven and trimmed hair, and wore jeans & tshirt. The other was younger, maybe late twenties, tall, skinny, wore baggy checkered shorts, and had long dreadlocks with feathers.  The older man was digging, but stopped as I approached and acted like he was just  enjoying the breeze...kneeling on the ground...holding a shovel. The younger man acted visibly startled and was very shifty. I called out a cheery "Good afternoon!," to which the younger guy replied "Oh, uh...hi." before turning his body, apparently trying to block my view of the shovel and blooming lily.  I continued on at the same pace, watching them out of the corner of my eye. They both just acted nervous and like they weren't doing anything in particular until I passed into the low beeches, at which point they resumed digging. As quietly as I could I took several shots of them through small gaps in the leaves. Hopefully the photos are clear enough to get them arrested. 

Tipi, by far the best resource I was able to find for planning my trip was here on Trailspace. the Trip reports an input from other members was fantastic. My brother has an AT trail guide that he said had some good info as well. 

Here is my trip planning thread, as well as reports from Patman, Ocala, and Ashleigh.

Looks like a very nice area.  Great photos.  I've tarp camped as well, but, I still prefer the tent.

Thanks Gonzan for the links.

Great pictures of our beautiful mountains!  Glad you enjoyed the sweets!

Welcome to Trialspace, KayB! 

Patman let me try some of his snack, tt was quite good! 

Patman, great report very nice area and looks like you had great weather. 

About Condensation, or as I like to call it water collection resources. 

I think that the water that accumulates on the inside and outside of tarps or open tents, has more to do with humidity and air current then anything else.  I have camped several places with my Go-Light tent (Shandra la 3) where one night I got lots of moisture and the next none.  My tent is open all around the bottom so it more like a tarp then a tent.  Last time I went out to the coast with my kid (late April) the first night was like your first night, a little colder and the inside of the tent was wet before we even got in it.  The next night it was just a little warmer and no wetness at all. 

I know there have been many discussions on condensation, but I think, at least with tarps and open shelters, it has much more to do with the environment then the shelter. 

Other then that, how did you like the tarp setup? 


Hey thanks Rob, Kay and Wolf!


 Wolfman, well I really liked the openness of the tarp but I had ideal weather on that trip. I also liked the simplicity of it. I think I should use it a few more times in some different weather conditions to really get the experience of it before I fully form an opinion.

I was surprised by the condensation with such an open structure; I suppose I figured there would be enough air flow underneath to prevent it.


Great job! I love Roan Highlands so much. I have to go back when all of the flowers are blooming. Your pictures are amazing!

PS, I am sorry to hear about your pack (and its contents)! Great story though!

I have only been to the Roan Mountain are once and that was yrs ago. We need to get back up there. I know the gf would love the rhododendron when blooming

August 14, 2020
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