Backpacking: Roan Mountain

August 2, 2016

My birthday and Father’s Day collided this year. For the first time since Lily was born, I didn’t get to spend my birthday with my kids. That sucked. I let myself feel the unhappiness for five minutes, and then I packed up my REI Traverse 65 * and headed for the mountains.

It was glorious.

Roan Mountain is at the corner of North Carolina and Tennessee. The elevation is high enough that even in summer the nights are cool and the days aren’t too hot. In mid-June, it is covered in rhododendrons and flame azaleas. This was hands down the prettiest trail I’ve ever hiked.


Rhododendrons at Roan Mountain


Flame azaleas

Flame azaleas


We parked at Carver’s Gap and then hiked four miles (past Jane’s Bald) to our camping spot. It rained on our hike in. It wasn’t supposed to, but it’s the mountains, so of course it did. There was a moment, back at home, where I had a choice: Do I pack the rainpants or not? I chose poorly. (I did, however, bring my rain shell. It would never occur to me to leave that behind.) It was still raining when we pitched our tents, and I knew there was no hope of my clothes drying before dawn. Sure enough, they were still wet when I woke up.

That’s when JP said, “When I was in Patagonia…” I immediately started to tune him out, but then he added, “The guide told us it only takes ten minutes of wearing your wet clothes for them to dry, unless you have cotton. And he was right.”

I put on my wet pants. Really, other than wearing my base layer, I didn’t have a choice. Ten minutes of hiking later, they were dry. Moral: Sometimes a humble brag isn’t about bragging at all, and is actually worth listening to.

We did a 14-mile out-and-back to Little Hump and Big Hump. Most of the trail is wooded with brief moments of spectacular views, and then it comes out to the grassy balds. The exposure is intense, so sunblock is a must. We stopped at Little Hump for lunch, and I fell asleep on the rock there. I randomly forgot to reapply sunblock to my right hand, and woke up with a wicked sunburn. Welp. At least it wasn’t my face.

(Also, still worth it. As a single mom, or hell, an actual adult, I never nap. It. Was. Awesome.)

Taking in the view at Little Hump, elevation 5459'. Thirty minutes later I was burned.

Taking in the view at Little Hump, elevation 5459′. Thirty minutes later I was burned.

Back at camp, we shared jambalaya and wine. Best meal ever, but no pictures, because I snarfed it down too fast. No regrets.

And we shared the sunset. Holy shit, this place.

IMG_2054 IMG_2083


  • Driving hours: 14 (7 each way)
  • Miles hiked: 22
  • Peaks summited: Roan, Jane’s Bald, Big Hump, Little Hump
  • Views: Excellent


*Not an affiliate link. I don’t do affiliate links, because 1) No one other than friends reads my blog, so why bother, and 2) I don’t know how.






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