As we drove up the steep road to Carvers Gap my windshield wipers couldn’t move fast enough to clear the rain pouring. We parked the cars and were off on the trail by 7:15am. The rain kept coming, and then it rained in intervals for the next 8 miles. We were off to highway 19E where we were meeting a group of 30 hikers from Charlotte. From Carvers Gap to 19E is 13 miles and round trip would be the first annual Roan Mountain Marathon!
This hike is planned around the Rhododendron blooming season. Although they bloomed early this year, the pink shrub was out and about. The view from Round Bald to Janes Bald was especially pink as the Rhododendron had bloomed all along the mountain. The word Rhododendron is derived from the Greek words: rhodos, "rose", and dendron, "tree.” This is an alpine shrub and usually survives in higher elevations.
The trail was muddy and slick. Some sections of the single track was very technical. While raining and going downhill it became a little dangerous to run. I made it to 19E in 2:51 minutes and met with our group of hikers that were planning on hiking back up to Carvers Gap. I had a bottle of Ensure and Gatorade Rain stashed at 19E. After refueling I headed back up with the group the same trail I just ran down, this time mostly uphill. We hiked up to Hump Mountain and saw the largest long horn cattle I have ever seen. They must have weighed atleast 3,000 lbs each. There were a dozen of them casually chewing grass and just lying around. At this point I decided to get moving again and went for a slow pace run and passed the group.
I didn’t realize how steep some of the sections of this trail were coming down until I headed right back up. Going up to the Grassy Ridge Bald (6,189 feet) which ended up being the highest point of this run/hike was so steep I was forced to a sluggish hiking pace. This section of the trail is a little over a mile and climbs 1800 feet. The view from the top of Grassy Ridge is worth the effort. The sun broke out and the clouds cleared. I slowed my pace here to enjoy the amazing views. Finally I reached Carvers Gap my original starting point, cleaned up a bit and drove home.
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