Saturday, July 2, 2016

June 14, 2016 - Roan Mountain

The middle of June is when Roan Mountain puts on a spectacular show of Catawba rhododendron and flame azaleas blooms. In years past, we've only made day trips up there to see the show, but this year we decided to camp for a few days. Roan Mountain State Park was the first place Cindy checked for availability and it was just about full. She expanded her search and found a nice campground on Watauga Lake in Tennessee that caters more to tent campers - Cardens Bluff. Turns out it's only a 45 minute drive from Roan, plus there were waterfalls close by that I hadn't been to.

We got an early start and had the campsite set up by early afternoon. Today we decided to head up to Roan and check on the bloom situation. It was a nice sunny day and we knew from years past that the weather can change in an instant on Roan and that this could be the only clear day we would have. When we got to Carvers Gap, there was nowhere to park which we thought was a bit unusual for a week day. The blooms were gorgeous here, so we tried our luck at the nearby Rhododendron Gardens. Peak bloom was still a few days away here, but it was still beautiful.

There were a few other wildflowers blooming also, but the one that caught our attention was the columbine. It sure doesn't look like the native columbine Aquilegia canadensis so I thought that they were maybe escapees from a nearby garden.

Roan columbine
There's a trail in this area that goes out to a view from Roan High Bluff, so we headed there next. There aren't any rhododendron here, but there's an excellent 180° view. Here's part of the view.

view from Roan High Bluff

It was now about 2:30, so we drove back to Carvers Gap and found a spot to park. Right out of the car, the rhododendron were gorgeous. We only went as far as Engine Gap today, but what we saw was spectacular. Several people coming back from Grassy Ridge told us that it was the best they have seen in years. That would be our destination on Thursday, but for now, here's a bit of what we saw today.

view up the hill from Carvers Gap
artist painting Jane Bald and above
flame azaleas
looking towards Jane Bald
flames, rhodos, and a view

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