Viewpoints – My {Roan Mountain} View

I had always heard about the rhododendron and flaming azalea blooms on Roan Mountain, but I’d never taken the time to actually go see them.  Convincing my companion to take a day off work and go see them wasn’t too hard, but making sure we took the right day was.  The blooms only last for a week or two and you want to catch them at their peak if you can.  Diligent internet watching kept me abreast of others who had already made the trip and graciously reported whether they had been too early for peak.  When I thought the time was right, we set off for the 1 1/2 hour ride to the NC/TN border.

It was a beautiful, beautiful day.  We parked at Carver’s Gap and noted the trail across the road – the Appalachian Trail to be exact.  The Appalachian Trail crosses the grassy summits and is one of the most spectacular sections of the trial.  I can certainly see why now.  As we started onto the trail, I noticed some fog creeping in.  Ugh!  You would think I would know by now after living in these mountains the higher you go, the more fog there is.  Come to find out Roan Mountain ranges in elevation from 5,500 feet at Carver’s Gap to 6,286 feet at the top most bald.  Yep, in the clouds a lot.

There are 2 sections to explore Roan Mountain.  The section we chose was a 5 mile round-trip across 3 distinct balds – Round Bald, Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald.

The trail started innocently enough and we walked through a ‘forest’ of pink rhododendrons.

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-7Aperture: ƒ/5.6 | Focal length: 45mm | ISO: 400 | Shutter speed: 1/250s |

Then we hiked through a real forest.

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-1Aperture: ƒ/2.8 | Focal length: 24mm | ISO: 1600 | Shutter speed: 1/200s |

Once we exited the forest, we were treated with our first view of the awesome distant mountains.

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-10Aperture: ƒ/4.5 | Focal length: 24mm | ISO: 200 | Shutter speed: 1/250s |

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-5Aperture: ƒ/8 | Focal length: 24mm | ISO: 100 | Shutter speed: 1/30s |

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-4Aperture: ƒ/8 | Focal length: 35mm | ISO: 100 | Shutter speed: 1/125s |

Continuing up we reached Round Bald.

The flaming azaleas were everywhere and just beautiful!  I could have photographed these all day and wish I would have gotten more shots.

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-6Aperture: ƒ/5.6 | Focal length: 33mm | ISO: 400 | Shutter speed: 1/100s |

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-8Aperture: ƒ/4.5 | Focal length: 24mm | ISO: 200 | Shutter speed: 1/400s |

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-9Aperture: ƒ/4.5 | Focal length: 70mm | ISO: 200 | Shutter speed: 1/320s |

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-11Aperture: ƒ/4.5 | Focal length: 35mm | ISO: 200 | Shutter speed: 1/320s |

Eventually the companion wanted to keep moving.  We could see the fog rolling in up high, and we couldn’t tell if there was a storm mixed in there or not.  We didn’t want to get stuck out on the balds with a storm.  But we continued up to Jane Bald anyway.

It looked like the rhododendrons on this section had already peaked.  I was a little disappointed.

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-14Aperture: ƒ/4.5 | Focal length: 31mm | ISO: 250 | Shutter speed: 1/250s |

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-13Aperture: ƒ/4.5 | Focal length: 27mm | ISO: 500 | Shutter speed: 1/400s |

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-12Aperture: ƒ/4.5 | Focal length: 35mm | ISO: 250 | Shutter speed: 1/200s |

Others on the trail said there were lots more rhododendrons on the next bald, but we could already see that area was covered in fog – and the it was rolling down the mountain towards us.  There was no use continuing up to Grassy Ridge Bald because it was already covered in thick fog and it didn’t look like it was going to clear anytime soon.  So we turned around and headed back down the mountain.

The fog followed us all the way down and by the time we were almost to the parking lot you couldn’t even see back up the mountain anymore.  I felt a bit sorry for those who were just starting the hike up the mountain.  They weren’t going to be able to see anything through the fog.  Even though we didn’t make it to the very top, we timed the trip perfectly to see what we were able to see.

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-3Aperture: ƒ/2.8 | Focal length: 35mm | ISO: 1000 | Shutter speed: 1/200s |

Roberts-Kathy-Kathleen-Asheville-NC-Photographer-Roan-Mountain-TN-NC-2Aperture: ƒ/2.8 | Focal length: 70mm | ISO: 1000 | Shutter speed: 1/80s |

I can’t wait for next years blooms!  Now that I know what to expect, I’m counting the days!

Viewpoints is collective blog consisting of members who love landscape photography. This month is no exception to the beauty that surrounds us in this world. The very talented Northern California Photographer Nadeen Flynn is next in line. Follow the circle around to see her view this month.



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  • Nadeen - Oh, Kathy! These are breathtaking! What a gorgeous area. Someday, I WILL make it to your stunning NC hills.ReplyCancel

    • Kathleen Roberts - Thank you Nadeen! I sure hope so!!!ReplyCancel

  • Lori McLellan - These are beautiful Kathy – even in the fog!ReplyCancel

    • Kathleen Roberts - Thank you Lori! I love the fog (most times) too.ReplyCancel

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