When Carole and I realized that the mountains were getting hit with a major snowstorm (high elevations only) we decided to head up that way since we both had Sunday off. We got up very early, went and had breakfast at a Waffle House, and then hit the road for the big mountains.
You can say what you like about the mountains of the South. We don't have a lot of what amount to impressive vertical scenery here, but there is some of it that stacks up favorably with the big sky country of the west. The higher ridges of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia are genuinely impressive. There is enough elevation, in fact, to create disparate climatic zones between the bases of these mountains and the summits. We do have some honest-to-gosh mountains here.
One of the easiest to access monster peaks for us are the Grandfather Mountain/Roan Mountain systems. Both of these mountains qualify as genuine massif. They stand apart from the ridges around them, and they dominate the skyline for quite some distance. Winter weather hits these ridges with some fierce conditions, and we were hoping for the best as we headed toward them.
When we passed Grandather/Tanawha, we were rewarded with a view of a mountain socked in with heavy snow and rime ice. We weren't headed for the top of that one, but we realized in short order that we would be seeing some decent snowfall when we got to the Roan highlands. How much snow, we weren't sure.
Passing across the NC/TN border, we headed for Roan Mountain State Park. We noticed a couple of herds of whitetail deer, but when we stopped to take their photo they got spooked and headed off at some speed. I reckon they're still skittish from hunting season. From there, we headed up the incline of 19E for Carver's Gap where we would stop and have lunch and then hop out to take photos and do some hiking.
We were stunned by the beauty of Winter's harsh gift when we pulled in to the parking area at Carver's Gap. All of the trees were coated in snow and rime ice. The place was ablaze in ivory. The sky was cobalt blue, the temperature in the mid-teens, the wind racing around us, the sun glaring down. There were other people in the Gap also. Some were just there to snap some photos, but others were there with kids to go sledding, to hike, to backpack, and to cross-country ski. It was a grad day for all of this.
After our packed lunch, we got out and played in the snow. It was far deeper than I would have guess. When we ventured into the forest to hike we encountered thigh-deep snow with drifts five to six feet in height! Carole and I took pictures and then it was time for me to hike to the summit of Round Bald where I hoped to take in the views from more than 5,800 feet.
|Tanawha, also known as Grandfather Mountain.|
|The Grandfather massif.|
|Rime ice and sunshine.|
On the summit. Raging wind and tremendous cold.
|On the summit. COLD!!! COLD, I SAY!|
|Icy panorama on the Appalachian Trail.|
|When we hit the forest, we found DEEP snow!|
|Beauty everywhere we looked.|
|Waves of mountains.|
|Spruce transformed into sculptures of rime ice.|
Hiking down from Round Bald.