Monday was easily one of my favorite hikes.
With a day off from classes and nothing to do, it was the best chance I’ll get for a while to do a longer hike that’s over two hours away. Got up, got ready, and started driving towards Johnson City, then down through Elizabethton and Roan Mountain State Park (stopping at the visitor center to buy some great maps of the AT through TN & NC), and then parked on the state line up at snowy Carvers Gap (elev 5512 ft). The trail plan was twofold: first, hike west along the AT up to Roan High Knob (the highest peak on Roan Mountain) and return to Carvers Gap, from where I would then hike east out to Grassy Ridge and back. That’s a littles less than a 10 mile hike when you add it all up, but when I set out it looked like I might not even make it up to Roan High Knob.
The roads were clear of snow, but the ground and the forest were definitely not. A good foot covered the ground almost everywhere, two feet in many places. Luckily for snowshoeless me, it wasn’t fresh snow, so it had been packed down and frozen over, making it a little easier to walk on top of. But just a little. Looking back now, I don’t think I was on the AT for the first couple tenths of a mile, but it’s not like I could see the footpath in the first place. I just followed the tracks of hikers before me, and the guy I followed apparently trudged off into the woods cutting his own trail til he rediscovered the AT. His footprints were about my size, but he’d cut through fresh snow, so I had to mimic his footfalls by stepping directly into the foot deep holes he’d made. This was not very efficient hiking.