Mile 1815.0 (TN): May 7, Near Mountaineer Falls to Ash Gap

I was hopeful to reach Roan High Knob Shelter tonight. It’s the highest shelter on the AT and reportedly has space for about fifteen inside. Given the elevation profile, it was a bit far but with an early start I had a good shot. 

Thankfully it was another cool clear day. Partway through the morning I passed 400 mile artwork some northbounders had put together. I like these markers because they are a countdown for my trip. 

On my way I would climb quite high and cross a series of grassy balds, or bare mountain tops. On the way up to the balds, the trail passed through a series of lush pastures. There were no cows to be seen down here today.

Then I passed a sign facing northbound hikers saying they were leaving North Carolina. I think the trail meanders back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina for a long way—maybe over the next 100 miles?

Sign for northbound hikers

As I climbed higher the trees disappeared and the grassy mountain top pastures started. I was happy for the weather. Often potential views are missed due to fog, rain, or clouds. Today I had the perfect combination of weather and clouds for an amazing show. 

As the afternoon progressed some heavier clouds appeared and darkened. We got some light rain, off and on, for the rest of the day. I didn’t mind the cooling off. There was no lightning and the weather made for some dramatic scenery as I walked. 

As the trail descended a bit into the trees there were a few more miles of flowering plants below the trees. 

Then the trail went back up to a couple of the final balds of the day. 

The rain clouds multiplied and, as I started the climb toward Roan High Knob, a light but steady rain came down. 

After all the elevation gain and the long miles I was tired and glad to be in the final approach. I reached the shelter. At 6,270 feet it is the highest on the trail. But, given the rain, the shelter was already pretty crowded. I stood there numbly for a minute. The bottom floor was full. Someone said there might still be room in the loft. Do I pack into the loft with all these wet hikers? Look for a place to set up around here? Or what?

The weather forecast called for lows in the high 40s—but in the valley below. It could be 10-15 degrees colder at this elevation. And, if windy, it would feel even colder. I opted to continue down the mountain a couple more miles to a tentsite ar Ash Gap at lower elevation which would be a little warmer and, hopefully, less crowded. 

It turns out there were only two of us at this enormous tentsite tonight. It was a nice place and quiet. I quickly set up camp and ate dinner before retiring to the hammock exhausted. 

And here are a few of the other interesting things I saw on my way today. 

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