June Road Trip-Part 2

We’ve been to Roan Mountain twice, but always in the fall. Roan is known for the beautiful rhododendrons that bloom in June, so we’ve always wanted to go back in June to see them. So, we decided to make it happen. Monday morning we packed up and hit the road for the second part of our adventure. We headed to Watauga Dam Campground in Elizabethton, TN. This campground was one of the most beautiful ones we’ve ever been at. It was really small, only 27 sites, and our site was right on the river (as were most of the sites). The weather was cool and nice. It is a quiet campground. After we got unpacked and relaxed a bit, we decided to look around and get used to our surroundings. We went up to the overlook of the dam. Jack was SO FULL OF ENERGY, so we had him do his running for XC while were there, LOL. The river (well, technically it is called Wilbur Lake…there are two dams in this system, so even though we were below Watauga Lake, there was another dam below the campground) was SO cold, which made the campground such a nice place to be, especially after the scorching heat of our weekend at Dale Hollow. Jake dared Josie to keep her feet in for 45 seconds. *
I decided to kayak a bit that evening. The river was RIGHT there, so that was super easy to do. Josie came with me, and then Jack jumped in my kayak and after I got done. One of the best parts about Roan is that the AT (Appalachian Trail) runs right through it, and you can access the AT in a lot of different places. The kiddos got backpacking gear for Christmas- hiking bags, hiking sleeping bags, and hiking poles. We had planned to go on a back packing trip in the spring so they could try them all out…but the pandemic changed those plans. So, we decided we should try it out this week. I have always wanted to overnight on the AT. 🙂 Plus, there was a route we have done twice before on just day hikes that we thought would be a good starter overnight hike for the kids. Tuesday was the day. After lunch we got all packed up and headed to Carver’s Gap. It was SO beautiful. We stopped on the drive up for Jack to use the bathroom, and I couldn’t help getting some pictures. The hike up was great. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather or views. The kids were pumped, and they did a great job. We hiked the Roan Highlands to Grassy Ridge, which is 2.5 miles from the parking lot at Carver’s Gap. 2.5 miles may not seem like much…but we all had heavy packs..and the elevation change was 1,000 feet! When we got to the top of Grassy Ridge (after hiking over Round Bald and Jane Bald, we pitched our tents. It was GORGEOUS up there. Jack, of course, couldn’t resist doing some bouldering on the huge rocks up there.
After we’d pitched our tents and explored a bit, a cloud started rolling in and the wind got up (which is common on top of the mountains). That changed the temperature in a hurry, so Jake got the fire going so I could boil the water for our Ramen, and he kept it going for awhile. We walked around a bit in the cloud, and Jake and the kids even played hide and seek. We had the mountain top to ourselves- there were no other campers (but we could tell that it was probably busy on the weekends!). We crawled into our tents at sunset and settled in for a looooonnnnggg night. The wind was crazy loud on top of the mountain, and Josie, Jake and I did not really sleep much at all. Jack slept like a rock, LOL. I’ve never slept well on a backpacking trip, so I wasn’t really expecting a wonderful nights’ sleep. But if we do this trip again, we will know to choose a more sheltered area to pitch the tents-hindsight is 20/20. The perk of not sleeping well, though, means you are up to see the sunset! The sunset on Grassy Ridge was not very spectacular, because we were still in a thick cloud. So we woke Jack up, LOL, and packed up pretty quickly to start our trip down the mountain. Everything was soaking wet! (Our tents kept us dry, but everything still had a damp feeling-and the outside of the tents were soaked). After we got off Grassy Ridge, though, we got out of the cloud-and the views were once again gorgeous. It was a great hike down-still 2.5 miles, of course, with a few climbs, but it was definitely as easier hike down than it was up (and our bags were lighter). After we got off the mountain, we headed back to the campground. We all took showers and had an extremely lazy day of napping and lounging and reading. (Well, all of us but Jack-he didn’t need a nap, LOL). That night we went into Elizabethton to run an errand (we went in Walmart-the first store any of us has been in since March-we were only there for about 20 minutes, and none of us enjoyed the experience-won’t be doing that again for awhile probably) and pick up pizza for dinner. While were were waiting for pizza, we walked around some of the historic parts of Elizabethton. They are known for their historic covered bridge. We also stopped on the way back and got some pictures of the cliffs near Lake Wilbur-so beautiful-they reminded me of Glacier. Thursday was our last full day at this campground. We enjoyed the nice cool weather outside. Jack fished (we could watch him from the comfort of our chairs under our awning!). I read, Jake played, and Josie tie dyed a shirt. Later that afternoon we decided to hike a little more of the AT-the part that goes across Watauga Dam. The dam is an earth dam, so it was a lot different than dams we’ve seen before. The lake was on one side, but the other side was just earth-no water! The water goes through a tunnel in the mountain. We hiked about 2.5 miles altogether- although Jack ran a good portion of it instead of walking! After we hiked, we walked down to the lake for a bit. We saw the cutest baby ducks, and the kids swam in their clothes for just a bit (even though it was SO cold). In the evening, we all got in our kayaks to explore Lake Wilbur. It was one of the best places to kayak we’ve ever been. The fog off the water was cool, and it is a very calm and clear lake. We even found a secret waterfall, which the kids thought was the coolest thing ever!
Friday was our day to pack up and leave. We did so pretty quickly after breakfast…although Jack found sometime to sneak in one last fishing session. We had a pretty uneventful trip, although we did see a bear on the interstate right outside of Cookeville! That was pretty exciting. The best part about leaving day, though, was that our trip was not over. Instead of going home, we headed back to Willow Grove for one last weekend.

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