June Jamboree 2017

Thank you to everyone who came out to join us for six successful adventures in the Highlands of Roan on Saturday, June 17th! Despite the fluctuating weather – from sun to rain and back again – we had a great event. The Roan was resplendent in its characteristic, seasonal cloak of blooms, and the new camping platform at our Elk Hollow Preserve provided a perfect space for us to connect with friends, new and old, in the afternoon. The June Jamboree social also provided time for folks to explore our Elk Hollow Preserve and take a sneak peak at the Everett Bowman Trail, which offers a terrific view of a rushing cascade waterfall.  Here are a few highlights from the day:

Cloudland Hotel to Elk Hollow Preserve 

This year we put a twist on our classic Roan hike from the Carvers Gap area; the more challenging route ended at our Elk Hollow Preserve. Participants who braved the elements across the balds were able to capture some of the most splendid photographs from the day!

“We had 16 brave folks make the 7.5 mile hike from the old Cloudland Hotel site, across all the Western Balds, and down into Roaring Creek,” said Marquette Crockett, Roan Stewardship Director and hike co-leader. “Like most things on the Roan, this hike was filled to the brim – a bit of sun, a bit of rain, some sore legs, and a lot of beauty! The rhododendron were peak (with a bit of rain damage) but the flame azaleas felt like the star of the show. Who knew there were so many different shades of orange? Gray’s lily were just peeking out their red buds, and the blueberries were in full bloom with promises of snacks to come.”

“We are grateful to our hike leader — Gary Kauffman (Botanist with the USDA Forest Service) — as he was very patient with my attempts to speed him down the trail as he pointed out the many flowers, ferns, and even liverworts that make the Roan special,” continued Marquette. “Big thanks, too, to all the hikers who braved some very drenching, treacherous rainforest conditions coming down from Grassy Ridge into Yellow Mt. Gap. We arrived at the social late, exhausted, and soaked. But, then again, those are the hikes that you’ll always remember! Thank you for sharing the day with me.”

Roll ‘n’ Stroll in the Rhododendron Gardens

Our Executive Director, Carl Silverstein, and Conservation Planning and Stewardship Director, Hanni Muerdter, led the Roll n’ Stroll this year along a short, paved and wheelchair-accessible trail among blooming rhododendron and spruce trees. Carl discussed the history of the Roan and conservation of the region, while Hanni talked about the ecosystems and biologically significant features of the Roan.

“On the Roll & Stroll hike, I really enjoyed hearing Carl talk about the history of the area and some efforts made long ago to preserve the rhododendron of Roan Mountain,”  said Lisa Fancher, Finance Compliance Director.  “And I will always remember his telling about a couple of animals of the area — the ‘good’ Peregrine Falcons and the ‘bad’ feral hogs.”

Birding at the ‘Bird House’

The birding hike featured a small, but enthusiastic group of avian enthusiasts, led by former SAHC seasonal ecologist Chris Coxen, who currently works with the Wild Turkey Federation.

“We were spoiled with an endless supply of Veeries, Field Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, and Indigo Buntings. We also heard Common Yellowthroats, Tufted Titmice, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-eyed Vireos, and a Least Flycatcher. Unfortunately, the birds were pretty shy that morning, and preferred to sing from cover instead of putting their full colors on display. We made up for the fleeting bird sightings with some incredible views of Big Yellow Mountain, Roan Mountain, and Grassy Ridge from the saddle above SAHC’s Bird House Cabin. Hikers were also treated to descriptions of the forest communities in the Roan (including some tree id), some incidental salamander sightings, and a brief history of the land protection efforts around the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area. A last minute, bonus birding hike on the Elk Hollow property provided some up-close views of a Golden-winged Warbler, which capped off an overall great day on the Roan. Big thanks to everyone that joined us on the bird hike!

Yoga on the Mountain

On a cool, overcast Saturday people from different regions of NC and TN — some staff, members, and people new to the organization – came together to enjoy a common love for yoga and mountains. The 16 participants took a brief 1-mile, 25-minute hike through wooded and open areas along the Everett Bowman Trail to enjoy yoga in the shade of a huge oak tree. Thank you to Laura Boggess, Professor of Biology at Mars Hill University, for stepping in to lead the yoga session for us! 

The sun came out around noon, just as the group transitioned from breathing exercises to yoga. After an hour and 15 minutes of  vinyasa/flow yoga practice – including stretches flowing smoothly into low-impact poses  – the class ended a bit early due to incoming rain, which made for a slippery, muddy return trip. On the trip back to the June Jamboree social, some hikers spotted a Southern gray-cheeked salamander which had come out to enjoy the rain!

Visit to Cutler Falls

The hike to Cutler Falls this past Saturday drew the best for all ten participants. On a sunny morning the group made its way through a shaded valley of the Roan Highlands, walking about two miles uphill to reach an impressive waterfall. The hike was steep but the falls made it all worth it.

The 80 feet high Cutler Falls crashed with a refreshing breeze, charged with water from recent thunderstorms. The group spent a pleasant half hour splashing in the water, taking photographs, and washing off in the pool below the falls. Cutler Falls even showed off with a rainbow when the sun punched through the trees. After a short lunch and a few salamander sightings, the group began the hike back to the road. The journey down from the falls was easier than the way up, but still slippery and wet. Everyone involved was in great spirits, though, and the mud and a bit of rain at the end didn’t stop the group from enjoying the day to the fullest. Cheers to a great group and a beautiful setting!

Challenge Hike

Saturday’s Challenge Hikers braved a 2,000+ foot climb to take in the scenic views atop Hump and Little Hump mountains.

“On the hike up, we saw lots of colorful spiderwort and firepink, and as we approached the bottom of the balds, we were greeted with stunning flame azalea in a variety of shades,” recalls AmeriCorps member Haley Smith, hike leader. “Hiking along the balds, we had spectacular views in all directions of Yellow Mountain and Grassy Ridge to the west and Grandfather and Hawksbill to the East. We spied numerous Gray’s lilies in full bloom this weekend, and lots of migratory birds flitting around the edges of the balds. We also had an excellent up-close view of our newly-protected Hump Mountain Tract, which Spencer Scheidt, SAHC AmeriCorps Land Protection Associate, pointed out on the map and discussed with the group. Despite some rain, it was a gorgeous day filled with lovely views and natural beauty amidst a landscape that SAHC continues to work daily to protect for everyone, forever.”

Thank you, everyone!