Friday, July 8, 2016

Roan Mountain Weekend - Part 2 Roan Mountain Summits

Roan Mountain in a popular destination with easy access to the Appalachian Trail and moderate hikes that offer spectacular views into Tennessee and North Carolina. According to Wikipedia it contains five peaks which are divided into two sections by Carvers Gap. You can drive up to Carvers Gap from either the Tennessee side or the North Carolina side which makes accessibility easy for many visitors. West of Carvers Gap are Roan High Bluff and Roan High Knob. East of the gap are Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald. I noticed on Garmin maps that Cloudland Mountain is included as a summit between the western peaks. The Peakbagger website also shows Cloudland Mountain and adds Grassy Ridge to the list. The Balds are part of Grassy Ridge with the highpoint being past all the Balds coming from Carver Gap.
After examining a couple GPS tracks on Peakbagger and finding that a hike from one end to the other and back would be 13 miles, I decided to do a couple shorter hikes to the western summits. The Balds offer the better views but with my wife along, the smart move was a couple shorter hikes on the West end. Be prepared after Carvers Gap to pay a $3 fee to park on the upper portion.

The first hike was a short walk with Shelly up to the Cloudland Hotel site. Do not expect to see hotel remains. There is a sign and a flat spot where the hotel once sat.

Check out the prices to stay at the hotel from this old newspaper clip.

The elevation listed in the add was either a misprint or there have been changes on maps since that was published. The high point is Roan High Knob at 6285 feet. Roan High Bluff is 6276 feet and Cloudland Mountain is at 6200 feet. From the same clip, here is a picture of what the Hotel once looked like.

I take no credit for what happened next. While I was standing at the Hotel site, Shelly called me over. She had found the Grays Lily very close to the sign.

She gently held one up so that I could get a picture.

We wandered around a bit and without Shelly realizing it, we were at the top of Cloudland Mountain near the AT.


We returned to the car where it was nap time for Shelly and time for Mike to go back up Cloudland and across the AT to Roan High Knob.

Back on top of Cloudland there was some old guy taking a summit selfie!

Dropping down the AT you come to an interesting site right on the trail.

I have read that the chimney was part of a CCC cabin. I also read that it was a cabin for the Hotel attendant. Perhaps it served as both.

The trail drops then begins the ascent up Roan High Knob. Soon you see a sign for the AT shelter. I noticed on my GPS that the summit was above the shelter. The trail starts descending but I took it a short distance to make sure there was not a separate trail to the summit. There was not, so I returned to the side trail to the shelter.

The AT shelter is very nice and I was hoping that the trail would continue on to the summit. After a brief rest at the shelter I started for the top. The area is very open and just above the shelter is the remains of the old tower, all that remains are the foundation blocks and part of a concrete stairs.

It is open above the tower with a very obvious rock outcropping above.

Once again the old guy appeared

On top of the rocks is the Roan High Knob benchmark

There are no views off the mountain; however, the area is wide open so if you were staying at the shelter you could wander aimlessly around the summit.

I returned from the summit to find Shelly reading a book on her Kindle. We drove down the road to the trailhead for Roan High Bluff. This cuts out quite a bit of hiking in between and makes for about a mile roundtrip hike.

The official trail ends at a wood observation deck on the bluffs.

The views from the deck are incredible

The drop from the deck is almost straight down; and a fence on both sides of the deck entrance with signs warns visitors not to go out on the bluffs.

This had me bothered for a moment as the summit was just off the trail above. I stood by a well worn path for a moment looking at the signs. I started up the path and looked at the positioning of the signs. It appeared to me that going to the summit was ok; however, dropping down to climb on the bluffs was not.

A group coming up to the observation deck spotted me and I heard some guy telling the group that “Some people just can’t follow the rules.” I stopped just short of the summit to examine the signs on the trees one more time. I had not gone past any of them; thus, I believe that my original conclusion was correct – you can go to the summit but do not climb down on the bluffs! This made sense to me as there is nothing dangerous about going to the summit. However, the bluff below looked intimidating and nowhere that I wanted to go anyway. I guess some people just can’t read the terrain! I hope the folks in his party were impressed with his great ability for being judgmental and speaking about something he knew nothing about! Dude, can you say insert foot in mouth! I preceded a few steps further and once again found the benchmark on top of a rock.

There are no views from the summit. The ridge is fairly open; in fact, I dropped right back down to the trail from the top. So you could just walk up to the summit from the trail below with coming near any of the warning signs.

I returned to the car and we headed back down the mountain making a couple stops at the overlooks.

OK, my last blog mentioned the weekend having a ghostly ending. Shelly has always been fascinated with the local folklore – especially when it involved a good ghost tale! She had read on the internet about Dark Hollow Cemetery which oddly enough is on Dark Hollow Road. Legend has it that in the early 1900s a woman named Delinda had several affairs with married men across the area. She was said not to be very attractive, but that didn't seem to bother the men. Delinda became sick, as did her gentlemen callers. The wives took matters into their own hands and went to Delinda's home to confront her, but Delinda escaped. This was the last time anyone saw her alive. Another part of the legend is that her favorite lover, a married man named Janken's, was murdered with a gun shot wound to the chest. Was it his wife that murdered him? No one knows. Legend continues that Delinda's home was tore down and became what is Dark Hollow Cemetary today. Many people have reported seeing someone running through the cemetery in a hurry and disappearing before they reach the wooded area behind the cemetery. Could it be Delinda making her escape? Others have heard footsteps and some have claimed that they felt something brush against their shoulder as the footsteps faded into the night. Still, others have said that while driving past the cemetery at night they heard a bump on the trunk of the car as if someone was trying to hitch a ride!
This is a condensed version of what my wife read; however, I did some more research and found several other versions quite different from the story above. The story is not one that many of the local residents wish to talk about; however, those that are talking say that there was no Delinda. The woman’s name was Victoria Carter and she was not unattractive as the first story suggests. She was beautiful but the part about being attracted to married men is true. Was she a prostitute? Some say this is unlikely as this was a poorer community at the time and doubtful that any money was to be made by coming here. There is numerous twists to what exactly happened to Victoria so I will let the reader do their own research from this point.
What added to the mystery was the fact that I could not find any Dark Hollow Cemetery on my GPS or Google Maps. I did manage to find Dark Hollow Rd on Google Maps which was a short drive from Roan Mountain State Park Visitor Center. Therefore, we headed up Sugar Hollow Ridge Road from SR 143 and found Dark Hollow Road. As we came up the road I saw a wood stairs leading up to a cemetery. I slowed down and saw no pull off; however; just down hill was another cemetery on the left with a place to park. We walked up to the road and as I approached the stairs I noticed that Garmin had this listed as the Gibbs Cemetery.

 Shelly said there was supposed to be an uninscribed marker where this Janken’s fellow was buried. She further commented that this did not look like the picture of the cemetery online. There were in fact several Gibbs buried here.

 We walked across to the cemetery where we had parked. Garmin did not show this as a separate cemetery.

When we returned home, I looked for the picture online that my wife mentioned. It looked very similar to my picture above except it looks like the trees and shrubs are bigger in my picture. I have no idea when the picture online was taken. Furthermore, I was unable to find the picture of the Janken’s grave my wife mentioned. The predominant name in this cemetery was Birchfield with a few of the graves showing the Burchfield spelling.

We drove to the end of Dark Hollow Road not seeing any other cemeteries so we drove back down to Roan Mountain State Park Visitor Center and I asked a woman at the desk about the Dark Hollow Cemetery. She informed me that there were only two cemeteries on Dark Hollow Road. One was the Gibbs Cemetery and the other was the Birchfield Cemetery. Then she asked if I was looking for the haunted cemetery. I nodded an affirmative and she stated that it was the Gibbs Cemetery.
Just outside the visitor center is a mill and information about the Peg Leg Iron Ore Mine.

Right behind the mill is a short trail that will take you back to the entrance of the mine.

 It is a fairly easy trail with one climb toward the end that leads up to the mine. The trail loops around the mine and the left fork is the easier path.

The information about the cemetery received at the visitor center intrigued me so we went back to Dark Hollow Road for a second look. I had not seen the cemetery picture online at that point; however, Shelly continued to say that the Gibbs Cemetery did not look like the one she had seen. She also said that there was no marker that looked like the one she had seen. So we went back over to the Birchfield Cemetery where I commented that I remembered a stone at the back of the cemetery that fit her description. We walked up the hill to check it out.

 It was as Shelly described except that she said there was graffiti on the top of the stone she saw. I saw no graffiti; however, it could have been an old picture and the graffiti removed. Was this the Janken’s grave? Don’t know for sure. I did look on findagrave and they did show the name of the cemetery as the Birchfield Cemetery with the Gibbs Cemetery across the road. My conclusion is that people have simply combined both cemeteries as the Dark Hollow Cemetery. There are no signs at either cemetery; thus, it is easy to see how the Dark Hollow Cemetery came about. Are they both haunted by Delinda or Victoria? We did not stick around until dark to find out!
Ghostly occurrences seem to abound in East Tennessee and I will certainly return to Roan Mountain in the near future. Who knows I might not get done hiking before dark and hear a thud on the back of my car as I head down the mountain. At least now I will know who it is!

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