We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to appreciate the Highlands of Roan than the one that graced this year’s June Jamboree! On Saturday, June 23rd, hikers on each of six adventures enjoyed gorgeous skies – from a long, sunny trek on Grassy Ridge to a splashing good time in cold creek waters. Here’s a brief look at what you may remember – or may have missed. This year, we wanted to let our hikers and hike leaders tell the story of the June Jamboree in their own words… Enjoy their adventures, and we hope you’ll join us next year!
Carver’s Gap to Grassy Ridge
“Around 12 or so of us hiked Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge at the June Jamboree and really experienced a treat! My first time on Grassy Ridge, I found this to be a fantastic introduction, meeting others who hold places like these dear to their hearts and experiencing first-hand the unique nature of the Roan Highlands. With the weather in our favor, we visited with the goats who graze the balds, gazed on breathtaking vistas, and took in the rare beauty of Grays lilies blooming.
David Smith, biologist and former board member, provided us with detailed and interesting information about the plant and animal life of the balds. Some of the information he shared underscores the urgency of our task as SAHC members: he pointed out the fungus that destroys the Grays lily’s ability to seed which has recently arrived on the bald. The beauty of the day tempered with the reality of our task presented the perfect Jamboree mix to send us away with great memories and a renewed commitment to these fragile systems. Thanks to all who set up and carried out the event! And to David for his time and expertise!”
- Patty Cunningham-Woolf, newly elected to the SAHC Board of Trustees
Carver’s Gap to Hampton Creek Cove – The Long Haul
“I and 5 fellow-hikers enjoyed a beautiful hike on the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap to the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail intersection in Yellow Mountain Gap. From there we followed the Overmountain Trail north to Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area where we joined the creekside Birchfield Trail. We were rewarded with some beautiful specimens of Gray’s lily on the grassy balds and sightings of native brook trout in pools along Hampton Creek. Hiking with old friends and making new ones – what better way to spend a day!”
- hike leader Tom Gatti, SAHC’s first seasonal ecologist
‘Stand Up that Mountain’ – Hump Mountain hike with author Jay Leutze
“While attending the 50,000 acre celebration event at Highland Brewing Company, I heard Jay Leutze tell a story from his recently published book, ‘Stand Up That Mountain’ in his charming Southern drawl. I ribbed my husband Robbie, who was sitting next to me, telling him that that man can tell a story, that I admired his passion and steadfastness.
The next morning, Robbie and I signed up for Jay’s hike up Little Horse Creek to Big Hump in the Highlands of Roan during the June Jamboree. I came away from the hike moved, with a renewed sense of respect and confidence in SAHC’s work.
Jay is a story teller, recounting details and conversations with an enthralling eloquence. So as our small troop picked our way through an understory of nettles and briars, we listened intently to the stories of the land, the people and his efforts to save a mountain from mining. We learned what wildflower soothes the nettle’s sting; we heard stories of a farmer herding his Watusi cattle in the high lush meadows; we marveled at the vast resonating vistas.
Big Hump Bald is a stunning, unmistakably significant place. It is there that we fully grasped Jay’s substantial work. Knowing the history of the land, I appreciate it more. Hearing the stories of the people who lived there, I respect it more. The guided hike made me wonder what I’ve missed on all the other trails I have hiked.”
- Jennifer McLucas, SAHC volunteer
Birding at Hampton Creek Cove
“Like the rest of the Jamboree participants, the folks on the birding hike enjoyed the beautiful, clear skies that Saturday on Roan. What better place to enjoy a sunny day than the rolling fields of Hampton Creek Cove? And, it was indeed sunny — which helped to show off the colorful blues, reds, and yellows of the birds we spotted! While we did not see any Golden-winged Warblers, we got to see plenty of Indigo Buntings, Chestnut-sided Warblers, American Goldfinches, and both Song and Field Sparrows. My favorite sighting of the day was the Scarlet Tanager sitting high up in a locust snag, singing its heart out for all to see.
A couple of unexpected locals joined us at the beginning of the hike – one old brown dog and one young black dog looking for adventure. Our morning mostly consisted of a leisurely hike around the edges of the pastures, everyone birding and botanizing and enjoying the fellowship. After working our way through the pasture, we dropped down along the creek side trail to rest and snack.
Just as we were snacking under the shade, a high pitched bleet broke the peace. With a bolt, a deer fawn came tearing through our group, cutting back and forth with the black dog nipping at its heels. After a long chase, the fawn escaped through the field above us and was seen walking next to its mother. Relieved and rested, we finished the hike at one of the upper fields of the cove, admiring the view of the valley and learning a few new wildflowers before setting back to the cars below.”
- hike leader Chris Coxen, SAHC Seasonal Ecologist
Yoga on the Mountain
“SAHC members and friends enjoyed a fun and invigorating day on Roan Mountain as part of the conservancy’s annual June Jamboree. This day of outdoor activities celebrates our achievements in our highest priority conservation landscape. Nine eager yogis embarked the Yoga on the Mountain hike, which began on SAHC’s National Trails Tract. This property is bounded by the Overmountain Victory Trail, and comes within feet of the Appalachian Trail.
Participants crossed native trout streams, walked through migratory bird habitat, and ascended northern hardwood forest slopes before emerging into a beautiful meadow in Pisgah National Forest. There was resting, eating and discussion before Alexandra Ulrey led the group in a gentle Anusara yoga class. Inspired by the sun’s warmth, gentle breezes and breathtaking views, Alexandra helped us become grounded on the mountain, drawing strength from it and renewing our dedication to supporting its preservation.”
- Michelle Pugliese, SAHC Land Protection Director
Kids in the Creek
“Six intrepid explorers ranging in age from 2-8 explored the beautiful waters of Roaring Creek. We climbed rocks, swam in shallow pools, caught salamanders and crayfish, and even visited a waterfall. There was more excitement in those three hours than I have seen in the past three months combined!
We learned about how some salamanders breath through their skin and how crayfish shed their carapace. We examined these creatures through magnifying glasses, took the temperature of Roaring Creek, and a transformed into ‘polar bears’ — A process wherein the kids took turns jumping into a pool of water while spectators shouted ‘polar bear’ three times. When the children emerged from the icy depths, they stood proud and tall as newly minted polar bears. It was day full of full of learning and adventure.”
- hike leader Rich Preyer, SAHC Americorps Outreach Associate
As the hikes completed, our adventurers regrouped at the conference center of the Roan Mountain State Park to enjoy refreshments and further fellowship. Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director, also gave a short presentation about the importance of SAHC’s work in protecting the beautiful countryside we had all savored during the day.
Thank you to everyone who participated, and to those who contributed to this blog!