Roan Mountain straddles North Carolina and Tennessee and the Appalachian trail runs along much of its ridge, reaching elevations over 6000 feet. The Friends of Roan Mountain is a group fostering appreciation of this amazing ecosystem, and this weekend is their fall naturalist’s rally. I dragged myself out of bed early this morning and drove in the rain to join in the soggy fun. Sandwiched between their wildflower walk and salamander hike, I skipped their lunch and drove up the mountain for a brief exploration on my own.
I took the aptly named Cloudland Trail, which goes through high elevation spruce fir forests. At 45 degrees it was nearly 20 degrees colder than down below, and I could almost imagine I had traveled thousands of miles north to the related boreal forests of Canada.
There was no view to be had here today so I focused on the tiny details in the forest. There were half a dozen different colorful fungus growing on logs, snails and slugs slowly sliding across rain soaked leaves, and patches of brilliant green moss. Then a small flock of juncos landed on the trail in front of me and drew my attention to the beauty of the natural arch formed by the trees. For that instant sharing the woods with them I stopped to appreciate the magic of this path that led me through the clouds.