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Two Seasons in One Day

posted Nov 5, 2014, 11:27 AM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 11, 2014, 5:41 AM ]

The weather forecast was calling for a winter storm in the mountains on Saturday, so I wanted to head out and see the first snow of the season!  I met up with Chris early in Chapel Hill and we started heading west.  It was raining most of the way out, but started getting crispy as we headed up in elevation.  As we approached Boone on US-421, it became undeniably snow.  The snowplows were out and the relatively warm ground kept much snow from sticking to the roads at least.  We continued on, getting on US-19E in Elk Park and made a quick stop at Elk Falls near the Tennessee state line.  Surprisingly, Elk River Road leading to the falls was pretty clear of snow, even the last stretch of gravel forest road.  We parked at the end and made the short hike along Big Falls Trail (#172).  Even most of the trail was clear of snow, though the trees and plants around the were pretty well covered and it made for a lovely scene.  We hiked down to the base of the falls and carefully crept out onto the big rock to get some pictures of this beautiful waterfall in the snow.  It was a really beautiful sight and despite the snow, wasn't too terribly cold.



Then we headed back to the car and got back on the highway to Tennessee.  In Roan Mountain, we turned on TN-143 and drove past Roan Mountain State Park up to Carver’s Gap.  As we rose in elevation, the snow became heavier, the visibility decreased, and the road conditions deteriorated.  But even at the high elevations, the road conditions were good enough and we didn’t have any trouble getting up the mountain by driving slowly and cautiously.  As we reached Carver’s Gap, the weather seemed to get worse and it was almost whiteout conditions.  A Forest Service sign here had a thermometer attached, indicating the temperature was a chilly 18°F.  With strong wind gusts, it felt even colder.  There was also a sign notifying AT through-hikers of the storm and suggesting that they take shelter.  Rangers were patrolling the area looking for people in distress as this storm had come about rather quickly and those on the trail might be completely unaware of the danger.  Fortunately, Chris and I were prepared with very warm clothing, so once we got our stuff together, we set out on the Appalachian Trail heading northbound towards Round Bald.  The wind was brutal but we were able to get a bit of shelter hiking through a section of spruce forest, where the trees absorbed most of the wind.



We went a little further past the forested area and got a couple pictures of the snowy scenes but the wind gusts were strong and so after a few pictures, we quickly made our way back to the car.



From here, we headed back into North Carolina.  By the time we got to Bakersville, the snow was mostly gone and by Spruce Pine, there was no snow on the ground or in the trees.  We continued to NC-181 and took that highway south towards Morganton.  By this point, it was looking like fall again, not winter.  We made a quick stop at the Brown Mountain Overlook, which had fantastic views of fall color looking towards the Wilson Creek area.



Past the overlook, we took Brown Mountain Beach Road into the Wilson Creek area.  I’ve been to this area countless times hunting for waterfalls, but I’ve never taken the time to stop and enjoy Wilson Creek itself.  We stopped at two spots along the road and scrambled down to the creek to get some pictures of the beautiful fall foliage on the creek.



It was truly amazing to me what a difference there was between this area and the Roan Mountain area.  We saw two distinct seasons within the period of a couple hours! Here's a video I made of our trip; I think the video captures the snow and whiteout conditions better than still photos can: