Grassy Ridge is a prominent peak in the Roan Highlands sitting at 6180 feet in elevation. This expansive Southern Appalachian Bald offers 360 degree, unobstructed views, which are undoubtedly some of the best in the eastern U.S. This is also the highpoint of Avery County, NC.
I left the house very early in the morning and arrived at Carver’s Gap around 5:00 a.m. I hiked by headlamp for the first mile, crossing the summits of Round Bald and Jane Bald, where I stopped to set up my photography equipment. This happens to be my favorite spot for capturing sunrises in the east, and this morning’s sunrise did not disappoint me…
After enjoying the awesome sunrise I continued north on the Appalachian Trail, descending down into the final gap before my climb up to Grassy Ridge. It was near this gap where I ran into the beautiful Angora Goats grazing on the mountainside. The goats are placed here to help control invasive woody plants (such as Canadian Blackberry) that are beginning to overtake the balds. Basically, the balds are dying due to climate change, soil changes, and the lack of large grazing herbivores. If not for these goats, and for the perennial work of many volunteers, these grassy balds would eventually be overcome by woody plant species. This would eliminate not only the wonderful vistas enjoyed by hikers, but more importantly the very rare and fragile ecosystems and plant life found on these grassy balds.
I said goodbye to the the goats and continued on up the trail until I reached the junction of the A.T. and the Grassy Ridge Trail (there is a sign here now where you take a right). I think this trail was blue-blazed at one time, but I didn’t notice any blazes on this trip. However, the trail is well defined and is highly traveled so you can’t miss it. It is a little tight in some spots though as you are working your way through thick Rhododendrons. After a 500 feet climb in elevation I reached the summit, where there is a plaque dedicated to the memory of Cornelious Rex Peake.
When I arrived at the summit it was completely covered in fog, limiting my views. But the weather can change very quickly on this peak, and soon the fog left giving me breathtaking panoramic views. I hiked on out to the end of the ridge-line, taking photos and stopping for breakfast.
My timing was also good as the mountaintop was covered in the rare and endangered “Gray’s Lily”, which I thoroughly enjoyed photographing. As I mentioned earlier, the balds have many species of rare plants, and this is one of them. Gray’s Lilies are ONLY found in this local region of the Appalachians… on high elevation, grass covered mountains.
If you are interested in helping to maintain these wonderful grass covered balds, along with preserving endangered plants and fragile ecosystems then there are numerous ways to help:
Click here for information on “adopting” a goat. There are lots of different adoption options . And if you want to physically help with these animals on site, then there are options for that too such as helping to carry water to the goats, or being a weekend (or longer) “goat sitter”… camping next to the site and keeping an eye out on the goats. You can also volunteer your time in many workdays throughout the year by helping to cut back woody plants. And, the annual Grassy Ridge mow-off is next weekend (July 15-17th). If you interested in volunteering for something like this (or other workdays), then email me, and I will give you further contact information.