Sunrise From Grassy Ridge – 9-16-2020

After 8 months of a global pandemic since my last hike, I was finally able to strap on my hiking boots and head to some of the highest mountains near me. I chose to do a night hike to Grassy Ridge on the mighty Roan Mountain to get there in time to watch the first light of the sun come up behind the Grandfather Mountain Range in the distance. It is always a gamble when it comes to sunrises and sunsets but, after not being able to hike for 8 months, I would be happy no matter what the results were as, just being in Nature would be plenty reward enough to me. That is, IF I could even make it all the way to Grassy Ridge !!! I had no way of knowing how my now overweight and much out of shape body, esp. my knees would handle this ‘right off the recliner’ hike !! After all the staging was done, I left the RAT`s Hole around 3am hoping this would allow plenty of time to make the drive and the climb to the top before first light. It is a 40 minute drive for me so I was there before 4am and was surprised to find the parking area already half full and on a Wed. ! I had been hearing and seeing pictures of the new ‘Covid Crowds’ that are now flocking to all the known trail heads and overflowing the parking areas and parking on the sides of and in the road for up to a mile in either direction but, I was now seeing that for myself. I wasted no time in grabbing my pack and heading up the mountain in the pitch black dark.

Sunrise over Grandfather Mtn. as seen from Grassy Ridge

It was very quiet as I made my way up the first hill to the summit of Round Bald (Elev. 5826 ft.) . It was there that I got my first view of another strange, new ‘Covid era’ practice that I have also been hearing a lot about. That is to find dog poop collection bags with poop in them, tossed on the ground beside various signs all along the trail. One of those WTF ? moments for sure. Some will say, “Oh, they just leave them there then pick them up on their way back”. Umm, no, that is incorrect ! Still laying there from earlier that day and its now after 4am, they obviously are NOT coming back for it !! I have spoken to many dog owners/hikers and they all said that they would never leave their dogs poop anywhere ! That it would be packed out, period. These are left by folks (the Covid crowd) that do not normally hike here but, rather are used to hiking in city parks, etc. where there are containers to dispose of the little poop bags in and since there are not any of those in Nature they are so uneducated on how to act in the woods that they simply deposit them on the ground almost always beside a marker sign of sorts. it would actually be better (although not ideal) to let your dog poop off the trail and leave it as to put it into a plastic bag and leave it. I guess they think that someone gets paid to come pick them all up and pack them out ? or that they magically disappear ?? Apparently these ‘crowds’ need to be better educated on Leave No Trace ethics or just stay at home until the malls and parks open up again.

Bottle Gentian

After passing a couple of tents, it was down hill to Engine Gap and uphill again to the top of Jane Bald which sits at 5807 feet. It was chilly and the only sign of life from there on was dozens of green, glowing eyes off in the near distance on either side of me. I was hoping these were all deer and not any of the bear type ! Another descent is made before the longest climb of the trip up to where the AT goes off to the left and the more primitive Grassy Ridge Trail begins. I stopped at the rocky overlook just before the trail split to rest, take in some water and snacks. Good thing I brought my glow in the dark Nalgene water bottle !!

Obligatory sign

After refueling, my body was doing well and ready for the climb up to Grassy Ridge. I was happy that it looked like I was going to make it to the top without issue. As I rounded the corner and started out on the ridge I could see even more green eyes peering back at me only this time they were not running away. As I found the location I would use for the sunrise pics and settled in, I couldn’t help but notice they were getting closer to me. I could see nearly a dozen deer, mainly does with their young running around yet, one doe and its offspring were overly curious of me. Knowing this was an area that they were hunted I was taken aback at their tameness as they ended up walking right up to me and hanging out the whole time I was there until well after daybreak ! This afforded me the time to take some pics of them while I was waiting on the impending sunrise.

Trail leading up to Grassy Ridge
Deer coming to check me out !
Deer so close I could touch them !
First light

It was a bit cool on the ridge but, luckily I only had to wait about 30 minutes before the first light of the sunrise show began. I immediately noticed that the valleys were completely covered with mountain fog/clouds and that although a thin band of clouds on the Eastern horizon would most likely make any phenomenal sunrise pics impossible, that I would get some decent cloud inversion images. I was happy either way just to be there after 8 long months of NOT being in Nature.

At first light is when I seen the clouds would be blocking the sun.
Sunrise over Grandfather Mtn. (zoomed)
Sunrise closeup
Sunrise from Grassy Ridge
Sunrise from Grassy Ridge
Sunrise from Grassy Ridge
Sunrise from Grassy Ridge
Sunrise from Grassy Ridge
Zoomed image of the sunrise over Grandfather Mtn
Zoomed pic of the sunrise over Grandfather Mtn
Progression of the sun as it rises higher over Grandfather Mtn
Progression of sunrise from Grassy Ridge
Sun rising over Grandfather Mtn
Sunrise as seen from Grassy Ridge
Sunrise as seen from Grassy Ridge
Sunrise from Grassy Ridge
Zoomed in shot of the sun rising over Grandfather Mtn.
Sun burning its way slowly through the clouds
Rising higher very quickly
Almost through the low lying clouds ! The cloud inversion was like an ocean and was flowing right to left and looked like a waterfall on the left
Shining like the star it is !
Muted colors of the sunrise
Cloud waterfall. It was actually flowing down right to left like water !

I took a lot of pics with my pocket cam and my tripod mounted larger cam of the whole light show and cloud performance that was provided for me, enjoying every minute of it. Unfortunately, these sunrise shows never last long enough and soon the sun was out in full force and it was time to pack it up. While I was there, I decided to go all the way out to the end of Grassy Ridge and enjoy the gorgeous morning that it had become. There were some more tents there and I met one nice couple who was already up and packing to leave. I spent at least another hour in the area just taking in the beauty and incredible views before finally heading back down the mountain. It had been a successful adventure in my book and I could not wait to get home and check out my pics.

The mama doe and her baby were still in the area as I was packing up
It was if they were coming to say goodbye !
My deer friends with the cloud waterfall and The Humps in background
My deer friends making their way towards the ridge
This would be the last I seen of my deer company before they disappeared over that ridge
Last of the sunrise pics before heading up the ridge
Trail leading farther up Grassy Ridge
Near the top of Grassy Ridge
Sign on the summit. Apparently whoever worded it, failed English class !
One of the many views from atop Grassy Ridge
Morning sunshine kissing the beautiful Grassy Ridge
Killer visual from the top of Grassy Ridge
Killer visuals in all directions !
The beauty here is boundless
Making my way farther towards the end of the ridge.
Looking off near the end of the ridge. That would be the Black Mtn Range off to your right in the distance.

As I started down the mountain I immediately met folks on their way up. I was in no hurry so, I stopped several times to take pics of various things I found of interest. Lots of flowers / weeds blooming that I missed on my way up in the dark, not to mention the incredible views always found here.

Of the Aster family
Be careful where you put your hands along the upper part of the Grassy Ridge trail !
View of Big and Little Hump Mountains just beyond a lone pine tree
Following the trail down Grassy Ridge is like being on top of the world
Closer view of the Big and Little Hump Mountains
Back on the AT I got a better view of this which had a note saying it was abandoned gear and that 911 and the Forest Service had been contacted for investigation. I never heard anything further about it.
Berries on a large Mountain Ashe tree
Bottle Gentian in the morning light
Grasshopper loving life along the trail
Aster family
White Snakeroot (not Covid lol)
Goldenrods were blooming thick along the trail
Killer views through the Goldenrods
Awesome views as I follow the trail around one of the balds.
The poops bags were still there.
The pine forest is incredible here

By the time I got back to Jane and Round Balds I could see the parking area below was already nearly full and folks would soon be parking along the sides of the road in both directions. Again I mention this was only Wednesday. I met many more coming up from the parking lot, most of which had one or more dogs. I had to wonder which ones of them would be leaving bags of poop beside the signs 🙁 . Luckily not all dog owners do this ! Soon I was back at my vehicle at what looked like a mall parking lot ! Not long after I was home and ready for a nap. It had been a long awaited and wonderful time on the mountain and I was already thinking about the next adventure. Until then,,,

The lot behind and one on other side of the road was filling up as well and it was only 10:30am.

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Posted on 9 January '21 by , under RATtreks.

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