Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival

Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival

The Sunday of June 18, 2017 [Father's Day!], I followed up on my trip announcement in Blue Ridge Outings to lead a group of hikers to Roan Mountain, TN, to participate in the Rhododendron Festival. The festival is an annual event organized by the Tennessee Roan Mountain State Park to promote the peak season for native rhododendrons, flame azaleas and mountain laurels. These flowers grow in wild profusion at the top of the mountain and all over the surrounding hills.


The festival includes an arts and crafts fair at the state park on the west side of the mountain. Most participants also go to the mountain peak and visit the Cloudland Gardens for the most concentrated rhododendrons. There after I always hike north from Carvers Gap on the Appalachian Trail for more views of grassy balds, valleys into the distance, and more rhododendrons, flame azaleas and mountain laurels. That sequence is what I did today.

But back to leading a group: many persons had reserved a spot with me, but as the day approached, they developed conflicts of various sorts. By early this morning, I was the only participant left. So, off I went solo.

Unfortunately, the date for the festival set by the park rangers predicted to the blossoms peak was off by a week or so. June 18 turned out to be past the peak by a few days. I still got to take some nice flower photos, but in earlier years I have seen nearly double the intensity of blooms. Also, for some reason, I did not see any mountain laurel blooms. I don't know if they were so far past their peak as to be all gone, or if there was some other problem.

For the last several years I have experienced a breathing issue when exercising hard, such hiking, biking or backpacking uphill, or paddling or swimming against a current. This trip at the start of the day as I was hiking uphill to the Cloud land Gardens I started to get out of breath. But, luckily, as the day progressed, I got my second wind and the problem subsided. Along part of the Appalachian Trail I was walking beside some AT north bound through hikers who were obviously very fit. I was able to reach the top of one of the hills ahead of them! Yeah! I may have been helped by being in a cool wind while being skimpily dressed. The chill gave me an incentive to keep moving faster in order to stay warm.

Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.