Most of us car-pooled from Wilkesboro. John rode his BMW motorcycle and met us at the Roan Mtn. ranger station. The weather was chilly with temperatures ranging in the 60's, mostly cloud cover and a smattering of rain.
The Roan Mtn. Tennessee State Park was having its annual rhododendron festival with the attendant traffic back logs on TN State Road 143.
Despite my call to the ranger station a few weeks earlier to confirm the peak date, we found that we missed it. We were there about a week early. Some of the bushes were in full bloom, but the majority only had buds.
We had a pleasant, but cool, hike around the Cloudland Gardens at the top of Roan Mountain proper. Then we moved to the other side of Carver's Gap and hiked several miles north on the Appalachian Trail. We had a nice picnic lunch on some sunny rocks surrounded by purple Catawba rhododendron and bright orange azalea in mostly full bloom.
On the way back out we were accompanied by a cute young beagle that seemed to live in the area and had learned how to get free food from hikers. On my way down the mountain to the parking lot my feet were so sore from some new, heavy boots that I took them off and walked barefoot in the grass.
Just as we reached the parking lot, like the year before in 2004, the skies opened with a heavy rain. We all scampered for our cars and had a pleasant ride home, happy with the fresh air and exercise, and satisfied with the beautiful wild flower show.