Laurel Falls & The Coldest Day In June I Have Ever Spent

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Laurel Falls by waterfallshiker
Laurel Falls, a photo by waterfallshiker on Flickr.
The day was set to photograph and hike the Balds of Roan Mountain. It is Rhododendron time and there is no finer place to view the Catawba Rhododendrons than Roan Mountain in early June. I had it from a good source that they had been blooming and were ready. Little did I know that the cold front passing through on Friday night would leave Roan Mountain with temps in the upper 30’s for Saturday morning, along with winds easily in the 30-40 mph zone and a thick fog to top things off. On top of that, the rhododendrons are not peaked as of June 2. They are beautiful, stunning in a few areas , but still a week from peak.
The forecast for Roan Mountain on this day was sunshine and a high of about 67. This a cool day for this time of year. Little did I know that this forecast applied to the town of Roan Mountain at about 3000 feet, not the peaks of Roan Mountain at 6200 ft where the temps never climbed out of the mid 40’s. This required winter gear in June. I wasn’t quite ready for that. With this mind, I decided to abort my sunrise hike and opt for some hot breakfast and coffee. I decided that the cloudy morning would be better suited for waterfalls viewing, at lower, warmer elevations. I was within moments of Elk Falls, a waterfall I have spent considerable time at. I have been exploring other waterfalls in East Tennessee recently and one called Laurel Falls was on the short list? When I saw how close it was, It was a no-brainer.
There are two options of getting to this waterfall, one is right along Hwy 321 just out of Hampton. The other, the one I took, was a 4 mile ride up a very twisty, curvy Dennis Cove Rd. The parking is on the left , and the Appalachian Trail crosses the road here. The trail to the falls follows the AT the entire 1.2miles with the first mile being nearly flat. It follows along the Laurel Fork most of the way and there is a really cool half foot bridge that crosses it.
Then comes the sign with the white squares and a left arrow. Here is where the trail goes down and the workout begins. It is fairly steep for quite a distance, but rocks are placed in steps to make it as easy as possible. The real fun is coming back up……need I say more?
Once at the waterfall, I was taken away by the beauty and size of this thing. There is a high mountain peak directly behind the waterfall straight up. With the sun going in and out, I had difficulty photographing this one. For the icing on the cake, all of my photos on my DSLR got lost while transferring to my iPad. All I have to go on now are the few shots I took with my Iphone for EveryTrail. I did stay at the falls and enjoyed of the waterfall, which had a nice, full water flow to it today. I had a great conversation with a thru-hiker named “Tumbleweed”. He, at age 74 reminded me that at my young age of 42, I still had time to hike it. He was quite a character.
In closing, nothing really went according to plan today. It was the absolute coldest day I have ever lived through in the month of June. I lost over 100 photos from the waterfall and Roan High Bluff, and the Balds. With this in mind, I still had an excellent day, hiked around 8 miles and can not wait to go back. The rhododendrons should be 100% blooming next week?

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