Guest Post Travelogue of Roan Mountain by Melissa Emmel

I thought I would take some daily notes of our week. Things I did outside of spinning and knitting that others may enjoy as well as tips for the weekend. I'm excited everyone is coming to Roan Mountain for the retreat. In a way I feel like this is "our mountain" because we come here so often. 

We walked the small trail from the cabin (new section) to the convention center. It's a short hike. Probably a tenth of a mile or so. I'm asthmatic and in worse shape than I wish to be (although I'm working on getting in better shape), and I didn't have any trouble on the trail. The trail is gravel and free of roots. There are hills in either direction but still manageable. We saw some neat yellow mushrooms growing beside a tree. I recommend sensible shoes as my Danskos made me more aware of my footing than I wanted to be. 

Monday and Wednesday were our North Carolina shopping days. 

Today was a Roan Mountain day. 

We first visited the Miller Homestead. It was a working farm established more than 100 years ago and now preserved to see how people lived in the mountains. It will be open Saturdays in October for anyone interested. The walk down to the homestead from the parking lot is pretty steep. I definitely recommend good shoes. 

Next was a stop at Jarrett Apple Orchard. They grow about 10 different varieties of apples. Half a peck is only $4. To get to Jarrett's, turn right onto Burbank just past Jack's Grocery after you leave the park towards the mountain. After about a mile, you'll see an apple with their name on the left hand side of the road pointing to the road for apples. 

After that we drove to the top of Roan and turned at Carver's Gap for the Rhododendron Gardens. There is a $3 entry fee at the fee station, but I feel it is worth it to see the views from the top. It's the 2nd highest point in Tennessee. The garden trail is paved and handicapped accessible. There is another half mile trail that is unpaved and requires good shoes. We like to use hiking poles for that trail as well. On a clear day you can make out Johnson City from the overlook. 

Carver's Gap has a great section of the AT, but since Duke hikes with us, we have to stick to easy, relatively clean trails. (When he turns into a grumpy dog and drags his tail, he brings home half of the forest.) The Roan Balds at Carver's Gap are unique because are virtually treeless and have magnificent views. On a clear day you can see the hotel at Sugar Mountain Ski Resort in the distance. 

We intended a day in the cabin to let Duke rest. The poor little guy was pooped from all the walking he did earlier in the week. (Even though he rode in style in his doggy stroller on shopping days.)

HOWEVER, what I intended to be a short tenth of a mile hike from cabins 1-20 over to our cabin in the other section turned out to be a 45 minute hike over some pretty steep terrain. Dan, being the thoughtful doggy dad that he is, ended up carrying Duke for half of it. I struggled but victoriously made it home to the cabin. I tell you this because we found many people walked the short path from the conference center to get the first group of cabins and then took the road to the parking lot instead of the trail. The trail that joins the cabins isn't gravel like the one joining the conference center, and the beginning is steep with roots making stairs. The trail is also poorly marked with signs. The sign reads "Cabins Fire Pit" instead of "Cabins & Fire Pit". It is not labeled on the trail map either, and we both thought it meant fire pit for cabins alone. Now that I know which trail it is, I might take it instead of walking on the road, but the road doesn't have roots and I'm clumsy. 

Things to bring: 
Paper towels and napkins for the kitchen. 
Coffee. A coffee maker and filters are provided, but bring your own Joe. 
Salt and pepper. 
Bath soap, lotion, shampoo/conditioner, and a hair dryer (not provided like a hotel).  
Dan strongly suggests toilet paper from home. He says you don't want to use TP provided by the State of Tennessee. 

Dish soap and dish scrubber to wash dishes if eating at the cabin. You have to hand wash your dishes. 
All dishes, utensils, and pots and pans. 
Linens for the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. 

*** If you are sensitive to wood smoke, you can ask that the wood stove is cleaned out before your arrival. It really helps my asthma. The cabins all have heaters or central heat so wood fires aren't necessary. 

Cell phones have limited reception here. Sprint is best, and Verizon has a booster at the conference center. Unfortunately AT&T and T-Mobile only work in town. Both the conference center and the campground have wifi. All cabins have a landline, and the ladies at checkin will give you the number for family members. 

Places to eat:
Smoky Mountain Bakers serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and are open Friday and Saturday of our retreat. Breakfast has egg sandwiches, waffles and pancakes, and omelettes. Lunch and dinner is wood fired pizza and side salads. Plus they bake bread, breakfast pastries, and desserts. They are my favorite place to eat in Roan Mountain (and we even sometimes drive up after work from JC for dinner). Their dinner special on Saturday is buy 4 pizzas get the 5th for free. 

Highlander BBQ is a good non-pizza option. Besides bbq, they have burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs. It's the kind of place the locals go to, and it's easy on the wallet. 

Happy's Cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch, but they are open on Sunday when Smoky Mountain Bakers is closed. They have a big breakfast selection and make many different sandwiches and burgers for lunch. Also reasonably priced, it's a good option. 

Bob's Dairlyland has been around since my mom was little. They are your traditional greasy spoon with fish on Fridays. The also have over 30 milkshake combinations. Bob's is open all weekend of the retreat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bob's has fast free wifi.