For anyone who's ever hiked on the Appalachian Trail, the white marker in the photo above is a very familiar sight. The six-inch by two-inch rectangular stripe indicates that you are on the 2,000 mile AT which runs from Georgia to Maine. The blazes, as they're called, are usually at eye level and vary in their frequency depending on the terrain and how conspicuous the trail is. In places where the trail takes an abrupt turn or where the AT crosses another trail or road, you might find a double white blaze, which simply indicates the need to pay attention. Sky-blue blazes indicate a side trail to water, shelters, roads or towns. Click here if you feel the need to learn more about blazes!
The above photo was taken yesterday on the AT leading from Carver's Gap on Roan Mountain to Round Bald. It was a typical Roan Mountain day -- the winds were howling, the temperature freezing and you literally hike through a cloud. My favorite part of the hike up to Round Bald is passing through a dense pine forest -- There's something very eerie and mystical about it.
Directions: Take Route 19E to the town of Roan Mountain, turn onto Route 143 and travel 12.8 miles to the TN/NC state line (a.k.a. Carver's Gap). On your way up the mountain, you'll pass through the Roan Mountain State Park. Eventually, you leave the state park and enter the national forest. Park your car at Carver's Gap (you'll see a 'welcome to North Carolina' sign). The Appalachian Trail crosses Carver's Gap and goes up Round Bald to your left (as you face NC). Since they've rerouted the AT in this area, the climb to the top of Round Bald (about 1 mile) is much easier and much more scenic. Continue past Round Bald and you'll soon come to Jane Bald, and a little further yet and you'll reach to top of Grassy Bald.