June 15 will be a day of free hikes hosted by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Above, participants view the East Tennessee scenery during a previous hike. (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

On Saturday, June 15, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) will host a day of free, guided group outings in the Highlands of Roan. The eight excursions include options for a variety of skill, age, interest, and mobility levels — including hikes along the Appalachian Trail, botanical expeditions, sustainable homestead farm tours, yoga, and family activities.

“The June Jamboree is an annual celebration of all the conservation work that SAHC has done in the Highlands of Roan — a region that includes some of the most beautiful, ecologically significant land that we have protected,” says Israel Golden, AmeriCorps Conservation Education and Volunteer Outreach member serving with SAHC. “The diversity of habitat in the Roan is startling, and it is exciting that so many people will be able to come out to see and learn about it during the June Jamboree.”

In the afternoon, event guests are invited to gather at SAHC’s Big Rock Creek Preserve for an afternoon social, with light refreshments provided. June Jamboree outings are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. Register online at Appalachian.org or contact Israel@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 205 with questions.

June Jamboree Outings Include:

Hike #1 – Highlands of OM: Yoga on the Roan

Location: Roan Mountain Gateway, near Carvers Gap | Start Time: 11 a.m. | Est. End Time: 1 p.m.

Leader: Laura Boggess, Mars Hill University Biology/Environmental Studies & E-RYT200 registered Yoga Instructor

Difficulty: Easy (2)* | 0.5 miles, 100 foot elevation change

Join us for a peaceful yoga session in the Highlands of Roan, surrounded by scenic views protected by SAHC. The session will begin with an easy 10-minute hike to an idyllic pasture on the Davenport-Pritchard Tract. Students of all levels will enjoy a soothing, relaxing, and restorative experience. No yoga experience required.

Hike #2 – Roll and Stroll at the Rhododendron Garden

Location: Rhododendron Gardens, near Carvers Gap  |  Start Time: 11 a.m. | Est. End Time: 1 p.m.

Leader: Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director

Difficulty: Easy (2)* | 1 mile, 200 foot elevation change

The group anticipates that the Rhododendron Gardens on top of the Roan will be blazing with color this time of year. Participants will stroll approximately 1 mile across gentle terrain with stunning views of the Roan landscape. On this leisurely walk, participants will learn about a number of SAHC’s land protection projects that can be viewed from the gardens. This family-friendly offering is designed to provide people of all abilities with an opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the properties SAHC has diligently worked to protect over the last four decades.  This trail is paved and wheelchair/stroller accessible.

Hike #3 – Roan & Groan: Hump Mountain – Carvers Gap

Location: Shell Creek Community | Start Time: 9 a.m. | Est. End Time: 3 p.m.

Leader: Israel Golden, SAHC AmeriCorps Member

Difficulty: Strenuous (10+)* | 8.5 miles, approximately 3,000 foot elevation change

This challenge hike will begin on the 324-acre Hump Mountain tract that SAHC protected in 2016 and transferred to Cherokee Nat’l Forest in 2018. This tract of land was a conservation priority for over 40 years. From Shell Creek, the group will hike up to Bradley Gap and then traverse along the Appalachian Trail over Little Hump Mountain, Grassy Ridge, Jane Bald, Round Bald and end at Carvers Gap! The 8.5-mile hike will traverse many beautiful grassy balds with views in all directions — of Yellow Mountain and Grassy Ridge to the west and Grandfather and Linville Gorge to the East, in addition to numerous SAHC preserves. Along the route there could be Gray’s lilies in full bloom and migratory birds flitting around the edges of the balds. At the end of the hike participants will be shuttled back to their cars at Shell Creek.

Hike #4 – Botanical Exploration of the Roan

Location: Cloudland to Roan High Bluff

Start Time: 10 a.m. | Est. End Time: 2 p.m.

Leader: Gary Kauffman, Botanist/Ecologist for National Forests in North Carolina

Difficulty: Moderate (4-5)* | 2.5 miles, 110 ft. elevation change

Join Gary Kauffman as he leads participants on a Botanical Exploration of the Highlands of Roan. Gary will identify the flora that makes the mountaintop their home. On this slow-paced, plant-focused 2.5- mile hike participants will learn about the plant communities of the Roan, rare species, recreational impacts, and climate change. Participants will observe Grassy Bald, Spruce Fir, and Rocky Outcrop ecosystems and see breathtaking vistas of SAHC-conserved land. Plan on a leisurely, educational stroll!

Hike #5 – Sustainable Homestead Farm Tour

Location: Fork Mountain Preserve | Start Time: 12 pm | Est. End Time: 2 pm

Leader: Marquette Crockett, SAHC Roan Stewardship Director; Jess Laggis, SAHC Farmland Protection Director; and Pat Tompkins

Difficulty: Easy (2-3)* | 1 mile, 100 ft. elevation change

Join Roan Stewardship Associate Marquette Crockett, Farmland Protection Director Jess Laggis, and Pat Tompkins on an educational hike around a sustainable small farm. This unique 195-acre tract is part of our 430-acre Fork Mountain Preserve and was conserved by SAHC in 1995. Long-time resident and caretaker Pat Tompkins has homesteaded this farm for decades and has a wealth of knowledge to share about caring for the earth and living sustainably. Participants are invited to tour her small homesteading operation and learn about sustainable agriculture along the way. This hike will be capped at 15 people.

Hike #6 – Explore Big Rock Creek Preserve

Location: Big Rock Creek  |  Start Time: 11 a.m.  |  Est. End Time: 1 p.m.

Leader: Abigail Snow, Community Farm Intern

Difficulty: Easy (2-3)* | 0.25 mile

Bring your family to hike our short nature trail and play in the water at SAHC’s beautiful Big Rock Creek Preserve. This shorter hike is designed to get everyone outdoors and exploring some of the beautiful water protected by SAHC. Learn about basic stream and pond ecology, look for crayfish and salamanders. Everyone is welcome to bring fishnets, buckets, or other toys to play within the creek and pond. However, we ask that all equipment be gently cleaned before using it in this high-quality trout stream. This hike is for kids 7 years and older. Parents are welcomed to participate as well. Please bring water-appropriate clothing and shoes plus appropriate day hiking materials.

Hike #7 & 8 – Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge

Location: Carvers Gap Trailhead

Difficulty: Moderate (5-6)* | 4.5 miles, 650 foot elevation change

Hike #7 Start Time: 8:30 a.m. | Est. End Time: 12:30 p.m.

Hike #7 Leader: Travis Bordley, SAHC Roan Naturalist & Nature Photographer

Hike #8 Start Time: 10 a.m. | Est. End Time: 1 p.m.

Hike #8 Leaders: Bettye Boone & Saylor Fox, Volunteer Award Recipients This new version of a classic and rewarding hike is full of adventure atop the highest elevation balds in the Highlands of Roan, widely considered among the most spectacular scenery along the Appalachian Trail. Hike #7  – An early start allows this hike to be leisurely paced, focused on enjoying a late Spring morning and photographing the splendor of the balds, blooming rhododendron, flame azalea, patches of spruce fir forest and rare plants such as Gray’s lily and Roan Mountain bluets. Hike #8 – For those who enjoy a faster paced hiking experience.

Afternoon Social   Location: Big Rock Creek Preserve | Time: 1 to 4 pm

After your adventure on your Jamboree outing be sure to stop by our afternoon social where friends and family can gather and share hike experiences while learning about SAHC’s recent accomplishments, including land protection and stewardship news. Drinks and light refreshments will be provided. Big Rock Creek Preserve, formerly the home of Trailridge summer camp, contains 127 acres of high elevation forest and streams. A short walking trail has been created at the preserve, thanks to SAHC volunteers, the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley.

About Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy: The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is a non-profit land trust conserving land and water resources in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Since 1974, SAHC has protected over 75,000 acres of unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland, scenic views, and places for people to enjoy outdoor recreation. More info at Appalachian.org.