Scaling the Balds
Descend across the bald and turn right, leaving the cattle fence and now entering thin woods of stunted beeches. If there was ice on the trail higher up, there is probably some here as well, because this slope faces north and melts last. Hikers pack the snow, so there is often more ice on the trail than beside it. Hang on to the trees. After several switchbacks, the AT crosses an open field to Doll Flats at 10.2 miles, a good tent site with tall red maples. The AT swings left and then right as it meets another branch of the Shell Creek road. Tent sites at the beginning of Doll Flats are overused and trampled, but nearer this road there are grassy sites.
About 0.1 mile down the road to the left is a spring. At Doll Flats the AT leaves the Tennessee/North Carolina state line for good and strikes out through Tennessee, heading north toward Virginia.
The AT continues right (north) and passes through former farm fields, following some short stretches of old roads. Double white blazes indicate twists and turns winding down rocky areas. After several switchbacks and stone steps at 10.8 miles, the trail turns right and then continues down past fences. After 12.0 miles and some more switchbacks, the trail crosses a gravel road and drops down an eroded hillside into Wilder Mine Hollow, with iron mines and dirt piles on the right. Some of the mines are still open, but it is dangerous to explore them.
Union General Wilder (1830-1917) invented a better rifle and helped to hold off the Confederate Army at Chickamauga, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. After the Civil War, Wilder developed iron foundries in Rockwood, Tennessee, and mined ore from here and from other spots around the base of the Roan Massif. He invested some of his profits in the Cloudland Hotel near Roan High Bluff and owned most of the mountain. One of his advertising brochures persuades people to"Come up out of the sultry plains to the land of the skymagnificent views above the clouds where the rivers are born." However, by 1910 loggers had cut all the trees on Roan Mountain, leaving bare earth and erosion gullies, and the hotel was abandoned and sold off by the room.
At 12.9 miles pass Apple House Shelter on the left, a small old shelter with a creek for water. If the Overmountain Shelter is too crowded, this is the next best place, but it sits in a dark hollow and isn't nearly as pretty. After Apple House, the AT turns left, then right, and descends to a bridge over a creek and a possibly muddy field below the road bank of US 19E. Climb the road bank to a two- to three-car parking area at 13.4 miles.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication