Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010-02-07 Linville Gorge Wilderness Hike

Linville Gorge Wilderness

Shortoff Mountain Hike
Burke County, NC
Sunday, February 7th, 2010
Jack, Bob, Andy, and Boone

For Super Bowl Sunday I elected not to spend the day watching endless hours of pre-game programming. Instead I decided to join Andy and Bob for a hike into one of my favorite areas, The Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Our plan was to hike a short section of the lower east rim to the summit of Shortoff Mountain. I had never done this hike before and after seeing the reports of winter weather the previous day I was really looking forward to some winter scenery!

Since the trailhead at the end of Wolf Pit Road has very limited parking, I met Bob and Andy in Morganton where we combined into one vehicle. On the drive we caught our first glipse of Shortoff Mountain and it was covered with sparkling white! This should be a good one, we all thought!

Wolf Pit Road probably would have been drivable in a regular passanger car, but it was definitely better to be in a 4WD truck. There was still a good bit of soggy snow on the ground and the parts of the road that weren’t snow covered were a mucky muddy mess. About half-way up the road, we passed by a few homes and a Chocolate Lab started chasing Bob’s truck.

We arrived at the trailhead, and Boone immediately jumped out to great his new friend. After gathering up our gear we hit the trail with our unexpected hiking companion. Boone and the Chocolate Lab were both crazy with excitement.

Boone and the Chocolate Lab

The trail gains about 1,000 feet of elevation over about 2 miles. The scenery was spectacular, so we took plenty of breaks to snap photos and soak it all in. The trees were all encrusted in a layer of crystal clear ice and most of the ground was covered in snow.

Since the temperatures were now above freezing there was a good bit of snow melt coming down the mountain. Most of it seemed to be flowing along the trail and at times it felt like we were hiking up a small creek. My feet were soaked and I regretted not wearing more watertight hiking boots. However, I didn’t let it bother me becuase the scenery was amazing!

View of Lake James from the Shortoff Mountain Trail

The Chocolate Lab that joined us at the start of the hike stayed with us almost all the way to the summit. However, When Bob and I stopped at one of the many specatular vistas to wait for Andy to catch up, the Chocolate Lab left us to join another hiker. This turned out to be the only other person we would see the whole day.

Bob and the Chocolate Lab

Once at the summit, the trail enters into the forest. Normally this would be considered the boring part of the trail, but today it was a Winter Wonderland of ice encrusted trees and snow covered ground. The sun was shining brightly and the sounds of melting ice crystals breaking off the branches and falling to the ground was magical!

Andy and Boone hiking through a Winter Wonderland

We checked out several unofficial side trails that lead to the cliff edges for endless incredible views. We also passed by a small partially ice covered pond which was a very interesting feature. You don’t often find bodies of water like this so close to a mountain’s summit.

Pond near the summit of Shortoff Mountain

We stopped for lunch at what Andy says is his favorite spot in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. This spot definitely did not dissappoint!

view from the Summit of Shortoff Mountain

We spent about two hours hanging out, exploring the snow covered cliffs, and snapping endless photos. I just couldn’t stop the urge to take more and more photos. I’m sure glad the days of film photography are past as I ended up taking over 400 photos on the day.

Jack at the Summit of Shortoff Mountain

After lunch, we considered continuing on a little further, but our wet feet had become cold after the long break and we were all ready to head on back. Plus there was a certain Football Game that we wanted to get home in time for.

The hike back to Bob’s truck went much faster on the way down. Much of the ice on the trees that made for a spectacular scene on the hike up, was now melted and there was no need to stop for more photos. Plus, I think we were all looking forward to changing into dry socks and shoes!

I ended up making it home in plenty of time for Super Bowl kickoff. While it was a good game, the hike was definitely the highlight of my day.


HemlockMan said...

One of my favorite hikes of all time. I'd much rather visit a place like that than sit in front of a TV watching football.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! There are not many sights that compare to snow covered scenery like that. Thanks for sharing!

~Christina~ said...

Beautiful scenery! Great captures.

Atlanta Trails said...

Gorgeous photos. We love hiking and camping in Linville Gorge... we've never hiked the gorge in the winter, but it looks especially beautiful with snowfall.