Burke County, NC
Saturday March 27th, 2010
Photos are posted here:
For today's adventure, Andy and I decided to check out the Daffodils at Daffodil Flats. I first visited this very unique sight a year ago with Andy, but Spring came early last year and the Daffodils were a bit past peak. Hopefully our timing would be better this year!
We set up a short shuttle by parking my truck at the Pinch-in Trailhead and taking Andy's vehicle back to our starting point at the Mountains-to-Sea Trailhead.
We started out hiking to the Pinnacle, and impressive rock tower offering up some awesome views of the Southern end of Linville Gorge. From here you can see the Linville River exiting the gorge and entering into Lake James.
View from "The Pinnacle"
The hike to "The Pinnacle" would actually be considered "Amy approved", in reference to my wife Amy who just doesn't appreciate the steepness and ruggedness of most of the Linville Gorge Trails. However, this is as far as I would take her as things get much tougher as the trail descends steeply below the Pinnacle.
We reached the junction where the MTS trail heads South and the Leadmine Trail heads North into the Linville Gorge Wilderness. For today's hike, we would take the Leadmine Trail, a first for both of us.
The Leadmine trail is one of many unofficial trails in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. You will not find it on any official Forest Service Maps, but surprisingly it seemed very well established and easy to follow. Even more surprising were several trail signs posted along the way.
Sign at the start of the Leadmine Trail
On the topo maps, the Leadmine route appears to maintain fairly consistent elevation, but this is very deceiving. The trail is constantly going very steeply up and down across a series of 4 or 5 very steep gullies.
We reached a spot where a small sign pointed down stating "Short Cut" to the river, but we wanted to take the longer, less erosive route. Unfortunately this upper route is not clearly definite and after a harsh winter any trace of this path seemed lost to all the deadfall. So we backtracked and took to the "Short Cut" down to the River.
Short Cut Trail
While very steep, it didn't seem nearly as bad as the description we had in our directions. It meets up with the LGT (Linville Gorge Trail) a short distance north of where the LGT fords the river.
The Linville River
We took a short break to explore some of the river before heading north on the LGT trail towards Daffodil Flats. We arrived at Daffodil Flats just in time to take a nice long lunch break.
Many years ago, before the establishment of the Linville Gorge Wilderness, the Daffodil Flats area was someone's home. There is no longer any evidence of a home site, but the garden of Daffodils that surrounded the home has multiplied over the years creating the spectacular site know as Daffodil Flats.
Me at Daffodil Flats
Our timing was much better this year as the Daffodil display was much more impressive than during our visit last year. However I still think we were a couple of days past peak as many of the blooms had started to fade and wilt. It was still a spectacular site and we spent a good hour enjoying lunch and photographing the amazing display of blooms.
One of this things that makes this spot so special is that there is no easy way to get there and therefore not many people do. We had it to ourselves the entire time. But because of this, we still had one hell of a hike ahead of us!
While this section of LGT trail is relatively flat, it is a hard and long way away from any access points, making trail maintenance very difficult. As a result there was loads of deadfall to navigate through and around. The day had warmed up to the point that we unzipped our pant legs and the bloodshed began as a downed tree attacked my shin! I don't think I have ever had a hike in the Linville Gorge Wilderness that didn't involve a little bit of bleeding!
But the worst part was still ahead; the dreaded Pinch-in Trail. Actually, I was looking forward to a good workout and there is no better place for a workout than the Pinch-in Trail!
Boone on the Pinch-in Trail
Gaining 1700-feet of elevation in a little over a mile makes the Pinch-in one of the steepest trails anywhere. This trail is exactly the opposite of "Amy Approved", and despite how much Amy would enjoy Daffodil Flats, there is no way hell I would consider taking her up the Pinch-in Trail.
This area of the gorge was devastated by forest fires several years ago giving the area a very unique and eerie feel! The fires also significantly opened things up leaving spectacular views in all directions giving us plenty of excuses to stop and take photos along the way.
Andy on the Pinch-in Trail
Towards the end of the climb we ran into only the second group of hikers we would see on the day, giving us another excuse to stop and chat for a little while. They were some of the members of the Linville Gorge Yahoo hiking group that both Andy and I belong to.
Other than the awesome display of Daffodils, we didn't see much in the way of wildflowers. Just a couple of violets and one lone Bloodroot. It was a great day and perfect weather for a hike!
Photos from our adventure are posted here: