Monday, June 7, 2010

Linville Gorge Wilderness Area
Burke County, NC
Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Photos are posted here:

Andy decided that he was in the mood for a good work-out hike this weekend. The Plan was a dayhike from Conley Cove to Table Rock Mountain and back. Yes, this would definitely be a good workout, and as Andy expected, I was the only one who was willing to join him on this Adventure.

Andy even thought that this hike would be a little too much for his dog Boone, who almost always joins in on Andy’s hikes.

On the drive up to Linville Gorge, I dropped my wife Amy off at her parent’s house in Rutherfordton, NC. After that, it seemed that every handicapped Buick driver in North Carolina was out on the road. After being stuck driving 25mph in a 55mph zone on several occasions, I found myself running late!

Actually, I arrived right on time, but for someone like me who has a natural tendency to always be early, being on time felt like being late. Especially since Andy actually beat me to the trailhead which very rarely happens.

We hit the Conley Cove Trail and decided to make a short detour to check out a spot called Buzzards Roost. We knew that if we waited until the end of the hike, we wouldn’t have enough energy left to attempt what we anticipated would be a bushwhack.

Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. Someone has done a really good job of clearing out this path. Once we found the right starting point, it was no problem navigating our way down to Buzzards Roost.

Buzzards Roost is a very impressive rock outcrop offering up some awesome views of the Linville Gorge.

Andy on Buzzards Roost

We took a moment to look over the terrain and visualize the route we would be hiking today:
• Conley Cove Trail 1,100-feet down to the river
• Linville Gorge Trail up the river to the Spence Ridge Bridge
• Cross the River via the Spence Ridge Bridge
• Climb 2000-ft up to table Rock Mountain via the Spence Ridge and Little Table Rock Trails
• Descend back down the same 2000-ft via the Mountains-to-Sea and Spence Ridge Trails
• Retrace our steps back and finish with the 1,100-foot climb back to the Conley Cove parking area.

At this point I was glad I elected to leave the weight of my tri-pod behind and replace it with a couple of extra bottles of water!

As nice as Buzzards Roost is, it was time to get on with our hike. Back on the Conley Cove Trail we saw a couple of hikers struggling to get around some deadfall blocking one of the switchbacks. There was an obvious shortcut path that bypassed the switchback and deadfall.

While the couple struggled with the deadfall, Andy and I easily got around it by taking the shortcut. I generally don’t approve of shortcutting switchbacks, but in this case I made an exception. It turned out that these hikers were actually Forest Rangers, which explained why they refused to take the erosion causing shortcut path around the blocked switchback.

They seemed a little surprised when we told them our plans for the day, but we assured them that we were prepared for the journey. We chatted a few minutes before heading on.

There was a nice display of wildflowers on the Conley Cove Trail. However, we elected to save any photos for the hike back up. That would give us some welcomed excuses to stop and take a few breaks during the grueling final climb much later in the day.

We made good time down to the Linville River and almost to the Spence Ridge Bridge when we spotted something of a surprise! A waterfall?

A few hundred yards downstream from the Spence Ridge Bridge an impressive looking waterfall cascaded down from a side tributary into the Linville River. What made this a surprise is we had both hiked this stretch of trail on several occasions and have never noticed this before. Therefore, Andy has declared this to be “Surprise Falls”.

Surprise Falls

It was obvious that the area was hit with some pretty strong showers the previous evening, which I am sure helped make this waterfall much more impressive than under normal conditions. We probably never noticed it before because under normal conditions this waterfall is probably just a small trickle.

But today, we both decided it was worth the short scramble climb down the steep bank to get a better view. Now, I was regretting my decision to leave the tri-pod behind. Despite a sun that didn’t want to cooperate and lacking a tripod, I did manage to get a couple of acceptable shots.

Back on the trail, we reached the Spence Ridge Bridge. We took a moment to soak in the sights. As beautiful as the Gorge is, our eyes were drawn to the Bikini Babes sunning themselves on the rocks as we crossed the Linville River on the Spence Ridge Bridge (sorry, no photos of the Bikini Babes, just one of Andy Crossing the Bridge).

Andy Crossing Linville River on the Spence Ridge Bridge

The meat of our climb up the Spence Ridge Trail and Little Table Rock trail was uneventful. I was back to being grateful that I went with extra water instead of a tri-pod as I would need to replace about a gallon of sweat!

Near the intersection of the Mountains-to-Sea trail we spotted an outcrop covered with Turkey Beard Blooms and decided to see if we could find a way to get there.

We managed to find a tough scramble path down to what we are calling Turkey Beard Point. We realized after the fact that if we would have gone about 15 feet further on the main trail, we would have found a much easier path down.

Turkey Beard Point

Our original plan was to take our main lunch break on the Table Rock summit, but instead elected to break at “Turkey Beard Point”. This turned out to be an excellent decision!

After finishing up lunch and heading back on our way a few raindrops started falling. As we made our way up the final few hundred feet to the Table Rock summit, it quickly changed to a downpour.

This downpour lasted for approximately 52.37 seconds, which was just long enough to send the crowds of people on the Table Rock summit back down the mountain. By the time we reached the summit, the rain had completely stopped and we had the usually very crowded Table Rock summit to ourselves!

View from Table Rock

We took another short break here to enjoy the awesome views from Table Rock Mountain! Even Iggy decided to crawl out of my pack to check out the view!

Iggy on Table Rock

Based on how long it took us to get here, I was starting to think it would be fairly late by the time we finished up our hike. However, we made excellent time back down to the Spence Ridge Bridge!

We took a quick stop there to enjoy a very cold but very refreshing swim in the river!

Andy swimming in the Linville River

As planned, we made the final 1,100-ft climb out of the gorge a bit less grueling by making several stops to photograph a nice variety of wildflowers.

Fire Pink

For the last photo of the day, we met one of Iggy’s cousins hanging out on a rock.

Iggy's Cousin Lizzy the Lizard

I drove back to Rutherfordton to Amy’s parent’s house and arrived just in time to mix me up a cocktail while Amy’s Dad pulled some hamburgers and hotdogs from the grill. Nothing like a refreshing adult beverage and a hearty meal after a long and strenuous hike!

It was a great hike, and while I wasn’t planning to take a whole lot of photos, I still ended up with over 200. I’ve gone though and whittled the batch down to a more reasonable number which are posted here:


HemlockMan said...

Nice shot of Iggy! (That has to be one of the coolest toys I've ever seen.) His cousin is, I think, a common fence lizard.

I would have gone with you guys if I'd had the day off. So it goes.

Not only have I never BEEN to the bridge over Linville River, I've never even see a photo of it. Thanks for posting that!

"Surprise Falls" was a cool addition. Yeah, I'm sure it was probably just a trickle the other times you'd been there.

I love swimming in the Linville River. You can't drink that damned water, but it's okay to swim in it.

You should consider getting a small tripod. I have two: one of them being a gorilla grip. I carry them when I don't feel like lugging that big one around. Sure, they're not as good as a full-size tripod, but they would likely do the job for you when it comes to taking the kinds of shots you like to get of waterfalls and cascades.

Jack said...

Thanks Bob! You are correct about it being a Fence Lizard! I actually have (4) Tri-Pods including a tiny one that I should have brought along. I did have my medium size tri-pod, but elected to leave it in the truck so I could fit a few more water bottles in my pack.