Monday, January 17, 2011

The Land of the Lost!

Linville Gorge Wilderness

Rock Jock Trail Hike with Andy, Boone and Bob
Burke County, NC
Sunday, January 16th, 2011

The Land of the Lost!

Photos are posted here:

My favorite hike from last year was our winter hike into the Linville Gorge Wilderness with Bob, Andy, and Boone. One year later, we would return for another winter time Linville Gorge Wilderness Adventure.

This time, we would head to the West side of the Gorge and hike the Rock Jock Trail.

I met the others at one of the Lake James parking areas and we combined into Bob's truck for the remainder of the drive to Linville Gorge.

Lake James

Kistler Memorial Highway (the dirt road on the West Rim of the Gorge), was in pretty good shape. We probably could have made it with a 2WD vehicle, but I would not recommend trying it this time of year. There were definitely several spots where we were glad to be in Bob's 4x4 pick-up!

Since there is not a good place to park at the South End of the Rock Jock Trail, we decided to park at the Pinch-in Trail parking area and hike up the road about a half mile. Once we arrived at the Trailhead, Bob proceeded to lose the first Lens Cap of the day!

Boone at the Rock Jock Trailhead

It was definitely a bit chilly starting out, but we were expecting cold weather and all came prepared. The trail starts descending steeply and even though we were going downhill we warmed up quickly and started shedding clothing.  The weather forecast called for highs in the 30s, but I am pretty sure it got up to and stayed at close to 50 for most of our hike!

The Rock Jock Trail

The first part of the trail travels through a forest that was decimated by fires several years ago. While these fires were devastating, it definitely helped open up the views and create some interesting features along the south end of the Rock Jock Trail. We stopped every chance we could to enjoy the views and take plenty of photos.

Burnt Forest

We broke for lunch at a spot called T-Shirt point. While exploring around T-Shirt Point, I dropped my hiking pole off the side of a cliff. Fortunately, it got caught in some brush on a lower ledge and I was able to carefully retrieve it. Bob's hiking stick also mysteriously disappeared, but after about 20 minutes of searching, I finally located it leaning up against a burnt tree.

view from T-Shirt Point

In the shady areas there was upwards of 6" of snow on the trail. Based on the lack of footprints ahead of us, we were the first humans to venture this way since the snow fell a week ago. A rocky snow covered trail makes for some very slow hiking. At times it was difficult to spot which way the trail goes.

Boone and Andy hiking the Rock Jock Trail

Since Bob was taking the lead, we just followed his footsteps which soon proved to be a mistake. When Boone started whining, we should have taken that as a clue that we were off the trail. Not to mention the fact that we were now bushwhacking through undergrowth of mostly briars.

Following Bob as he makes a worng turn with Boone looking confused

We spent a good bit of time scrambling around in circles trying to find the trail again. We eventually gave up and retraced our steps back to spot where we originally lost the trail about an hour ago. Here the trail crosses over a huge downed hemlock and descends steeply downhill. Our mistake was that after we crossed over the hemlock we followed Bob uphill into Briar Hell.

Even with long pants on, I still managed a bunch of briar scratches all over my legs! Another casualty of our scrambling around was that Bob managed to lose his second lens cap of the day!

Ice along the trail

Andy is usually very good about knowing exactly where we are on the trail at all times. As a result, I get a bit lazy when hiking with Andy and just trust he knows where we are going. It was getting late in the day, and according to Andy we still had a good ways to go.

Andy pinpoints our exact location on the map  (LOL)

We were starting to get a little worried that we would be pushing daylight by the time we finished up, so we kicked it into high gear and gave up on any additional side trail exploration.

I decided to take over the lead since I didn't want to risk following Bob on any more wrong turns! I quickly won the days award for the most times falling on my Ass! Did I mention that rocky snow covered trails can be very slippery?
Slippery Trail

Eventually we arrived at what I thought I recognized as Hackers Point near the end of the trail, but Andy was certain that we were on some other viewpoint about a mile back. Rather than confirming our location on my map, I assumed Andy was correct and was actually very surprised to see the road up ahead. I think Andy was even more surprised than I was, and felt pretty stupid about his rare navigational lapse.

Me at Hackers Point

Since we were now ahead of schedule, we backtracked a few hundred yards to explore a spot called Lost Dog Pond, an interesting little mountain Top Bog, which was almost completely frozen over. As Boone decided to run across Lost Dog Pond, I wondered if it got its name because a dog fell through the thin ice? Fortunately that didn't happen today.

Boone at Lost Dog Pond

Our original plan was do the hike as an Out and Back, but earlier on we came to the unanimous decision to make a loop and return to Bob's vehicle by finishing the hike along the road.

Roadside view from Kistler Highway

While this hike definitely had its share of mishaps, it was still very enjoyable! Even though we didn't always know exactly where we were, were never actually lost to the point of not knowing how to get back.

The Rock Jock is definitely one of my favorite trails anywhere. The scenery along the trail is always spectacular and there is plenty of opportunity of off trail exploration for even more spectacular vistas! There is still a bunch we missed and we will definitely be back!

View along the Rock Jock Trail

Additional Photos are located here:


Ingrid said...

Great series. Looks like a great place to hike.

HemlockMan said...

You always get some great action shots of Boone!