Thursday, September 29, 2011

Linville Gorge Wilderness
Burke County, NC
Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Near the Summit of Hawksvbill

This past Sunday I joined my buddy Andy and his dog Boone for a hike into the Linville Gorge Wilderness. Our plan was to do the following loop hike:

Sitting Bear Trailhead > Devil's Hole > River ford > Linville Gorge Trail > Spence Ridge Trail > Spence / Ledge connector > Ledge Trail > Hawksbill > Sitting Bear Trailhead

This would require a crossing the Linville River, which should not be a problem this time of year. During the summer, the river levels generally stay low except immediately following a very heavy rain. Since there was no rain in the forecast we figured it would be OK.

Andy decided to take advantage of the nice weather forecast and spend the night camping near the trailhead before our hike.

Somehow the weather gods must have mistaken Andy’s tent for mine because a freak storm brought about 5-inches of rain to the area overnight!

Andy could not remember the last time he experienced rain that heavy while camping, but at this time we were not aware of the immense amount that actually had fallen, so we went ahead with our plan and hit the trail.

The Trail Head

The Devil's Hole Trail Sign
We don't know where the Helicopter came from,
but we discussed several theories during our hike.
A miniature alien spaceship seems the most likely explanation

The Devil’s Hole Trail begins at the Sitting Bear Trailhead and descends about 1,200 feet to the Linville River. About half way down, the trail meets up with a small stream which today was roaring!

The trail crosses over the stream several times. On most days, these crossings would be a non-event, but today they were quite challenging!

Based on the way this small stream was flowing, we were not very optimistic about being able to cross the Linville River. However, we decided to keep going to take advantage of what the rain did bring.

We stopped several times to photograph some nice cascades and small waterfalls, which during most days would not be worth a second look.

Eventually, we made it down to the Linville River and immediately upon seeing the river any thoughts of trying to get across were erased! I have never seen the river flowing this high!

Andy at the Linville River 

We arrived at the river at around 10:30am. Checking out the river flow gauge, you can see that at this time the river was flowing at around 3,000 cubic feet per second which is over 100 times the normal flow rate!

While it was impressive to see the river like this, it did put our hike plans to a screeching halt. With no way to cross the river, there was really nowhere to go from here except back the way we came.

The Linville River

We stopped to check out several more small waterfalls on the tributary stream before eventually making our way back up the 1,200 feet of elevation to the Sitting Bear Trail.

From there we hiked over to Sitting Bear Rock.

Sitting Bear Rock

To me, Sitting Bear Rock does not look like a sitting bear, but it is impressive nonetheless. I am sure there are some nice views from up top, but it would be virtually impossible to get up there without climbing gear. Fortunately there are some nice viewpoints nearby that are easily accessed.

View from near Sitting Bear Rock

Andy and Boone

Boone on a Rock

Andy and Boone checking out the view

After taking a nice lunch break, we hiked on up to Hawksbill and enjoyed the excellent views from there!

View of Table Rock and Linville Gorge from Hawksbill

Andy and Boone on Hawksbill

Even though the high river thwarted our original hike plans we made the best of it and still had a great day of hiking! And we have an excuse to get back and try our planned route again!

The complete set of photos from our hike is posted here:


HemlockMan said...

Damn. Even though it rained, I wish I could have made that hike. I would have liked to have seen the river roaring like that. As it turned out,it was a side effect of the tetanus shot that was making me so sick and not the flu.

I've also never been on the summit of Hawksbill, so that would have been a major peak bagged for me.

You got some nice shots!

Mark said...

Nice hike and trip right in my backyard ;-) Great pics! At least you were not stuck on the 'other side'! LOL