Kathy Rigsbee of the Foothills Group led an outing in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area early in May. Here is her recap and some fantastic images from the hike.
Linville Gorge is a spectacular place with awe inspiring views. The word of the day was WOW! We began our day on the Hawksbill trail which is an out and back of about 2.8 miles with 700 ft change in elevation. The trail quickly begins to climb through a tunnel of rhododendron and mt. laurel. The last bit of the trail becomes a steep trench with table mountain pines on either side. As we emerged from the trench we had our first wow moment of the day. To the left of the trail was Table Rock, Shortoff Mountain and Lake James. Directly ahead lay the Gorge. Here we found sand myrtle and service berry in bloom. We climbed a few more yards up and were on the Bill itself looking down into the Gorge and the Linville River. We retraced our steps to the trail head to move on to the next part of our hike.
We drove further down the Forest Service Rd to the Table Rock parking area. Last fall a wild fire started in the primitive camping area and scorched many acres of the steep canyon before being brought under control. Evidence of the fire was immediately noticeable. What was most amazing was how nature repairs itself. There were tender ferns and wild flowers everywhere. We made our way steadily up to the top of Table Rock for more spectacular 360 degree views including the Black Mt Range, Mt Mitchell, Grandfather Mt. and Lake James. This portion of the hike was an out and back of 1.6 miles.
Next we crossed the parking lot heading south and to The Chimneys. Here is where the wild fire is thought to have started and it looks like it burned hotter than the Table Rock area. Still, the tender plant life was blooming. Dwarf Iris, False Solomon’s Seal, Trillium and ferns of all kinds were in full glory. After about .5 of a mile we reached a rock outcropping which gave us a great view of the Chimneys, a series of flat layers of quartzite stacked on top of each other. From here we scrabbled over rocks, through narrow openings and onto ledges for different views of the Gorge. We made our way back to the parking area having hiked a total of 6.1 miles and enjoyed a beautiful day in Linville Gorge Wilderness.