by David Underwood
The native American word for Linville Gorge is pronounced ee-see-oh which means river of many cliffs. I have hiked and backpacked there a number of times and I’m always blown away by the beauty and peacefulness of the “grand canyon of the east”.
The Central Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club hiked and camped at Linville the weekend of June 7-8. Linda Alley and I made several trips to map a route on the western side of the gorge that incorporated a loop utilizing the Linville Gorge Trail (LGT). Eventually we decided to do an out and back instead. The LGT has numerous trees and rockslides across it that make portions of the trail difficult to follow. The hike we had planned for Sunday June 8 was a 7.5 mile trek from the Conley Cove trailhead to the Linville River and then along the LGT to the point where it intersects the former Spence Ridge bridge (which was washed out by a storm in May 2013).
Six of us went up the day before the official hike (Saturday), and set up camp near the Bynum Bluff trail. We then hiked the Bynum Bluff to the river and enjoyed playing and swimming in the stream. We then hiked back on the Pine Gap trail admiring the beauty of the mixed forest wildflowers and mushrooms. While not technically described as easy, these are the easiest trails on the west rim of Linville.
We returned to the forest service road at the top of the gorge and followed the road back to the Bynum Bluff trail and our camp, about a 3 mile loop altogether. We had a nice evening of food and conservation around our campfire Saturday night. About 9:30 PM the sky opened up and we all went to bed. It rained off and on all night and was still drizzling the next morning so we decided to cancel the Sunday hike and notified the folks who had planned to come up Sunday. While it was disappointing to have to cancel Sunday, we can reschedule this hike for another day and we have a ready-made excuse to return to one of the most dramatically beautiful wild places in North Carolina.