at LINVILLE GORGE
A NOTE FROM THE FAT BALD WHITE GUY:
On Saturday (7/14/12) we returned to the Linville Gorge. Some have called this place "the Grand Canyon of the East". It may be one of the prettiest places on the face of the earth. Our destination- HAWKSBILL MOUNTAIN. It was a mountain we saw first on our visit to Table Rock Mountain....and when I learned that scenes from the movie Last of the Mochicans were shot there...I had to make the climb....What I am about to share with you is simply breathtaking.....it does not get any better than this folks!
I will lift up my eyes unto the hills-from whence my help comes? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of the Heavens, the Earth and the Mountains....Psalm 121
We began our hike from the Sitting Bear Mountain Trail Head....located off North Carolina Forest Service Road 210...the same one you use to get to Table Rock. This trail joins the Jonas Ridge trail which runs the length of the northeast rim of the Linville Gorge from Gingercake Mountain to Hawksbill Mountain.
One thing I have learned is a necessity is good intel about the hike...I recently joined an online forum for Linville Gorge hikers (http://www.linvillegorge.net/smf/index.php)
The information on this site is invaluable if you are going to hike the Gorge. Not only did the good folks there provide an excellent map to download, but before the hike I asked what I should expect and received some very accurate information.
The Jonas Ridge Trail is a narrow forest covered path that is not used a lot. From the Sitting Bear Trail Head, the Jonas Ridge Trail traces the ridge line up a smaller unnamed peak....(I think I will call it Bubba Mountain)....Because of the forest we were unable to enjoy the magnificent view of the the Gorge to the west and the mountains to the East....Spring hike would be the best time for these views....Nevertheless we were not disappointed for what we saw was simply incredible.
Rhododendrons formed a tunnel-like canopy over the trail for many long lengths... petals from the "Summer Whites" filled the path reminiscent of how Whitney's flower girl gave her the same honor last year as she came down the aisle to take her marriage vows....but as nice as the flowered path was, the real beauty was right above our heads.
While it is long past the peak for "Summer Whites" to bloom....there were many blooms waiting for us to enjoy.....especially if we took time to notice!
The pink buds soon give way to an explosion of white color that dots the forest with a silky texture of radiant white often spotlit by sunlight breaking though the trees
Notice the raindrop clinging to the petals in the picture below
Flowers were not the only thing we noticed along the trail..... There was this large tree in the middle of the trail somewhere near the peak of Bubba Mountain that my trail companion said reminded her of the talking trees in the Wizard of Oz!.....What do you think?
Rhododendrons were not the only thing blooming along the trail. Yellow, purple and white wild flowers were intermixed with some really pretty ferns.
We even shared one part of the trail with a honey bee....sorry that the picture is fuzzy but bees move very fast....look at the little guy working hard in the bottom left corner of the picture!
This odd fellow was growing from the top of a rock at the pinnacle of Bubba Mountain.
The Jonas Ridge Trail ends at the trail leading to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain.....trouble was there were three choices....and as we contemplated our path with the help of a map....along came two disgusting people. Two twenty-something folks who were running! Yep...a tall tatted shirtless man followed by a winsome lass....heck that could have been a Cherokee brave being chased by his squaw if we had been in Dan'l Boone's day.....but here we were having huffed and puffed over Bubba Mountain and we are dissed by two overly healthy young folks who ran by us and disappeared down a trail that I suspect ends up at the bottom of the Gorge.....by the way...the trail up to Hawksnest was the center path!
On the way up we were teased with several nice window views of the mountains to the east of Hawksbill. The summit trail is pretty steep but very manageable....and when you reach the summit you are facing southwest toward Table Rock Mountain....
When we visited the peak of Table Rock Mountain a few weeks ago we took a nice picture of Hawksbill Mountain blanketed by a cloud shadow....it was nice to see Table Rock with the same cloud blanket covering the peak....you can see how the shape of the summit of Table Rock might have been used by Cherokees for religious rituals....it has a most distinctive summit profile, rivaling that of Grandfather Mountain.
From the southern summit of Hawksbill Mountain you can look down the Linville Gorge and can see the river in the foreground and Lake James in the distance...no picture can aptly describe this view...it does not look real....more like a painting.
Looking to the left of Table Rock....southward.....you can make out the faint outline of Lake James.....what a great line of clouds!
As we relaxed on a large rock enjoying the mountain breeze and letting our "dogs" breathe, our peace and quiet was disturbed by a barking dog! Yep, a couple with two dogs trudged to our side of the summit.....but that was a good thing..."Hey if you think the view from this side is great....wait till you go to the other side" said the man.....Heck and I thought the little outcropping a few yards beneath our boulder was the "hawksbill" ....what did I know! To fully appreciate the many views provided you by Hawksbill Mountain, you have to follow the paths that seem to lead everywhere!.....but first you have to go to the North end of the summit....there you will experience the real "hawksbill"!
From the "Hawksbill" you can view the Linville River as it leaves the Falls and begins the journey to Lake James......Wonder if anyone has ever base jumped from here?
Zooming in on the Linville River. Hard to believe that small river made this big hole!
Some very brave young ladies frolicked on the edge of the cliff that forms the distinctive "Hawksbill". Bet they did not know the Fat Bald White Guy would make them famous!
Looking Northeast from beneath the beak of the "Hawksbill" you can see the faint outline of both Sugar and Grandfather Mountains.
If you look over the edge of the cliff, you see the forested valley floor. Watch that first step!
Looking southwest from the Hawksbill, you can see another view of the Gorge.....you can see nearly the entire length of the Gorge from this part of the summit.
You can also get another glimpse of the cloud blanketed peak of Table Rock Mountain.
Seemingly growing out of the the granite rock are some amazingly beautiful flowers, bushes and flora.
By following a path leading to the eastern part of the summit you find yourself on a ledge overlooking mountains to the east...a wonderful interplay of shadows and clouds accent the distant "Blue Ridge"
This was by far the best hike of the season.....we figured we hiked about five miles total....the path gave us a variety of wonderful views of mountain vegetation and ended at one of the most scenic peaks in the Blue Ridge. Table Rock is stunning because it provides a 360 degree view ....but although the views from Hawksbill are harder to work for, they provide a much better view of the Linville Gorge.
What can I say....this was a great hike....10++....if you like Table Rock you will love Hawksbill!
Next Week: Mt Rogers...the highest peak in Virginia!