at Linville Gorge
One of the hikes left on our summer bucket list was a venture down the trail from the Table Rock Parking Lot toward Shortoff Mountain. Not being up for a 11 mile round trip I elected to make Crackerjack Overlook our destination. In so doing we had a 4 mile out and back afternoon hike....and in the process discovered some more of the visual wonders of the Linville Gorge!....
The hike starts at the Table Rock Recreation Area parking lot. It was full. Hikers, campers, church groups. Fortunately most of the folks were hiking north and we were heading south!
From the parking lot we begin our first hike along the "white dot" blazed Mountain to Sea Trail (MST). This section of the MST is a ridge top boulevard trail linking Table Rock and Shortoff Mountains.
The trail has a moderate climb from the parking lot to the rock area of the Gorge known as "The Chimneys". But the FBWG was a bit concerned when we encountered this trail pinch....hiking really is for skinny guys you know!
But emerging from the trail pinch we encountered some of the visual scenic overload that we have grown accustomed to encountering while hiking the Gorge. We arrived late morning and the sun had just begun burning off the clouds.
From the ridge line trail you literally can see miles to the east...
Then you can turn around and see miles to the west!
Then if you look north back up the trail, the Table Rock Mountain looms large.
|These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, long to thunder praise but stand reverent, silent so that man's weak praise should be given God's attention.|
― Donald Miller
There were many opportunities to glimpse the Linville River as it meanders through the "Grand Canyon of the East"
If you look very carefully you may see the Cottontail Falls and the famous FBWG swimming hole.
The MST forms a giant fish hook around the Chimneys sometimes mere feet from the cliffs overlooking the Linville Gorge offering spectacular views of some of nature's most imaginative designs....remember the cairns that we have seen on various trails....those Cherokee stone altars .... do you think that our Creator might have created a natural cairn overlooking the Gorge?
Many other interesting cliff faces are no doubt tempting to the many rock climbers who flock to the chimneys each year.
Leaving the Chimneys the path begins a steady decline toward the gap at the foot of Shortoff Mountain. As the MST turns south we came upon two wonderful rocky knobs....one I call "Skinny Tree" knob.....the other is Crackerjack....
From the Skinny Tree Knob there is a nice view of the southeast. Also a great look at Shortoff Mountain.
If the Skinny Tree could talk, it would tell you of the forest fire that devastated the Shortoff Mountain area a few years back....and would point out to you how nature had already made a remarkable recovery as evidenced by the colorful mountain below.
From Crackerjack...you can see the sunny side of the Chimneys and Table Rock
Crackerjack is a great place to take a break and eat lunch.... and on a clear day you may even see Grandfather Mountain in the distance.
We decided not to attempt Shortoff mainly because there were very few views and the trail was very steep....so we turned around to enjoy the changing colors and spend some time rock scampering over the Chimneys....good choice I think....
We were told by an older hiker that this year the colors would not be as vivid as we have had too much rain late in the season...something about leaves have to have dry weather to "cure".
Whatever the reason we expected more color but because color was limited, we appreciated what we saw much more.
When we got back to the Chimney area we got to see many rock climbers....young and old....skinny....and well.... larger than I would have expected.... but one dude in a red shirt caught my eye from a distance.
The trail soon led to the base of the rock where this guy and his girl friend were climbing....and what did I find.....
Well....this is Our STATE and I guess I should not be surprised finding a fellow Wolfpacker with a pretty lady...enjoying the Linville Gorge...
We discovered that climbing to the top of the rock where he had anchored his ropes was really not very difficult....so we scampered up the rock and soon found ourselves overlooking the Gorge from a very interesting vantage point.
The climbing ropes were anchored in the rock....yes that is the name of Gospel tune... and a lyric that now comes alive in my mind's eye:
Of course we always find nature's adornments on the trail to be confirmation of the blessing of an Almighty Creator God and this hike was no different...be it the red blazed maple tree or the butterfly on some of the last blooms of the season...
Or a hawk soaring in the winds... or daisy patch along the side of the trail...you cannot hike the wilderness and not experience the presence of God. I am reminded: We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature-trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the sun, the moon, how they move in silence...We need silence to be able to touch souls. (Mother Teresa)
If you decide to hike Table Rock....don't forget to include a trip out to the Chimneys....it is an easy hike with many great views of the Gorge and surrounding mountains that compliments the wonderful views from atop Table Rock.
One thing to remember: Watch out for Yogi and Boo Boo...he is "smarter than the average bear" you know!
FBWG rates the Trail Access 9
The Trail is a 9
The scenery is 10
Overall 9 Great Hike!