Saturday, December 1, 2012

Linville Gorge- Shortoff Mountain


                       Linville Gorge - South

From our first trip to the Linville Gorge when we climbed Table Rock Mountain, Shortoff Mountain was on my hiking bucket list....from Table Rock parking lot, it is a 11.5 mile trek through the Chimneys and over and around several smaller ridges-not an easy day hike for the FBWG....but I discovered from Wolfpit Road access....the hike is a very manageable 5.5 out and back....what can I say..."This is OUR STATE"     GO Wolfpack!       

Shortoff Mountain is the southern peak of the eastern ridge of the Linville Gorge. I was told that looking north from the summit you can see the entire Gorge. What I was not told about was the view of Lake James!  Never have I had a scenic feature dominate a hike as our view of Lake James. Every time we stopped on the trail and looked back we saw another stunning view of The Blue Lake.   

Shortoff Mountain has been the victim of several forest fires in the last decade and the devastation of those fires has changed the landscape of the mountain. Without towering oak trees, the mountain looks like one that you may hike in the Rockies....but we compared it to the scenery we observed on our hike to Mt Rogers.

To get there set your GPS to find Morganton Freedom High School....from there you easily connect with NC 126...follow this road until you pass the Lake James boat access...just ahead on the right is Wolfpit Road....the road to the "Legendary Wolfpit Weather Rock".  Go to the end of Wolfpit Road  and you will find a parking lot...the trail head looks like this. 

Be prepared for a rather steep and moderately strenuous 1.6 miles you will climb nearly a thousand feet but don't worry....every time you get tired just look over your shoulder and point out to your hiking companion another view of the Blue Lake!

From the "elbow" in the trail up Shortoff we stopped to see just how far we had hiked...down below was the Wolfpit parking lot....but off in the distance was another stunning view guessed it....The Blue Lake!

Not far up the trail from the "elbow", the Wolfpit trail ends as it intersects with the Mountain to Sea Trail (MST)...and the Shortoff Cliff trail begins...we followed the cliff trail and were rewarded with a series of spectacular views! 

First we were welcomed by a flock of Falcons!
Then I spied summer daisies in somewhat of a petrified state which provided yet another interesting view of the Blue Lake. 

Not far from the trail daisies the trail begins to turn and a series of cliffs run parallel with the trail.  And views of the Blue Lake were replaced with views of the Linville Gorge!  

The further up the mountain you go the more impressive the views of the Gorge become.  This is one of those hikes where there are seemingly endless opportunities to explore side trails but you hesitate because you know that the next view will be even better!
As you approach the summit of the Shortoff the trail flattens out and for the rest of the hike you are on the plateau summit of Shortoff mountain....we resisted the temptation to explore and set off for the northern cliffs and in about a half mile we were rewarded for our efforts!
From the northern cliffs you can see the entire length of the Gorge!

The grand dame of the Gorge Table Rock Mountain peaks over the Chimneys and the FBWG could not resist posing. Note that the Chimneys form the backdrop with Table Rock is over the left shoulder and Hawksbill is over the right.

As we scampered out to the cliff pictured to the left....we encountered something we have come to expect on Linville Gorge trails.... a cairn. It was toppled over.  Not wanting to disturb the rocks still stacked, I left them and balanced the scattered rocks on top.  Again thanking the Almighty God for such a magnificent creation!  
Next summer we plan to explore the western ridge of the Gorge. On the way out we decided to take the MST to the Wolfpit trail.  It was a shorter route home but did not offer the views that we experienced on the hike in.  But we did catch one more look at the Blue Lake!

This trail is hard to rate. It was the perfect workout....great weather....great views but.....the damage of the forest fire is sad. A once magnificent forest now gone for a generation.  Remember what Yogi says:  "Only you can prevent forest fires!"  Trail access 8.....Scenery 8.....Trail 8....Overall a solid 8....

By the way I had to adorn a Shortoff Mountain Christmas Tree...Merry Christmas from the Fat Bald White Guy and his hiking companion!

Remember: "Wise Men still seek Him!"


I could not resist stopping at the Lake James Boat Access and taking a couple more shots of the Blue Lake.....hope you don't mind!

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