Sunday, August 25, 2013

Linville Gorge - Rock Jock Redux


On our first trip to the Rock Jock Trail it was raining and overcast.  Rock Jock if you remember is the ridgeline trail on the western side of Linville Gorge. With the Gorge shrouded with clouds we were denied the stunning view we knew the trail offered.  So on the first clear, cool day we could find, we returned to the Rock Jock. It was the most memorable hike of the short career of the Fat Bald White Guy and his hiking companion.....

Information Cabin and Rest Room is a required stop

Rock Jock is off the Kistler Memorial Highway.  Not much of a highway as it is in truth a rutted gravel boulevard which runs along the western ridge line of the southern portion of the Linville Gorge. The northern entry point begins at the parking lot for Linville Falls located just off NC 183 near the hamlet of Linville Falls NC.  Along the "highway" you will encounter various trailheads leading you into the Gorge.  The trailhead of this portion of Rock Jock we hiked is about 3 mile down the road, the Conley Cove trailhead.

Looking west beyond the Linville Gorge

The views along Kistler are breathtaking.  We were tempted to forego the hike and just take in these views instead but we knew as good as these vistas were that the ones on Rock Jock would be just as stunning.

Hawksbill from Kistler Highway

Dead Snake

Along the road in we saw a rare sight.  A black timber rattler....fortunately a dead black timber rattler.  But it was a foreshadow of things to come... Rock Jock Trail veers off from the Conley Cove trail and is a narrow moderately inclining forest path for about a half mile.  We noticed that we were the only folks on the trail that day which is surprising for a Saturday afternoon hike. In fact the trail had many spider webs built across the path.  I removed my collapsible police baton and was using it to knock down the webs when I heard my hiking companion let loose a scream that echoed across the Gorge...."SNAAAKE!!!!"

Live Snake!
I turned to see that she was facing the business end of a large snake....I had walked right over the snake.  It was about 4 1/2 foot golden striped, triangular head venomous TIMBER RATTLER!!!

Truthfully, in reflection, the snake was very beautiful but neither of us were interested in anything but getting away from creature.....but it would not move until we lobbed some rocks at it and as it scurried into the woods it rattled its tail just so we knew it was a Timber I was not bitten I do not know.  More on that later...

Gathering ourselves we quickly left "Rattlesnake Alley" and scampered to the first rock cliff overlooking the Gorge to catch our breath. 

We got a glimpse of Hacker's point and the North Carolina wall, a view that on our last trip was shrouded in clouds.  Our first of many views of Table Rock Mountain was stunning.

It was with humble satisfaction that we gazed on these peaks recognizing that just last summer we had hiked to the summit of each and had gazed at the western side of the Gorge wondering what views were offered there. We even tried to spot climbers on the peaks of the Chimneys.

Moving to Hacker's Point we were in awe of the majestic North Carolina wall. And of course Table Rock Mountain and Hawksbill Mountain

We even got a glimpse of the peak of Shortoff Mountain in the distance to the south and the Linville River down below.

Moving on from Hacker's Point we were anxious to visit Blue Jay Falls which was the focal point of our first trip to Rock Jock....

Along the way we saw that the cairn we erected on the first visit still stood witness to God's glory on the side of the trail.

We listened as we walked for the roar of the falls but heard none.  The springs of the mountain were still weeping but the waterfall that was surging down from the rock cliff was now just a trickle.

It appears that on our earlier visit we got to observe a rarity in nature for Blue Jay Falls in fact is really not much of a falls at all. 

There were several interesting views beneath the rock cliffs.

We moved on from the falls and scampered through a rock canyon where we turned back on our last visit.  The rock canyon is a steep incline that for a couple of hundred yards we actually thought we were off the Rock Jock trail. But soon at the base of a large tree we spotted the Rock Jock Trail which led us to the Split Rock of Rock Jock Trail.

The Split Rock is two large rocks which looks like the end of a loaf of bread sliced in half.  We elected to take a lunch break in the shade of this rock.

 Leaving the Split Rock we traveled upon the Rock Jock Trail seeking more views.  I was told by folks on the Linville that the current Rock Jock Trail is a replacement of a Lost Trail that runs long the cliff sides.  After about a half mile of forest trails with little prospect of Gorge views, we gave in to the lateness of the day and backtracked hoping to take in side trails on the way out and snap a few more views of the Gorge.

By following every side trail we could find we
found many cliff side views we missed on the way in.

Table Rock Mountain

North Carolina Wall

We were treated with a variety of vistas of familiar peaks of the eastern side of the Gorge.  The weather cooperated with a blue canvas of sky and clouds.

Take a look at the shadow....can you see the back of a monster with arms extended?

The "monster" looks like it is chasing something flying in the air....

The southern end of the Gorge is nicely framed with puffy white clouds. Shadows help frame the picture of Hawksbill Mountain to the north.

From every angle, from whatever vista you choose the Linville Gorge is simply magnificent!


We sat quietly on this picturesque cliff, silence only interrupted by the quiet roar of the Linville River hundreds of feet below.  A previous occupant of this site had constructed a campfire. I rearranged the rocks to form a cairn, thanking Almighty God for the beauty of His creation and saving me from being bitten by a Timber Rattler!

It is always tough to leave the Gorge as there is just so much to see.  But we left with the satisfaction that as much as we have seen, there is more left to see. I think the Rock Jock Trail is best hiked in two sections. The northern section which we hiked today offers so many views it must be taken in completely in one hike.  We will return to hike the Rock Jock from the south next time.

On the way out we walked carefully through "Rattlesnake Alley" making lots of noise hoping our friend was long gone.  On the way home I questioned my hiking companion about what she saw and pondered how I avoided a snake bite.  Then at home I examined my hiking boots and learned that I had not escaped a bite....I was just lucky the bite was absorbed by my hiking boot!

You see like I have always said, the good Lord looks after, drunks, fools and Fat Bald White Guys!

Rock Jock Trail North may be one of the best trails in the Gorge.  Relatively short and moderate in intensity, it offers some stunning views of the Gorge.  Access is an 8.....scenery is a solid 9...... the trail receives an 8 only because of "Rattlesnake Alley".  Overall an 8+....


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Daniel Boone Park


There are many legends of Daniel Boone and the time he spent in North fact an early tourist effort by folks in North Carolina involved a driving tour following stone arrowhead markers.  You can find three in Forsyth County, one at Union Cross Elementary School, another outside Hanes Park and one at Old Town Elementary School.  The significance of each is lost.  But the one pictured above is at a special site.....Boone Cave Park in Churchland community in western Davidson County.  It is a 100 acre park originally purchased in 1909 and now owned and maintained by Davidson County. Well maintained for a county park.  But on a hot August Day, it was not the day to explore the park....but as the FBWG says: " A hike is where you look for it"

We parked at the picnic shelter and took a short walk down to the Yadkin River.... swatting mosquitoes and gnats as we walked. 

 Getting to the cave we passed by a true Baptism Rock right out of the movies.

Soon we got to the cave... Legend has it the cave was the place Squire Boone and his family resided when they first ventured to the Yadkin River Valley in the early 1750's....

Trouble is I am not sure how they came down the Old Wagon Road...crossed the Yadkin at Shallowford and then crossed it again to find this remote cave on the eastern banks of the river.....but such logic spoils a good story.

Crawling into the cave I can see how the it would be good winter shelter.  While the ceiling is low the cave is wide enough to shelter several people. In fact the cave roof bore the smoke marks of campfires.  Another legend says the cave is inhabited by the ghost of a white wolf.....needless to say the FBWG did not linger but snapped few pics and get the heck out of there!

Leaving the Cave we walked along the banks of the Yadkin River which was muddy from all the rains we have received this summer.

We felt adventuresome so we took the "Backcountry Trail" which was a very narrow path starting along the riverbank leading to a creekbank which revealed evidence of the frequent summer rains...the path was very muddy.

 At one point we had to cut our way through briers blocking the path But the most aggravating part were the frequent spiderwebs built across the path .
We resorted to carrying long sticks to knock down the webs as we slipped along the trail.  By the way, did I mention it was 90 degrees and very humid....reminder to the FBWG- don't hike below 3000 feet in August!  The trail was well marked and soon led to a steep incline which almost caused the FBWG to vapor lock....but at the top of the hill the trail intersected with a gravel path which led to the Ranger's home.  There were some really pretty wildflowers.

Flying around the flower patch was an elusive butterfly which I tried to photograph.  Patience proved successful!
Crossing the entrance road we followed signs leading us to the "Cabin" and in the process passed the trail head of the Boone's Peak trail.  This trail like the Back Country trail is one of the park's primitive trails. On a cooler day it would be nice to take it would expand the hike to a loop around the perimeter of the park.

 The trail we followed was a wide gravel path which was a welcome relief to the spiderweb strewn Back Country trail. Soon we found the Cabin Trail which was a short uphill narrow trail....another vaporlock potential on the hot humid August day.
The Cabin is a replica of a cabin circa 1740.  It was constructed by students at Davidson Community College and is so well built it probably is not the most accurate replica but it is a nice stopover nonetheless.
At the base of the front wall is a stone tablet which proclaims this to be the very site where Squire Boone constructed his first cabin in North Carolina with the help of his 16 year old son, Dan'l Boone.
I hope the folks got their history correct but from what I have read there is no historic confirmation that Boone's Cave Park is the site of anything related to Daniel Boone....but heck he had to live somewhere so it might as well be here.

There are more sights to see ....there are remnants of an old cabin built 75 years ago and the state's largest cottonwood tree... I did not get to see these sites because it was just too hot to hike.  We trudged to the car and decided to return in the winter and see the rest of the park. Overall we hiked 2 miles and lost 5 lbs!....did I mention the temps were in the mid-90's?!

The access to the park is a 7....Churchland is on NC 150 and Boone's Cave Park Road is well marked, the park being 3.5 miles off  NC 150.  The trails are a 7....mostly because the primitive trails were so full of spider webs....not anyone's fault but it was aggravating....scenery is a 7....really not much to see once you have seen the cave...but it should be better in the fall....overall 7....