Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Linville Gorge - Wiseman's View


                    - The Best View of Linville Gorge

Wiseman's View
After hiking the Linville Gorge for over a year.....after trudging up to the peaks of Table Rock, Hawksbill, Sitting Bear and Shortoff Mountains.....after struggling along the edge of Devil's Cliff and Chimneys' outcroppings......after enjoying a August swim in the cold Linville River at Cottontail falls.....and avoiding a snakebite on Rockjock trail.....we found the very best view of the Linville Gorge

To get there, you first need to find the Kistler Memorial Highway.  The road, named in memory of Andrew Hilton Kistler, the former mayor of Morganton, is located off NC 183 near the hamlet Linville Falls.  You may have seen it if you have visited the Linville Falls for at the northern end of the highway is a parking lot that serves the Linville Falls trail to Erwin's View.....a great place to see the falls.  ....(http://fbwg-hiking.blogspot.com/2012/06/falls-at-linville-gorge-my-favorite.html)

Truthfully, the highway is not much of a highway....it is a gravel road, a very rutted gravel road, which will jostle you and give you great concerns as you encounter other vehicles on this sometimes narrow gravel road....but not far from the entry to the highway you will find a cabin filled with information on the Gorge and some nice restrooms too !

View of Humpback Mountain to the West of Linville Gorge from Kistler Memorial Highway
Along the highway there are many impromptu overlooks which are often adorned with wildflowers framing the vista of distant mountain peaks.  The Kistler Memorial Highway is a ridge top roadway on the western side of Linville Gorge, from which there are many trails leading  into the Gorge.  Turning left at the Wiseman's View sign, you will encounter another very rutted gravel road leading to a large parking area....and a paved trail to the best views of the Linville Gorge I have yet to see!  This is a trail that anyone....I mean anyone can walk....a paved sidewalk like gentle sloped trail to a handicapped accessible overlook....the views there defy description.
Wiseman's View

The paved trail leads to a small park from which steps lead down to some well constructed overlooks. These overlooks reach out and over the Gorge allowing for the visitor to see the entire length of the Gorge. From these overlooks you can also see various views of the Eastern Ridge Mountaintops which the Fat Bald White Guy and his hiking companion had hiked over the last 16 months.....gee if we only knew!
Table Rock Mountain, one of the first peaks we climbed is the signature feature of the Linville Gorge.  The mountain was the location of Cherokee religious rituals and from its   summit is a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. (http://fbwg-hiking.blogspot.com/2012/06/table-rock-mountain-one-of-most-scenic.html)

Just to the north of Table Rock is my favorite peak, Hawksbill Mountain.  From the ledges just below the summit the ending scene of the movie Last of the Mohicans were shot.  It has a stunning hawk-like cliff and some picturesque views of Table Rock Mountain and the southern end of the Gorge. (http://fbwg-hiking.blogspot.com/2012/07/hawksbill-mountain-at-linville-gorge.html)

Shortoff Mountain
Looking south as the river flows to Lake James, the Chimneys and the North Carolina Wall form the eastern wall of Linville Gorge....the Rockjock Cliffs are seen on the western wall and in the distance is the plateau peak of Shortoff Mountain.  Yep...we hiked them all! (ck out the blog to read the details of our journeys)

Sure enough as we zoomed in on the Linville River....there we saw our favorite venue....the Swimming Hole at Cottontail Falls which we detailed in our blog entry entitled Spence Ridge...we could not see the Spence River Bridge as spring rains had washed the bridge out ....but the swimming hole looked just as inviting as last summer! (http://fbwg-hiking.blogspot.com/2012/08/spence-ridge-cathedral-falls-linville.html)

Looking north up the river toward the Linville Falls we saw the Devil's Cliff and understood now why the hike back up to the Jonas Ridge Trail along the Midcliff trail was so strenuous on a hot summer afternoon.

Leaving the stone covered overlooks and jumping a small fence, we found trails leading everywhere to many rock cliffs which offered various views of the Gorge.  In the picture below you can see the peak of Sitting Bear Mountain and a view of the Linville River as it rushes down from the Linville Falls. (http://fbwg-hiking.blogspot.com/2012/08/sitting-bear-mountain-devils-cliff-at.html)

If you want to go and look at the Autumn leaves this season and you have but one place to go....find Wiseman's View as I am sure the view will be stunning.  Seriously, if you have been envious of the views that the Fat Bald White Guy and his hiking companion have enjoyed .... and you are not up to taking the same hikes ... and the same risks.....find Wiseman's View...it is very accessible....very safe....incredibly uplifting.....trust me....the world will stop and you will fully appreciate the wisdom of John Muir:

Table Rock Mountain from Wiseman's View

"This is creation.  All that is going on today, only men are blind to see it...They can not pause long enough to go out into the wilderness where God has provided every sparrow enough to eat and to spare, and contemplate for even an hour the wonderful world that they live in."

"You say that what I write may bring this beauty to the hearts of those that do not get out to see it...The good Lord put those things here as a free gift that he who chooses may take with joy - and he who will not walk out of the smoke of the cities to see them has no right to them."

               John Muir- "Three Days with John Muir," The World's Work (1909)

Hawksbill Mountain from Kistler Memorial Highway

Monday, October 7, 2013

Julian Price Park - Lake Loop and Green Knob Loop


                                          GREEN KNOB LOOP

Green Knob Summit
On the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, just past Moses Cone Visitor's Center and just past the Price Park picnic area and right before you get to the Price Lake is a small pond .... Sims Pond...

On a overcast Sunday afternoon in early fall, we decided to go looking for colorful leaves and decided to take in two short hikes...the first being the Green Knob Loop, a 2.4 mile loop hike which begins at Sims Pond.  Leaving the pond, the trail leads into the mountain forest.  Surrounded by rhododendrons, this trail soon is covered by a golden canopy of changing leaves.

The trail follows Sims Creek upstream offering several nice views of the clear cold water flowing down the mountain side to the pond. 

The roar of the mountain creek is soon replaced by the roar of automobiles crossing the bridge over Sims Creek.

Passing beneath the underpass, the trail leaves the creek as it winds uphill.  The trail does not look steep but even on a cool day we worked up a nice lather as we trudged through the forest.  At one spot where we took a break to let our hearts catch up with our feet, I spied an unusual tree.  The lichen on the north side of the tree looked like stair steps.

Not far from the tree, the forest ended and we emerged into a lush green meadow. 

In the meadow even in early October there were wildflowers adding their contrasting color to the scene.  

From a well placed bench in the center of the meadow,  I  even got to see some of the last honey bees of the season work hard to gather the nectar from the fading blossoms. 

“We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die.”  
- Muriel Barbery

Leaving the meadow and taking the trail up toward the Green Knob meadow, we glanced back and perhaps captured one of the best views of the hike.  Always look back down the trail when you hike as you may gain a new perspective of the scene...what do you think?

As we left this meadow the trail steepened and we briefly found ourselves beneath another leafy canopy.

The Green Knob Summit is another meadow, but is not as large as the one on the lower slopes but nevertheless is just as picturesque.   The trail skirts the summit and proceeds downhill.  I had hoped to see the mountains to the northwest but the leafy trees hid them from me.

The trail is a very steep downhill trek.  You do not want to reverse the loop.  I now know why the hike from the creek to the meadow was deceptively strenuous.  It is about a 500 foot change in elevation.  But near the bottom of the forest part of the trail is a large oak tree beneath which is a bench.  From this bench you can see through a leafy window the distant Grandfather Mountain which today was partially covered with clouds.

Not far from the big oak tree is the third and final meadow of the trail.  This meadow is overgrown but from the trail are the best views of the surrounding mountains.

As the trail leaves the third meadow, it intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway just below the Sims Pond overlook.  Of course we could not leave the trail without a last look at this picturesque pond.

We were especially drawn to the play of a family and their brown lab.  The dog was swimming after a stick and retrieving it only to splash after it as it was tossed again into the pond.  We regretted we never brought our beloved Shadow to this spot but vicariously enjoyed from a distance the love of a family and their dog. 


The Price Lake is the most distinctive feature of this wonderful park.   Julian Price Memorial Park has been a favorite of mine since I was a boy camping with my family in the campground which borders the western side of the lake.  The last time I hiked this trail was about 45 years ago...dang the FBWG is getting old!

Taking the loop from the Lake Overlook, we went north through the campground.  As a result of the government shutdown the normally vibrant campground was empty...a ghost town offering memories of my youth as we passed the old campsites and walked through the camp amphitheater.

The first part of the trail is handicap accessible.  Nice wide graveled trail combined with wooden bridges made the hike a much different experience than I had decades earlier.  The bridges made it much easier to negotiate the swampy southern end of the lake crossing many of the feeder creeks of the lake.  We captured on nice shot of a reflective pool before we left the handicap trail for the narrower lake side trail

The narrower lake side trail weaved its way along the lake shore occasionally deviating into the rhododendron forest.  Mixed in with lake views were some nice looks at the changing color of the forest.

As we made our way around the fingers of the lake, we saw an ever changing view of the lake especially as the sun was covered time and again by the shifting clouds.

From the eastern side of the lake, we again got to glimpse the shrouded peaks of Grandfather Mountain in the distance.

The sun glistening over the rippling surface of the lake is a nice visual contrast with the cloudy sky and the distant blue mountain.

We waited for several minutes watching the distant cloud move over the peak of Grandfather Mountain hoping to get a clear view of the summit but the weather would not cooperate so we moved on.  Nevertheless the clouds offer a unique view of the peak almost like the forest peak was on fire.

These two trails offer a nice Sunday Afternoon hike.  Julian Price Park is just north of Blowing Rock about 2.5 hours from the Triad.  By combining the two hikes we got in almost 5 miles.  So I will rate them together... Access 9; Trails 8... Scenery 8...Overall a solid 8.  These are trails which are great for the family and for anyone who wants to start hiking.

Leaving the Park we could not resist riding across the nearby Linn Cove Viaduct.  This is one of the most picturesque sites on the parkway especially as the color of the forest changes with autumn.  Stopping at the Stack Rock Overlook, I captured some nice shots of the mountains to the southeast of Grandfather Mountain.

It is hard to imagine that wildflowers would still be in bloom in early October but like  Oliver Wendell Holmes observed: "The 'Amen' of Nature is always a flower."