Sunday, November 24, 2013

Linville Falls - Plunge Basin

PLUNGE BASIN at Linville Falls

So it is a cold Sunday morning....a day that most folks just lounge around the house and watch football...but my hiking companion suggested that we go for a 22 degree mountain cold...down to the foot of the Linville Falls.   Well what is a Fat Bald White Guy to do....if there is a better two mile hike in North Carolina....I have yet to find it!

On our first trip to the Linville Falls(, we observed from the safety of the Chimney Overlook a number of folks scampering along the rocks at the base of the lower falls.  It intrigued me as to how they got there....but since Linville Falls is the most popular feature of the Linville Gorge....and the FBWG is not into social hiking, we stayed way from this picturesque place until we found a 22 degree day to go hike the Plunge Basin Trail!.... and we had the trail to ourselves! duh!

You pick up the Plunge Basin Trail on the left side of the Linville Falls visitor center... which is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway....real easy access...the trail is wide and well marked and is adorned with rhododendrons.  I bet the place is an amazing sight when they are blooming. 

 The trail to the base of the falls is 3/4 of a mile from the parking lot but the Plunge Basin Overlook is 1/2 mile from the lot.  We decided to visit the overlook first and taking the right fork we trudged down to a nice stone walled overlook.
If you have read my updated blog entry on the Linville Falls, you recognize the topography.  On the western side of the river you can view the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls from overlooks off the trails.   The best view coming from the Chimney Overlook. The Plunge Basin Overlook is on the eastern side of the river halfway between the Lower Falls and the Chimney.  It provides a great view of the Lower Falls.
Looking at the fury of the water plunging through the narrow channel you realize that the entire Linville River is being forced into a channel not 20 feet wide.....and it then explodes out of the Lower Falls into the Plunge Basin.

Looking across the basin we can see the Chimney Overlook and spy a couple looking down on the falls.  Funny thing is I never noticed the Plunge Basin Overlook when I was at the Chimney Overlook.

If you are not into a strenuous but short hike, then make the Plunge Basin Overlook you destination as it is a pretty easy out and back one miler...but if you want to experience one of the neatest places in the entire state of North Carolina....trudge down the Plunge Basin Trail....
it is steep and rugged but not a long trail, so with patience most folks can make the trek.

About halfway down the trail you encounter some steps that are much sturdier than they look.  The trail fish hooks at the bottom of the steps and I was surprised to see that we were at the base of the stone face of the ridge we just descended.  At the base of the wall I looked up and took a neat picture of the vertical wall adorned with a pine tree.

Leaving the rock wall, the trail meanders over and around boulders and roots toward the roar of the you get the first glimpse of the river you encounter a fork in the trail referenced with rocks that look like ice cubes....take the right fork for the quickest route the falls.

The trail leads to a sandy rock beach and if you are timid this is the closest you will get to the falls....but if you are like the FBWG you will rock scamper for a closer view!

We found a path over some rocks and across some eddies and with some creative scrambling we found ourselves close enough to experience a temperature drop and feel the spray of the Lower Falls.

The Linville Gorge forms a "U" at the spot where the Linville River flows over the rock wall forming the Linville Falls.  The canyon walls at this point are a couple of hundred feet high or more.

As we got closer to the falls we were in awe of the power and majesty of this wonderful creation of God's handiwork.  Having seen the falls from a distance did not prepare us for the power of the water flowing off the rocky mountain wall into the calm waters of the Plunge Basin.

Of course we erected a cairn at this spot, it would be sacrilegious not to pause and give thanks for such a magnificently beautiful site.

Leaving the falls were tough but the sun was sinking fast over the western ridge.  As we left we took time to look at the river as it flowed with amazing calmness away from the falls.

Leaving the basin I took a couple of pictures of some of the more distinctive rock formations which stood as silent sentinels to the flowing river.
The trail out is steep and strenuous but it really was not a bad hike as the distance is so short. We took our time and as we reached the top of the ridge we decided  to take an intersecting trail to see the Duggers Creek Falls. 

The trail runs parallel to the parking lot along a fire road then to a nice bridge over Duggers Creek.  From the middle of the bridge you can see Duggers Creek Falls.

This is one of the best hikes in North Carolina.  It is short and moderately strenuous but the payoff is worth the extra effort. I cannot fully explain the power of the Lower Falls as the water cascades off the rock cliffs into the Plunge Basin.  You can view the falls from many other places but until you stand at the base you have not experienced the Linville Falls.  Access is a 9; trails are a 9; scenery is a 10....overall this a 9+ trail....and if you take the trip when it is 22 degrees, you will have the trail to yourself!

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