Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tanawha Trail - Two Hikes


Tanawha Trail to Wilson Creek Falls

Looking for a new place to hike this season, my Hiking Companion suggested we venture over to Grandfather Mountain.  If you are going to hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway side of Grandfather, you must look to the Tanawha Trail.

We decided to stop at Boulder Field overlook just south of the Linn Cove Viaduct and access the Tanawha Trail.  From that overlook we saw in the distance some old friends, Table Rock, Hawksbill, Sitting Bear and Gingercake Mountains of the Linville Gorge.
The Tanawha Trail is a boulevard trail leading from Julian Price Park to Grandfather Mountain.  From this trial many other trails are accessed.  We did not have time to hike very far due to the lateness of the day so we chose to hike north to the trail head of the Rough Ridge Trail.

The Tanawha Trail runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway and in this case on the side of the ridge above the scenic Linn Cove Viaduct. 

From the trail we got occasional glimpses of the distant Table Rock Mountain.

The trail crossed a nice spring fed creek that seemed to bubble up from the ground among moss covered rocks.

About six tenths of a mile along the trail we came upon Wilson Creek which because of the recent snow fall melting off the mountain was a roaring water fall.

From the bridge we could see the water flowing to the Viaduct which we could see in the woods in the distance.   Looking up the creek we got to see another view of the Wilson Creek Falls

Like all little boys, the Fat Bald White Guy likes to play in a creek so it did not take long for me to locate a side trail and begin to climb upstream to a large rock formation

What I did not know was that beyond this rock outcropping was an ever expansive series of waterfalls and creek rapids.

 It was like the entire mountain was alive with water seemingly flowing from every direction

It was very neat to literally sit on a rock in the middle of a mountain stream and let the water flow all around me. 

I really don't know what is so exciting about exploring a mountain creek and marveling at the natural grace and quiet roar of waterfalls but it is a feeling that is simply invigorating.

It was hard to leave Wilson Creek and the many wonderful falls that seemed to erupt at every turn.  I wonder if this scene was atypical since the previous weeks saw a foot of snow on these mountains.   It may be that this was a once in a lifetime occurrence.

Leaving the creek we tracked back on the Tanawha Trail toward the Boulder Field.

Overall we hike about a mile and a half and got to enjoy a nice mountain trail that was not strenuous and got to play in Wilson Creek Falls.  I don't know how active these falls will be in drier days but the hike is well worth the trek to see one of mountain's naturally beautiful scenes..... a waterfall.

Leaving the trail I was drawn to the massive mountain but a couple of miles away.  Grandfather Mountain is calling and one day soon the Fat Bald White Guy and his hiking companion will be on top of the summit at Calloway Peak...

The access to the trail off the Blue Ridge Park was is a 9..... the trail is an 8....rocky but not very strenuous....the scenery is an 8....other than the fantastic waterfall not a very scenic hike.....overall the trail is an is one anyone can make and well worth the journey.

looking over Hacker's Point toward the North Carolina Wall off Rock Jock Trail in the Linville Gorge

Monday, February 24, 2014

Linville Gorge - Pinnacle Trail


       Pinnacle Trail in Linville Gorge

I can't count the number of times we passed by the Pinnacle Trail.  It is the last trail head on the Kistler Memorial Highway, the southernmost trail on the western side of Linville Gorge.  It is a short trail, about a quarter of a mile each way.  The views are as spectacular as the trails is easy.
From a lower cliff facing southwest, we got the first view of Lake James to the southeast in the distance. The Blue Lake is an impressive feature of the landscape of the Linville River valley.

To the south the blue horizon of the south mountains seem to melt into the blue sky

To the west the faint blue line of the Black Mountains are part of the horizon.

As we climbed up to the promontory rock, we found a wooden overlook facing the desolate face of Shortoff Mountain.  This mountain is the southernmost peak of the eastern rim of Linville Gorge and has never recovered from a 2007 forest fire.  The resulting appearance is a mountain that looks more like one seen in the Rockies than in the Blue Ridge.

From the overlook we could see the Linville River flowing into the Blue Lake.  It is hard to imagine that this river started its route through the Gorge as it flowed over the Linville Falls some 15 miles to the north.

Climbing to the top of the rock promontory, I was provided a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside. 

On the top of the rock, the National Geodetic Survey has placed a marker in the stone indicating the name "Pinnacle".

Looking to the north, a majestic winter view of the peaks of The Chimneys, Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountains. The damage from the recent Table Rock fire is displayed with the various rust colored streaks of fire damaged trees on the face of the mountain.

The contrast between the waves of the rock cliff and with the distance Blue Ridge Mountains makes for a nice picture.

From several locations on top of the Pinnacle, there were many interesting views of the surrounding countryside.

Climbing down from the Pinnacle we ventured down the Mountain to Sea Trail toward the river but realizing the hike back up was more than we had planned for the day we decided to return and got a nice view of the Pinnacle

Before we left we got another nice view of the beautiful Blue Lake in the distance.

And one nice view of the Pinnacle with the sun providing an interesting contrast with the blue late winter sky.

This is a great hike.  It is short and not at all strenuous. You can reach the trail head by following Kistler Highway to the southern end of the Gorge.

The trail is a nice 8....too short for a good workout but well maintained....the views are a 9....great 360 degree view of the southern part of the Linville Gorge and surrounding countryside... Access is an 8....long drive up Kistler Highway from either end but not hard to find when you get there....Overall a solid 8...No excuses if you want to hike Linville Gorge this is a hike anyone can make!

The other hike anyone can make is Tanawha Trail to Wilson Creek out that blog entry too!