Sunday, July 6, 2014

Linville Gorge -Babel Towers

BABEL TOWERS in the Linville Gorge

View of Linville Gorge from top of Babel Towers


The Linville Gorge never disappoints.  I like to think that it appears today as it once did to Native Americans who roamed these trails in hunt of game...or to early explorers like William Linville who lost his life exploring the gorge....or Andre Michaux who chronicled botanical studies of plants in the gorge....for the Fat Bald White Guy and his Hiking Companion each time we visit the Gorge, we marvel at the handiwork of the was no different.  Babel Tower Trail off the Kistler Highway may be one of the longest 2.5 mile trails I have ever hiked and provided some of the most stunning vistas I could have ever imagined. The Gorge never disappoints but occasionally offers a few surprises!


We were greeted by a display of blossoming summer whites.  Everywhere were blossoming Rhododendrons.  They lined the path and entertained us during rest breaks....and provided a much needed trail marker.

Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of their character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning. ~Lydia M. Child


Of the hundreds of photographs I have taken on the trail over the last two years.....this photograph above is the best.  Note the spider...and its shadow....the colors and shadows are stunning and it was all a total accident....I thought I saw a pretty flower and just snapped away....No Bride ever held a bouquet as beautiful as this.... it speaks a language only angels understand.

The destination of the hike was the Babel Towers, a rock precipice guarding the Linville River like an ancient fort of old. 

The Babel Towers rise 400 feet above the Linville River and is in the center of a rock formation which diverts the river into a "U" shaped path.  The Towers rise some 100 feet or more from the trail and offer both a challenging climb and a stunning view of the Linville Gorge.

The trail getting there is quite steep and rocky. Even going downhill for only 1.25 miles is not an easy walk as you must constantly vary your gait to avoid rocks roots and a couple of downed trees.  The trail is narrow and made narrower by the summer growth.

About a quarter of a mile down the trail the trail emerges on a rock cliff and we got the first view of Sitting Bear Mountain and Gingercake Mountain. 

Our destination though covered by a shadow could be seen within and it sure does look like it is further than a mile away! 

Along the way we got many teaser view from the forest windows opening to the distinctive landscape of the Gorge.

The Grand Dame of the Gorge, Table Rock Mountain is a central feature of the southern vistas of this well as her sister mountain Hawksbill.

The Babel Tower trail intersects with the Linville Gorge Trail at the base of the rock and there is where it gets a little confusing as there are three choices.  


My trail research said to take a right turn on the Linville Gorge Trail but we heard the happy voices of a family and thankfully a cute little girl, aptly named Laurel, gave us the right directions. 

We continued straight on Babel Tower Trial and found ourselves on a rock cliff below the towers.

From these rocky cliffs we got our first look at the Linville River looping around the Babel Tower rock formation.  Laurel and her family left us to scramble around the rocks and we searched without much success for a way to the top of the what does a FBWG do when he is confused...he sits to rests his dogs in the shade....we found a great place to do that.  Shade, cool breeze, and rock bench, this rock formation was made for the FBWG to take a break.


Beside us was a beautiful rhododendron covered with pink blossoms.


My hiking companion and I were stumped...there had to be a trail to the top of the towers...heck Little Laurel and her family had just been there.  Then another pair of trail angels appeared....from behind the pink rhododendron bush next to where we were sitting, a young couple emerged from a trail which was nearly hidden by the bush.  They confirmed that the way to the top was by the trail behind the pink bush!


The trail was even more narrow than we had previously encountered and it hugged the base of the tower rock.  Then it went straight up.....yep....hand over hand rock climbing type of trail...some 100 feet worth or more.  What is a Fat Bald White Guy to do....but climb to the top!
The climb was more treacherous than we probably thought at the time but emerging on the top of the Babel Tower proved our efforts worthwhile as the views are spectacular.

Standing on top of the Babel Tower, some 400 feet above the Linville River, we had a 360 degree of the Gorge.

Looking south a cool breeze helped illuminate a view of the Linville River snaking toward the base of Table Rock Mountain in the distance.

The peak of Hawksbill Mountan peaked around the slopes of Sitting Bear Mountain.

Looking north we could clearly see the mountain ridge that encloses the north end of the Gorge at the Linville Falls.
 Looking to the west, we saw the ridge of Linville Mountain near Wiseman's view.

The river surrounds the Babel Tower rock formation on three sides.
We lingered for over a half hour on top of the tower.  The views, the gentle breeze and the simple majesty of the Gorge was a lot to take in.  

We made the climb down, thankfully without incident.  

And I paused to erect a cairn to commemorate our adventure and God's blessing.   And I paused to record my Gorge tattoo as well.

The walk out was the toughest mile I have hiked in a very long time.  There is 1000 feet of elevation to cover in 1.25 miles.  That is hard enough for a Fat Bald White Guy but add to that a rock strewn narrow path and you have a one tough climb. 

So how do I rate this trail.....the access is off Kistler Highway and is clearly marked with good parking....9.....the trails are rough and narrow ...7....the scenery is spectacular....9....and the effort to view ratio is about what it should be...for to see the things you see from a top Babel Tower you really need to work for it....over all a solid 9 trail....

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