Sunday, June 7, 2015

Linville Gorge - Table Rock, Little Table Rock


Hawksbill Mountain shadowed by Grandfather and Sugartop Mountains

 Sing, O Heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout ye lower parts of the Earth, sing ye Mountains, O Forest and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel.  Isaiah 44:23

It was a trip to Table Rock Mountain in the summer of 2012 which enticed the FBWG and his faithful Hiking Companion to begin our exploration of God's magnificent creation as embodied in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We returned today and were again stunned by the scenic overload that a trip to this mountain engenders.  The blog will be divided into three parts: Little Table Rock; Table Rock Summit Trail; Table Rock Summit

From the Table Rock Mountain Picnic area parking lot the Grand Dame of the Linville Gorge looms large above the trail head.  The forest fire of 2013 burned much of this mountain and with vegetation removed, the rocky knob of the mountain top is exposed.

We returned to Table Rock today for two reasons, first we want to see how the mountain had recovered from the forest fire and second, we wanted to visit Little Table Rock, the often overlooked little sister.   The trail to the summit of Table Rock is only a mile long but it is steep and rocky.  

The fire opened up many forest windows along the trail that did not exist in 2012.  We can see why the neighboring peak to the south is named "The Chimneys". We were relieved to see that the fire did not destroy the wonderful mountain laurel that adorned the trail.  


At the first switchback there is a signpost without a sign.  If you bear to the right, you proceed to the summit of Table Rock mountain, but to the left is the trail to Little Table Rock.  We chose the trail less traveled and were glad we did!  The trail leads up a small incline to the ridge top where a spur trail leads to the left taking us to the Little Table Rock summit camp site.  At the camp site, trails lead in every direction, each offering different view of the Gorge.  
We went right bypassing a lesser used trail for an easier trek and emerged on the upper cliff catching our first view of Hawksbill Mountain. 

 I crawled out onto the cliff and took in a spectacular view of the north end of the Gorge.  From that perch I could see the sunlit rock ramparts of Babel Towers and also a larger cliff several feet below.

We went back to the campsite chose overgrown trail that we initially ignored and followed it through overgrown mountain laurel down the mountain.  After a bit we emerged on the lower cliff and were overcome by the first of many scenic overloads.

The lower cliff was beneath the rock wall of the upper cliff which obscured a view to the south.  The mountainside was covered with mountain laurel which unfortunately were past peak blooming.  Can't wait to return again earlier in the spring.  
The sun peaking from the clouds provided many different views of the surrounding mountains. The subsiding shadows from the peak of Hawksbill Mountain revealed the fire scared mountain.  Fire had also removed vegetation from the rocky mountain side that contrasted with the lush summer greenery. 

The shadows provided interesting views to the south as well contrasting with the clouds gave the cliff side a fortress like quality  

Returning to the campsite, I scrambled through fire damaged foliage on the southern side of the Little Table Rock summit in an attempt to catch a better view of the south end of the Gorge and the Table Rock Summit.  


I could see the remnants of trees cut by fire fighters and burned by the fire which opened up views which prior to the fire would have been obscured. 

Little Table Rock is one of the best kept secrets of the Gorge.  It will be on our return list for the fall as I think it has some of the same qualities of the more famous Celestial Point.
Looking down on Little Table Rock - note the fire damage


The trail to the summit of Table Rock is a steep rocky climb with several switchbacks but resplendent in its forest window views and displays of wild flowers and rock formations.

The mountain laurel, though past their peak were stunning none the less. This trail is full of pink mountain laurel, a real treat.  


Close up of Hawksbill Peak

 There are many great places to view the Linville Gorge, but none rival the views provided by the Table Rock Summit on a summer day.  As we sat in awe of the view, up walked a trio of rock climbers who had taken the short cut to the climbing the rock wall.  I was so impressed I had to make Tom, Mark and Matipia famous.  

The summit is a rocky plateau which is nearly 500 yards long.  The trail provides  easy access to the north side of the summit facing Hawksbill Mountain and the Linville River flowing through the Gorge. It is a mistake to stop here for your view, for exploring the summit plateau will provide many views just as spectacular. 

From the rocky summit you can see clearly the outline of Lake James behind Shortoff Mountain. By scrambling south across rocks and along trails various views spring forth to maintain the scenic overload that Table Rock Mountain produces.
Looking to the west, the outline of the Pisgah Mountains provide a darker blue contrast to the green mountains and the blue sky.

The summit to the south is a nice rock scramble that looks more daunting than it is. The trek is well worth the effort.

The view to the east was an interplay of mountains, shadows and color.

To the south looking over the summit of the Chimneys, is the outline of Shortoff Mountain and the south end of the Gorge. 

Looking back, I found my hiking companion taking my picture as I took a picture of her....just like we did three years ago.

The trail down the mountain gave us one last glimpse of Hawksbill Mountain and reminded us of how steep the climb to the top is and how pretty at trail it is.  Plenty of forest windows and plenty of flowers.  

This is the perfect mountain hike....access is a Forest Road 210 to a nice parking lot is easy to find.....the trail is a well marked and easily traversed mountain trail....9....

the scenery is a there is not a better place to see the Linville Gorge....the effort to view ratio for Little Table Rock leans to the easy.....

but for the Summit is about right leaning toward the great to scramble to see the good stuff....if you are in the area make this a destination this summer!

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