Sunday, October 18, 2015

Linville Gorge - Jonas Ridge, Celestial Point, Devil's Cliff


Hoping to catch the Gorge in full autumn splendor, we were disappointed to find we were about two weeks early.  Nevertheless our trip to the famous Celestial Point and equally beautiful Devil's Cliff did not disappoint.  The subtle fall colors added to the Gorge beauty to our enjoyment. Hiking down Jonas Ridge Trail from the peak of Gingercake Mountain was a real treat.
In previous trips to the scenic cliffs of Hurricane Wall we had climbed Sitting Bear Mountain.  Forsaking that climb for the easier romp down Jonas Ridge Trail made a much easier hike.  Finding the trail head in Gingercake Acres has always proved elusive for me, but I actually followed directions and made it there with no trouble. The views from the cabins in Gingercake Acres are amazing!
The trail from the end of Grandview Circle Extension is a quick steep hike to the top of Gingercake Mountain making me question whether this was an easier route but it proved to be a short hike to the 4120' peak, the highest point in the Linville Gorge.

The hike down Jonas Ridge Trail to the intersection with Devil's Cliff trail is no more than 3/4 quarters of a mile. The distinctive six rock entrance made the trail easy to find. Finding the trail to Celestial Point was easy too as it is about a third of a mile down Devil's Cliff trail. Ck our our New Year's Day hike for specific directions.

On the way to the point, we passed the rock formation made famous by Maddie and Mike on our New Year's Day hike and caught a glimpse through a forest window of Table Rock and Hawksbill, nicely framed by colorful leaves.

Words can never adequately describe the view from Celestial Point.  Truthfully as stunning as the pictures are, they only tell part of the story too.  Scenic overload is on display.  You are forced to sit down and take in the view, that in fact is enveloping you as you gaze at the natural wonder of the Linville Gorge. I really could stay here for hours. 

 The leaves have just started turning.  The lower elevation of the southwestward facing gorge, has delayed autumn.  Just over the ridge to the northeast, around Grandfather Mountain, the leaves are in full color.  Still the colorful accents on the slope of Hawksbill Mountain added a nice touch to my favorite peak.

I could not resist photographing my two favorite peaks from various angles, trying to get the best look at the colorful accents to their natural beauty. It is hard to imagine that these hills were so recently the site of a massive forest fire!  Nature has a way to heal even the most severe attacks by man.

Looking down Hurricane Wall, the color nicely framed the picture of the western side of the gorge. There is something I like about the scraggy pines at Celestial Point.  They add to the picture, even though I am sure others are tempted to saw them down.  They are silent sentinels sharing the best view of the gorge with us. There is something noble about their presence.
It is hard to pick out the best pictures of Celestial Point for this blog.  All the pictures we took at this place deserve display.  Since the hike was short we had a choice to make....Devil's Cliff or Sitting Bear....we chose to hike down to Devil's Cliff.  But before we describe that part of the last look at Celestial Point

The Devil's Cliff trail is a moderately steep downhill hike to some wonderful cliffs overlooking the Linville River.  As we trudged down the trail, several side trials drew my attention, each providing another wonderful view of the gorge...and one tangling me in briers giving me several nice gorge tattoos for the day.
The trail down to the cliff was longer than I remembered and with the leaves covering the path hid a number of rocks and roots that occasionally stubbed our toes.  Getting there we were again treated by a great view of the Gorge, this time with sound of the river roaring in our ears.

We met a man named "Doug" and his wonderdog "Hogan".  Seems this dog is 16 years old and has hiked with Doug all over the gorge.  What a great dog!

Scrambling over the cliffs, Doug wanted me to point out to him Babel Tower.  From the northern part cliffs, the Tower could be clearly seen.  It stands like a fortress guarding the river.



From the northern cliffs looking south, more beautiful views of the Gorge are on display. The one of the right is "Snakehead Rock".

As I was taking a picture of my Boston Red Sox hat a top Devil's Cliff rock, I heard a rumble in the woods.
The rumble was a family of three kids, a mom and dad....three dogs....and check this.... a pig!  Yes, a pig.  Seems that "Rosie" is the favorite pet of a little girl named "Meadow" who followed the family from its nearby house on to the trail.  So I decided to take a picture to make them famous.

What can I say about this hike....beautiful fall day...temperature in the 50's....Celestial Point and Devil's Cliff are two of the most scenic places in the Gorge...great day for a hike....Trail is a 9...trail head is off Grandview can find it from Valley drive or Table Rock Drive via Rhododendron. Parking is limited but access is great...8;  The scenery is also a 9 as we were disappointed to be too early for the peak leaves. Effort to view ratio is tilted toward the view even though the 900 foot elevation change causes a pretty steep climb out...but due to the length of the trail is only moderately steep.
The hike is a solid 9....don't know why anyone would hike up Sitting Bear if they knew how easy it was to hike down from Gingercake!  It is a game changer as far as access to Celestial Point.  It would be easy to combine a hike to the cliffs of Sitting Bear and keep this hike under 6 miles.  Today we did a little over 5 miles and enjoyed every step. 

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