Saturday, December 19, 2015

Linville Gorge- Bynum Bluffs Trail


December 19th is a special day for see 34 years ago I was married to my Faithful Hiking Companion....and today we celebrated by going on a hike down to the Linville gift to her... well....I gave my love a waterfall!

Bynum Bluff Trail is accessed off Kistler Highway.  It is the second trail head after the information cabin.  You cannot see the trailhead sign until you get out and walk down the trail a bit. 

The trail can be divided into three parts, each about 4/10ths of a mile each.  The first section is a wooded trail along the top of Bynum Bluffs. If you follow some of the spur trails, you can get on a ledge trail and get some nice views of the river as it snakes through the gorge. 

This part of the trail seems to dead end at a cliff.  But in truth right before the cliff is a big tree and to the right of this tree is a steep trail that winds down beneath the bluffs.  It is a good thing the trail to the left of the cliff leads nowhere as we took it thinking it was the Bynum Bluff trail but quickly turned around and begin our trek down the second section of the trail.
This section is a moderately steep descent into the gorge with many nicely spaced switchbacks and use of the ridgeline to give the hiker a nice change of pace. 

Looking around we saw the rock face of the bluffs we had just hiked across. We also saw the first of many icicles. 

Did I tell you it was 33 degrees with a howling wind!  We bundled up nicely but to our relief, once we got below the bluffs we were shielded from the wind for the rest of the hike.

Along the way there are tempting window views of the gorge.  This one you can see the outline of Hawksbill Mountain to the south. 
To the north, we saw the distant Grassy Bald near Roan Mountain Tennessee.  This section of the trail terminates at the intersection of Pine Gap Trail and Linville Gorge Trail. 

Pine Gap is to the left and has a sign....

Linville Gorge Trail is to the right and has no sign....we ignored them and went straight.  The last section of the trail is the steepest part but it is also broken up by flat ridge lines which provide a chance to look to the northern part of the Gorge.
To the east the outline of Bullface Bluff on the eastern side of the river can be seen silhouetted by a single tree.
But the dominant feature of the last section of the trail is the roar of the Linville River.  From these bluffs above the river many great views of the river can be seen.

The rapids were joined by the shadow of the single pine tree. 

But looking up the river, the scene was unobscured and was breathtaking.

Near the end of this section of the trail the sun burst through to illuminate a section of the trail.
Around the corner from this part of the trail was a large log bench where we paused to take an Anniversary Selfie. 
The trail ends at a rocky beach beside the roaring Linville River.  It seemed that everywhere was a new scene to take in.  Finding a big rock I climbed and began taking pictures of the river and the flowing rapids. 
The beach was beneath the massive Bullface Bluffs which towered over this part of the gorge, some 12-15 stories high. 

The water was cold and icicles hung from the rocks on the other side of the river. 

My Faithful Hiking Companion took some interesting pictures of sunbeams on the water...not sure what this means but this light beam seemed to follow me around....hmm!?

The further down the river we walked the louder the roar became.  We climbed from the rock beach to the campsite at the bend in the river and we noticed for the first time that we were next to a magnificent waterfall that crossed the width of the river. 
I don't know how my trail research did not discover this waterfall...but what a nice surprise.  It is a truly magnificent waterfall.  Like most waterfalls, it seems alive as you approach it. 
We found a nice perch on some rocks down the river from the falls where we sat and took in the views while we ate our powerbar lunch.

The view down river was as magnificent as the falls upriver.

Before we left this idyllic place we had a few things to do.  First I had to walk downstream to get a picture of the falls with the backdrop of the bluffs which loom so large above the river.  Had to walk quite a ways to get a good picture.

Second, the Fat Bald White Guy who is not as fat as he was last year....needs a new picture for the cover of blog....

And we had to build a cairn.  We usually do this to thank God for the beauty of the day and His incredible creation....but on this day we had something else to be thankful for....34 years of marriage.  

The cairn we built has 34 stones.  We are blessed to share not only this moment but a lifetime of memories together.

I have not been able to find the name of this waterfall.  I am sure some gorge rat named it long ago....but for me these falls will be forever known as Anniversary Falls.
The hike out was not as strenuous as I had feared.  The elevation change is about 700 feet over 1.25 miles which is not that bad.  The trail is well designed with many switchbacks and ridgelines to break up the steep climb.  Our hike today was a total of three miles.

We stopped at one overlook and became enchanted by a rock which was topped by ferns.  My Faithful Hiking Companion mused that her ferns did not do that well in the reply: "Perhaps it is the talent of the gardener?" 

There are no bad hikes in the Linville Gorge but some are just better than others.  This one was a surprise as we did not know about the waterfall.  The access off Kistler is a 9; the scenery is a 10; the trail is well maintained and designed-9;  Effort to View is about right....really a great hike on a great clear sunny day...perfect anniversary for us. Overall grade 9+.  We can't wait till we return again in the summer or fall....this is a hike you have to take!

I think this may be the place we return to on December 19th! 

"Write your bad times in sand. Write your good times in stone"   George Bernard Shaw

A video of Anniversary Falls which is best appreciated with the sound on. The majesty of these falls cannot be fully understood until you stand at them but this video provides a measure of understanding nevertheless.