Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Water Is Wide

MST – Day 36 – 10/14/10 – Old NC 105 (Kestler Memorial HWY) to Blue Blaze Trail for Wolf Pit Road…and Back – 6.8 Miles

So let’s review: Danny and I have hiked over 480 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Highway 321 in Blowing Rock, NC…with one small segment missing through which flows the Linville River. We’ve tried twice to hike this section and had to cancel. Now we’ve been all around it and we won’t be near it again for any other hiking. It’s like a sore tooth that you keep probing: how can we get this fixed? It’s only 3.4 miles, for Pete’s sake. Forget about getting other people to hike it with us now. We just wanted to git ‘er done before the weather turned cold. We would just have to make the safety decision about crossing the river when we got to it.

Planning an out-and-back hike rather than a shuttle, we picked a day, the forecast be damned, and left a car at the Forest Service Office for Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Mountain District. (The staff there was less than enthusiastic about two people actually “hiking” in the national forest, as if it were a very undesirable concept.)

And what a spectacular day we had! The 40% rain forecast did not materialize (don’t ever let the weatherman tell you what to do) and we enjoyed blue skies, popping fall colors and a surprising river crossing.

At the trailhead we met this fine young man out exercising his hunting dogs (driving his truck with them chained and running along behind). This is also the trailhead where we ended our epic thirst-fest hike up and over Bald Knob, one of the most challenging hikes we’ve had.

About a quarter mile after our start we passed the rock outcropping called the Pinnacle. We checked out the view from the platform and kept on going – plenty of time to climb up the rocks on the way back if we survive the river crossing. The descent was steep and stunning.

There’s Shortoff Mountain! We were walking on top of it a couple of weeks ago, but we sure couldn’t see across to the other side.

Colors emerging

And there she was, the good old Linville River, as placid as can be, very wide with a few small ripples, but very clear so we could see the flat bottom and gauge the depth.

Danny and I swapped cameras to photograph each other and she plunged in first – oops, don’t step in that one muddy place. I watched her cross easily with water not reaching her knees and then it was my turn. The shock of cold water never came. It was a perfect temperature. I splashed across, laughing at the absurdity of all our scheming and agonizing. And guess what?? We get to do it again!
It's a long way from here to there

Watch your step here

Come on in, the water's fine!

The MST continues up the eastern side of Linville Gorge to connect with the blue blaze trail to Wolf Pit Road. We tagged up and walked back down to the water for a repeat performance. This time across we carried our own cameras. I stopped midstream to take photos of the mountains. This is one of my most cherished memories of our MST adventure, standing in the middle of the Linville River on a warm, sunny October day: priceless.
Backtracking, we checked out a streamside campsite we had rushed by. Some thoughtful person left lounging chairs.

The climb back up the western side of the Gorge to the Pinnacle is one of the steepest of the whole MST experience, straight up with no switchbacks until very near the top. It was necessary to pause often to admire the changing fall colors, which were just beginning at the bottom but in full riot mode near the top. (Yes, it was the same trail we went down, but somehow the elevation changed.)

At the Pinnacle the wind was picking up and the clouds were rolling in – our timing was perfect. Here we met hikers with a big shaggy black dog that looked very much like a bear. They had a very small orange tag tied on him, supposedly for hunters. (I’m thinking the hunters would never see it.) They took a couple of quick photos of us to mark our triumph over the Linville Gorge. Such an outstanding day: We filled in the gap and conquered Linville Gorge and it was FUN! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Read Danny's story for today here.

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” ~ Dr. Seuss

1 comment:

Dan DeSetto said...

Great story and pictures as always, it sounded like a nice day. Congratulations on making it through the entire western mountains and into the flatlands, it's all downhill from here.