Friday, August 19, 2011

Linville Gorge

Linville Gorge in North Carolina is one of those places that never fails to take my breath away.

I met up with my old friend from DC, Cindy, at her family cabin located on the eastern side of the gorge.  When I lived in DC, we hiked together almost every weekend, doing sections of the MD and VA AT, and always discovering plants and having lots of adventures. 

We decided to do our favorite shorter hike in the Gorge, since I'd just driven four and a half hours to get there.  We began at the Table Rock parking area, and climbed one mile to the summit of Table Rock, with its 360 degree views.  One thing that makes Linville Gorge so unique is that each mountain has a characteristic shape, and you can see the chain of mountains as you hike along the rim, providing a fascinating lesson in perspective.  Standing on top of Table Rock, there was a clear view up the valley to Hawksbill (with it's pointy cone) and down to the Chimneys (spiky) and Shortoff Mountain (sloped with stair-stepped side).   It was nice to be able to identify each peak, and then hike along and see how far you actually travel.

View of Hawksbill from Table Rock
After climbing around on the rocks on Table Rock, we descended back to the parking area.  Next we hiked in the other direction along the ridge to the Chimneys.  At each viewpoint, we could see the distinctive two-humped shape of Table Rock and Little Table Rock getting smaller and smaller each time we stopped to look back at it. 

Table Rock in the distance
Table Rock even further away, Hawksbill peaking out behind it on the left
Past the Chimneys, we turned down an unmarked overgrown side trail and descended steeply for about half a mile to our favorite spot-- the amphitheater.  A narrow shelf of rock extends out to a point and there are sheer rock faces all around.  From there, you can see and hear the river below.

The amphitheater with Shortoff Mountain in the distance
It was such a pleasure hiking with Cindy again.  Even though we hadn't seen each other for a few years, we instantly synced up and were hiking in our old rhythm.  I'd forgotten how much I enjoy hiking with another person who does my same pace (i.e. fast).  I felt so lucky to have gotten a chance to return to this incredible place with it's amazing perspectives.

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