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Posts Tagged ‘Hawksbill’

The Shortoff Trail on the south rim of the Linville Gorge begins just north of Lake James, the placid endpoint of the wild Linville River.

We ascended through brush and scrappy trees just recovering from the 2007 fire that swept across Shortoff Mountain.  While desolate, the landscape is still varied and interesting, and offers a great case study for the aftereffects of a forest fire.  Plenty of pines and a few hardy deciduous trees have broken through the scorched soil to stake their claims.  The trail itself is somewhat eroded, but easily divined.  In the hot, sandy soil, we saw many lizards and toads basking and looking for prey (or waiting to become prey).

Shortoff Mtn. Trail

The initial stages of the trail will give you great views of Lake James to the south; as you ascend you’ll begin to see glimpses of the gorge’s southern end.  It only takes about a mile and a half of fairly easy hiking to reach a point where you can look out to the jagged rock faces that make the Linville Gorge so unique.

View toward Lake James

View toward north end of Gorge (rock on right side is frequented by climbers)

Eventually, we came to a promontory that gave perfect views toward Table Rock and Hawksbill.  This trail offers a unique and seldom-seen perspective on the two great massifs of the Gorge. While the West rim has a dedicated road with trails descending into the gorge, the East rim offers a trail that mostly follows the ridgeline—this gives you the chance to see the gorge from an elevated position.

View north toward Table Rock & Hawksbill

View toward Table Rock

Northward view from trail

Hike it: Like every hike in the Linville Gorge, The Shortoff Mtn. Trail is not easy, but it is still quite accessible and well worth your time.  If you’re up for a multi-day adventure, this trail will eventually take you all the way to Table Rock.

  • Length: 4.4 miles
  • Duration: 3-4 hrs.
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
  • Hike Configuration: There and back
  • Blaze: Mountains to Sea (white blaze) for first part; no blaze after that
  • Condition: Rugged
  • Trailhead: Small gravel parking area at end of Wolf Pit Rd.
  • Traffic: Light
  • Directions: 1.) From Boone, your best line is to take NC 105 to Linville, then turn onto NC 181 South. 2.) Once you’re down the mountain, look for Rose Creek Road to your right. 3.) Follow Rose Creek until it terminates at Fish Hatchery Road and take a right. 4.) This road will end at NC 126; take a right and follow 126 for about a mile until you see Wolf Pit Road on your right. 5.) Follow this road to its terminus at the trailhead.

From points south (Marion and Morganton), simply connect to NC 126 (if you’re coming from Marion, Wolf Pit Road will be on your left; from the east, you’ll find it on the right).

Additional Resources:  The Linville Gorge & Tips on Linville Gorge

Entry by Charles

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Standing atop Wiseman’s View at night is a little scary.  The moonlit canyon inspires feelings of smallness, ineptitude, and a general sense of insecurity at one’s own ability to survive in such a place.  Yet in spite of these feelings, people such as myself are repeatedly drawn to this spot and to the Linville Gorge which plummets over a thousand feet below it.

Charles and I are on our way home, driving up from a long day of enjoying the sights and sounds of Asheville.  The moon hangs like a polished orb above us and is so bright we can almost see without the car’s headlights.  As we drive, a wood cock dashes across the road and I almost wreck the car trying to get a look at this seldom-seen bird.

It’s about the time we get to North Cove that I blurt out “Hey babe, let’s drive up to Wiseman’s View on our way to Boone.  The moon will be amazing and we may even see the brown mountain lights.”  I know that Charles, in his obsession with the Gorge and unquenchable moon-lust, won’t be able to say no.

And so we find ourselves driving up a narrow, gravelly, wet road on the west rim of the gorge.  On our way up, we enjoy views of Hawksbill as the leaves are not yet able to obstruct our view.  Surprisingly, quite a number of car campers have braved the wet roads and cool, windy night to stake out campsites along the road.

At the top, we park the car, throw on our jackets and walk out to Wiseman’s View.  Charles has a flashlight, but because the moon is so luminous, he stashes it in his coat pocket.  As we stand on the windswept overlook, Charles and I are bathed in moonlight and the sound of the rushing river below.  An enormous rainstorm the night before has risen the water level several feet and it sounds like a raging bull beneath us.  Looking out into the Gorge, we see two small campfires twinkle along the river; Charles and I muse about what it would be like to camp so deep in the Gorge on such a raw spring night.

We stand a while longer on the outlook, silently hoping to see a glimpse of the famous Brown Mountain lights that we were lucky enough to spot one weekend while camping along the river.  The lights are most commonly seen just along Table Rock.  Because it’s such a beautiful and mysterious night, I feel sure we’ve got a good chance.

See it:  The Linville Gorge is mysterious, dangerous, wild, and even mythical.  That’s why year after year so many people visit it.  Wiseman’s View is especially popular as it affords fantastic views of the Gorge just minutes after stepping out of your vehicle.

To get to Wiseman’s View, turn onto the Kistler Memorial Hwy. (formerly NC 105) from Hwy 183.  On your way up, you’ll pass the following places:

1. Alternate parking area for Linville Falls
2. Information Cabin (on your right)
3. Parking area for Pine Gap Trail
4. Parking area for Bynum Bluff Trail
5. Parking area Cabin Trail
6. Parking area for Babel Tower Trail
7. A sign will point the way (to the left) for Wiseman’s View.

You’ll also pass numerous car campsites.  These sites usually operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.  The campsites are easy to access, relatively large, and some can accommodate more than one vehicle.  Fires are permitted.

If you’re interested in the Gorge in general, you might enjoy the following links, which offer additional information on the Gorge as well as the Brown Mountain Lights:  Tips on Linville Gorge, Linville Gorge & Brown Mountain Lights.

Charles, inspired by our experience, wrote the following poem:

________________________________________
Wiseman’s View

We live here on the cusp of tame and wild:

civilization’s trappings (gaudy signs,

bright lights to mend the darkness, barking dogs

to insulate a house) can disappear

in seconds from a simple change of course.

We spent a day in artful buildings cast

by clever men:

before us lay their bright

ingenious pinnacles, and we drove home

through dynamited corridors of granite.

At last, we turned away from the perfection

and shame of man’s devices on a road

into the gorge.

Before us now lies darkness,

the cenotaph of Table Rock, the plunging

reality of cliffs and river pure,

two token campfires in the scary wild.

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