Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Linville Gorge, November 2008

(Left to right: A-ha, Gray-o, the Yankee, Puffy, and myself)

Oh what a trip this was! Linville Gorge, nick-named the "Grand Canyon of North Carolina", is 1400 feet deep and named for John and William Linville, two explorers who were scalped by the Cherokee Indians in 1766. We had decided to hike here because of its wilderness status and unrivaled landscape.
After adding people to our list of adventurers, then some backing out, I was getting a little flustered about the unknown head count. Then two of the guys who were planning on going wanted to bring the women in their lives. One of the girls had been backpacking once, and the other never had before and had ankle problems. I let them know that if they really wanted to go hiking with their girls, they could take them to Cold Mountain and the rest of us would go to the Gorge. Well that turned out to be a crime on my part. Next came accusations of being a sexist and having "issues with women" and blah, blah, blah. What was worse was the fact this slander wasn't even coming from the girls, but one of the guys who I considered to be a good friend. After explaining that the fact they were women had nothing to do with it, and I did not want them to tag along this trip was because of their lack of experience, physical condition, and the harsh, unforgiving terrain in the gorge, my friend felt rather dumb. Then he tried to turn it around on me and said "You should have said that to begin with." More like he "shouldn't have jumped to conclusions and gotten his panties in a wad."

Anyway, final head count ended up being five. We made it to the trailhead at about 11pm. We hiked in on the Pinch-In trail, a mile and a half along a ridge that drops 1200ft in that short distance. A pretty gnarly fog had rolled in and at the higher elevations you couldn't see farther than four feet around you. We were losing each other in the fog, only being able to see the floating orb of light that was a headlamp. About halfway down I took a step near the side of the trail, and a grouse flew out of the bush next to me and nearly took my head off. Scared me to death! Nearing the bottom, my quads were beginning to give out with every step I took. If I tried to step forward, my legs would want to sit down. When we arrived at the bottom, we reached what we thought was the flattest spot possible and set up for the night. Exhausted we ate some dinner (including Jiffy Pop as an appetizer), finished the beer we hiked in with us, and called it a night.

The next morning we got up and after a brief scouting, we found if we had hiked about twenty yards further, there was an actual flat spot to camp. We felt pretty dumb, haha. Everyone's legs were still pretty beat from the night before, so we decided rather than lug all of our gear up the other side of the gorge, we'd just set up camp on the flat ground and day hike. Then instead of day hiking, we opted to rock-hop up the Linville River. Good times were had by all, ha! We went up river until we got hungry, then climbed up on the bank and hiked back to camp. Saturday evening brought snow, which made me very thankful that I had brought a tent and not my hammock.

Sunday morning we got up, filtered some water, ate breakfast, broke camp, and then started our mile and half 14ooft climb up the western side of the gorge. This was by far, the most painful hike I've ever taken in my life. It was exceedingly hard to hike up, having to take a break every ten steps or so. Once we broke the tree-line, the trail's name was easy to understand. As it followed the crest of the slope, about three feet to either side of the trail (where the ridge "pinched in") was a 75 degree downhill slope, dropping 400 feet to the bottom of the Gorge. Needless to say, that stupid grouse could have killed me! This revelation made me completely re-think ever hiking after dark in a park I've never visited. Once we all made it to the top, we hopped in the cars, drove into town and hit up the first all-you-can-eat buffett would could find. I haven't been back to Linville Gorge since then, but I definitely plan on it someday.

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