A Rattle in the Linville Gorge

Timber Rattler_16

Timber Rattler found in the Linville Gorge in 2016.

Timber Rattler_16
Timber Rattler found in the Linville Gorge in 2016.

A day in the Linville Gorge Wilderness on May 15, 2016 netted a very positive day. Hard work, but a great time.

Every time I set foot into the Linville Gorge Wilderness I feel like I am in a candy store. Wild trails, wildflowers, wildlife and wild times. Who could ask for more if you love the outdoors. Now, I am

not talking about just going to Wiseman’s View and looking out over the Gorge, I am talking about taking the drop down one of the many trails that lead to the bottom and the Linville River – that is what I mean about wild.

This day had me finally doing something I had been needing to do for some time, for personal gain, by helping with some trail maintenance. Everyone wants to take the trail but they do not want to maintain it. I felt it was my time to give back to the trails I travel so I hooked up with Kevin Massey. Had been a member of the Linville Gorge Facebook group and passed up other times to help on the trail for job related issues, but this time I had time. Babel, here I come.

So, I met Kevin Massey and his wife and kids (John and Nick), Mike Jones, Jeff Walters and his two dogs (Riley and Xoe) and two other girls I only saw for a short period at 9 a.m. at the trailhead. I had my backpack, food, water and tools for the trail work. Oh, and gloves to. You have to have the gloves.

Anyway, I had been down Babel Trail before and it is a great trail to hike. It is only 1.3 miles, a bit longer if you go down the Linville Gorge Trail and to the river, but it has a 1,100 foot elevation gain. It is easy enough going in but a beast coming out. There are other trails that hit you much harder but this one is used more than the others in the Gorge.

Babel starts off harmless enough and is well maintained and it is easy to trek down. There are some switchbacks and rocks to go over but I think it is a good hike down. We headed down and made it in good time to where the Linville Gorge Trail crosses over the Babel Trail. Our day of trail clearing would be on the right and left side of the Linville Gorge Trail down to the river.

Now, I had helped with trail work before but mainly with moving rocks and shoring up erosion problems. All this with people who knew what they were doing. On this day I was also working with an experienced crew. I had loppers so I just cut down the thicker branches. I learned that you work from the top of the trail upward and not on the bottom of the trail. So, we cleared several yards heading down and then cleared the limbs off the trail. Hard work, but at least a pack will not snag on the Rhododendron.

The next section would have to wait until after lunch. That is on the other side of the Babel. This section was not bad but it still needs attention.

With the river flowing and cool breeze flowing through the Gorge, I snapped some images of one of the most beautiful places along the river. Wild plants and flowers dotted the riverbank. Common Strawberry, Yellowroot, Bluets are some to name a few.

There are plenty of campsites and visited frequently by campers. The one problem I see is that these people leave way too much trash. Please take out what you take in, it is only fair. Groups like Kevin’s will always take trash out, and we did, but that does not make it right. I know I helped take a bag of canisters out and that was extra added weight. Everyone had some trash (broken cot, grill tops, metal cans, etc.) and it was taken out to the dump. Heck this group has moved tires out of the river and I mean several.

As we wrapped the day up we worked to trim back the Linville Gorge Trail up to Babel. Not as bad as the other side but worth it.

Once we met up at the Babel/LGT intersection we, I really say Kevin, Mike and Jeff, had a ‘Gorge Rat’ reunion. Yes, there is a special group in the Gorge that hold this title and hold it high. So high they have a patch they earn. I think that is too cool.

Just before we were to head up the trail and call it a day, Jeff and his dogs headed over to sit down on a rock with Mike. Mike then noticed something that at first looked like pile of dung but quickly noticed it was a Timber Rattler. A very bright Timber Rattler but it was not moving. Maybe it was just a bit to cold. No flick of the tongue and no lift of the head, yet. That said, once all the picture opportunities were over and the GoPro went in, the snake had enough and started to slither away under a rock with a ‘Rattle in the Gorge.’ This adds one more critter sighting on the trail for me.

With that done it was time to head up and I made the choice to go with one of Kevin’s boys. I did not know he was a ‘Speedy Gonzales’ on the trail. I kept up but he wore this old man out over 1.3 miles and 1,100 elevation gain.

Trash out, trail clear, friends made and feeling good. That is a great day. Trek on!

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