Blue skies, crisp air and the Gorge
February is supposed to be cold. This year, not so. This day was not so cold that you have to have a parka,
gloves and multiple layers. No, it was in the teens at night but eventually in the upper 40’s for the rest of the day. Possibly into the lower 50’s. Not to bad for a hike in the Linville Gorge.
I decided to go out on a hike. Yep, I just decided it was a day to hit the beautiful, wild Linville Gorge. Well, at least a trail. At this point I had no idea which trail I was going to hike.
It was a toss up between hitting the East rim or the West rim. I usually hit the West rim because it is more challenging and you will usually come across people who love to hike and camp. Really, the whole Linville Gorge is a challenge so it makes no difference how you decide to deploy your wild side.
Originally Rock Jock was designed for the climbers and traveled by those people who loved the vertical thrill of climbing the steep walls of the Linville Gorge. Over time the 2.8 mile trail was cleared and made more accessible for those who loved to hike with a bit of scrambling involved at certain points. It is a great trail that stays just above the rim with views speckled here and there so you can see the Gorge from various vantage points, always seeing Table Rock and Hawksbill. It is not really hard and there are several spur trails for the adventurer.
Rock Jock has become a popular trail for the views since the fire in 2000. They are spectacular and
worth the hike to see. I decided to make this quest and do it from the Conley Cove side of the trail. The other end starts/ends along the Kistler Memorial Highway and you have to look for it there because it has no parking area to stage your vehicle. The southern end has you either going up/down Mossy Canyon Ridge and 500 feet of elevation gain. You have to come up from PINCHIN trailhead or one of the campsites down the road if you go from south to north.
This section of the trail also is known for bear sightings. The forest area is perfect for the black bears. Split Rock is one spot where there has been contact and it is about halfway in to the hike. I saw scat on this hike so it is active.
One of the coolest parts of the hike is the section where the trail goes next to a rock wall. The formations of rock are interesting and small spring water seeps out from a couple of sections of rock and you can replenish water if needed, just use a filter. There was plenty of water coming down in two distinct spots on this day.
I also had a surprise flyby of seven Turkey Vultures. They actually took off just below where I had
stopped to get some images. Silent but majestic, they took off one by one just below me and headed up the Gorge. A couple took to the thermals and lifted higher heading in a different direction, but seven flew right by my location and I could not resist the chance to get images of them passing by me.
As with all of the Gorge trails, you can get disoriented easily if you are not familiar with the area and your surroundings. Just take a map and let someone know where you are going.