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Usually, you only remember a thing or two about a backpack trip. On a trip to Linville Gorge, you'll remember pert near everything, from the stunning sunset viewed from Shortoff Mountain, to the trails that ascend and descend with dizzying quickness, to the river crossings. It's backpacking so challenging at times that you bypass pain and go directly to laughing, hysterical, can't-stop laughing. Linville Gorge has been called one of the wildest spots in the eastern U.S. During its 12-mile run, the west rim rises, abruptly, 1,300 feet above the Linville River below. Trails that lead into the gorge from the west have horizon lines, that point at which, upon approach, the trail seems to wander off into space (in reality, it plunges down the side of the mountain). Because of its steep and rugged nature, there was minimal logging in the gorge, leaving virgin stands of towering timber. 11,651 acres of the gorge are designated wilderness, easily making the first induction after passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. When one of these behemoth trees goes down there’s no effort to remove it from the trail, making for some of the most rugged — and impressive — scenery around. Our trip aims to expose you to this scenery on a modest budget of pain. What do we mean by "Intermediate Skills." It's a designation we give to trips that require you have at least a beginner level of backpacking experience and are eager to expand those skills. On this trip, we will deal with two water crossings (of the Linville River), and navigating a wilderness area. You should also be in good condition for this trip and you'll be required to have basic backpacking equipment (a complete list of required gear will be provided after signing up). We offer guidance and support on this trip. Agenda Friday 9 a.m. — Carpool leaves Triangle/Triad Noon — Arrive at Table Rock Mountain Trailhead. Begin 6-mile hike along Linville Gorge east rim to Shortoff Mountain. 3-4 p.m. Arrive Shortoff Mountain. We camp here for the evening, enjoying some of the best views of gorge and of Lake James beyond. Saturday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. From Shortoff, we take the Mountains-to-Sea Trail south, crossing the Linville River, which is about 60 yards wide at this point and typically knee deep, then picking up the Linville River Trail and heading north up the gorge. We will camp mid-gorge. An 8- to 10-mile day. Sunday 9 a.m. We’ll continue up the gorge, then cross the Linville River again. It’s narrower here, but the water may be deeper (thigh deep, though we will try to cross on rocks) and moving faster. We will evaluate several crossing options. We cross the river at the the Spence Ridge Trail, the “easiest” access into the gorge, and return to Table Rock and our awaiting cars. Expect to cover about 7 miles. River crossings: There are two. Early on Day 2 we have a fairly mellow crossing of the Linville River below the mouth of the gorge. On Day 3, we cross a section of the river that was, for a short while, bridged. This is a more challenging crossing; you may get wet, but you will be near the end of the trip. Trip size: 10 people (maximum for a group in a wilderness area) Planning meeting: We will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19 at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Raleigh to go over the route (each backpacker gets a map of the gorge, plus a custom map of the trip and detailed agenda). We will discuss unique aspects of the trip and any special gear that might be needed. Included with this trip eguide, including: Maps and elevation profiles of the three days hikes; descriptions of each hike, with mileages; overview of the trip, with key logistic information; planning meeting; Gear Checklist outlining what, specifically, you'll need for this particular trip, including recommended footwear, hiking/swim trunks, quick dry tops, day pack, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. Cost: $105
August is quickly fading and our opportunities for midweek evening hikes are dwindling. We'll make the most of the situation with one of our favorite after work Evening Wanders, on the Cox Mountain Trail at Eno River State Park. This 3.75-mile hike begins (and ends) with a crossing of the Eno River on a suspension footbridge, then a climb to the summit of Cox Mountain. Perhaps the most scenic part of this hike is the descent down the mountain's backside, through a ravine heavy with hardwoods. We return along the Eno. There's one climb on this hike, the fairly steady assault up Cox Mountain, and the trail is rocky and rooty in spots — hike shoes or boots are advised.
What better place to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall than Stone Mountain State Park. Located at the base of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, it's got it all: views of the Blue Ridge, lots of climbing on exposed rock and waterfalls. It will still be hot enough to frolic in the pools at the base of the falls, yet the elevation will provide us that first hint of cooler fall weather moving in. Our hike will be about 8.5 miles. Our plan: We begin on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, starting from the Upper Parking Trailhead, not far past the visitor center and opposite the turn into the campground. We'll hike clockwise, heading down the steps paralleling Stone Mountain Falls, then divert onto a side trail to Middle and Lower Falls. After returning to the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, we'll continue hiking clockwise, admiring the meadow leading to the base of 2,305-foot Stone Mountain. We'll head left on the Cedar Rock Trail, then pick up the Wolf Rock Trail, which will lead us down to the Lower Trailhead Parking, where there's a restroom. After a break, we'll resume hiking on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, climbing to the top of this bald dome for views to the south and west. We'll lollygag a bit on top before continuing back to the trailhead and our cars. There is a good bit of climbing on this hike. Combined with the distance, this hike is rated Moderately Strenuous. If you aren't in mid-season form, we can shorten this hike for you, down to the basic 4.5-mile Stone Mountain Loop (with options in between). A route sheet and map with those options will be supplied upon registration. This hike is a great way to send off your summer and get a start on the fall hiking season.
Labor Day was the idea of Peter J. Maguire (although recent research has shown that it might have been his brother Matthew’s idea), a labor union leader who in 1882 proposed a celebration honoring the American worker. Although the day’s focus on organized labor has diminished over the years, the holiday has become a way to mark the end of the summer season—and the start of the school year. If you are in town looking for something fun, social and local to do for a celebration, then keep reading. Bobbitt Hole is located on the Eno River and a great swimming hole. The water is quite cool and the "hole" is deep so you might want a flotation device. Some type of inflatable from the dollar store or in the end of summer sales bin at the drugstore will do. We will take the short hike (1.7 miles) down to the river with our rafts for a dip. It's an easy hike but a little rocky so hiking poles would be a good to have. You will want old shoes or sandals to swim in to protect your feet and wear your suit under your hiking clothes. You will need water and maybe a snack. Please bring the whole family and well behaved and leashed dogs are OK. Driving directions for extra clarity: DRIVING DIRECTIONS to Bobbitt’s Hole from I-85: take Exit 173, Cole Mill Road. Head north on Cole Mill Rd. away from Hillsborough Rd. In 3 miles, you will cross the Eno River. Take the next left onto Old Cole Mill Rd. This is the Cole Mill Access of Eno River State Park. The physical address is 4300 Old Cole Mill Road, Durham NC 27712; if this address does not appear in your GPS, then use this intersection—Eno Woods Trail and Old Cole Mill Road. The park will be straight ahead on Old Cole Mill