Monday, February 26, 2007

Linville Gorge

We are home, safe and sound, from a rather difficult overnight backpacking trip to Linville Gorge. Saturday was a beautiful day and we were all really excited to get on the trail. We started the hike with 5 people and 2 dogs. We took 2 vehicles and were able to drop off Steve's Tahoe at the Pinch In trailhead and we hopped in the back of Chris' truck with all of our gear and drove down to the Conley Cove trailhead. Hiking point to point can be a real treat because you don't have to deal with backtracking.

The hike started out great. The sun was shining and the trail meandered slowly down the 2000 feet into the gorge. We were soon in the gorge next to the Linville River. Campsites were abundant and everything was great. We headed down the river trail hoping to hike a couple of miles and set up camp well before dark.

About a mile into following the river trail, things started to become a little dicey. Instead of following a normal trail we realized that there were a lot of downed trees and we were bushwhacking more than hiking. We probably bushwhacked for well over a mile. With a pack on, it was slow going. Around 4:00 Chris (who was just coming for the day) decided he better turn back for his truck. We asked him to put a stick on the windshield of Steve's Tahoe so we would know he made it out safely.

After another hour, we finally found flat ground and a place to camp. We set up camp and started cooking supper. Around 6:30 we had the first drops of rain but thankfully it let up. We got our campfire going and stayed up until 10. Hanging out around the campfire is one of my favorite things.

Sunday morning we woke up to pouring rain. We ate breakfast, broke up camp and were soon on our way. We made our way along the gorge until we found our exit trail: Pinch In. This trail is probably the most brutal trail I have ever hiked with a pack on. It was 1.5 miles straight up on a 25% grade. There were no switch back, just up in a straight line. It took us 2 hours to hike the 1.5 miles out! My legs have never burned so much in my life! 
Profile of the Pinch In trail - our climb out of the gorge.

After about 2 hours of hiking, I heard a car horn honking and prayed that that Steve had made it to the truck. Shortly after that I saw Daniel turn a corner followed by a second honk. I practically ran the last 100 ft of the trail just to get to flat ground. I had never been so happy to hear a car honk or for flat ground. It felt so good to get in a warm car and strip off my wet clothes. Chris had left a sizable branch on the windshield - so we knew he was ok. One of the best things about hiking is the end. We celebrated by stopping at Sonic on the way home.

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