Today was an exhilarating but exhausting day! We got on out early this morning as we had several places we wanted to go. We didn’t see everything we had planned on but we saw something we hadn’t planned on and that was the best!
Our first stop was Elk River Falls. Common sense would say it is in Elk Park but we had a bit of trouble finding it. The GPS said it was in Tennessee which actually isn’t far from here. The cell phones had no coverage so we couldn’t look it up that way. We finally saw a sign indicating Elk River Falls so that’s the way we went. It was a narrow two lane road that wound around and around. I probably would have given up but Jerry said the rustic sign pointed in that direction so on we would go. We were finally rewarded with a small graveled parking lot with one other car in it. After we got out we saw some steps leading to a trail through the woods so off we went.
The trail to the top is an easy five minute walk although there are a lot of tree roots to be aware of. Just below the falls is a small sandy area and it looked like it might be used as a sunning and swimming spot but the water was way too cold today for that! Apparently there is good fishing there as well as we saw a gentleman trying his luck.
Next we headed for Linville thinking that was where Linville Falls is. I put in Linville Falls Visitors Center in the GPS and off we went. It took us down another narrow two lane road although this one was in better condition. There was a sign saying no exit but we traipsed on. Sure enough we hit a dead end. Fortunately there was a very informative couple who gave us several suggestions on what to see. By the way, there is a road there that apparently leads to the Visitors Center (which we never went to) but the gentleman said it was closed in the 30’s. Come on GPS – time to catch up!
The couple recommended Wisemans View and told us how to get there. I am surely glad we ran into them because Wiseman View was the absolute highlight of the day.
Following their direction we followed route 221 until we got to 183 and then turned and it led us to Pisgah National Forest where Wiseman View, Linville Gorge and Linville Falls are located. When we hit the graveled road we knew we had four miles left to reach the top. We truly did not know what to expect but the bumpy, graveled road ride was worth it. We were told that the road probably would be ok as the season hadn’t started yet. Well, thank goodness for that! It indeed was a bumpy graveled road with a lot of holes. In fact I remarked to Jerry twice that we needed a jeep. He replied that a dirt bike might be a better choice. There were only two places that were really bad and at one of those the bottom of the car scraped the ground. Go Toyota Avalon! The only scary part was when we approached an ascent and couldn’t see over the top of the car. That only happened once though – well twice, once going and once returning! We stopped at an Information Center but it was locked. It did have restrooms though in a nice building but they had porta potties! Guess that’s necessary in that kind of situation.
We continued on up the road and soon reached the parking lot for Wiseman View. There is a relatively short path (handicap accessible) that leads to the ledges and incredible beauty. From every view there are stands of green trees and nothing else, no homes, no business, no construction – just nature at its finest. The Gorge is known as the “roughest piece of country east of the Rocky Mountains”. It is too rugged to be used for farming and most of the timber is inaccessible. During the 1920’s there was talk of turning it into a private park or using the Linville River for generating power but those ideas fell through so the Gorge remains wild and beautiful still. The Gorge is home to a variety of plants and trees. There are occasional fires there and interestingly enough there is one pine tree that needs a hot fire to open its cones. The ledges are nesting habitats for the rare peregrine falcons and Jerry actually saw one today. We walked around the top for quite some time but were very careful not to get too close to the ledge as it is very treacherous and a long way down! In fact Linville Gorge is the deepest gorge in the eastern United States.
We stopped at Bynum Bluff Trail on the way down and hiked it for a while. We couldn’t see any end in sight so we eventually turned around. We did see lots of pretty vegetation and lovely flowers. In fact we saw azaleas blooming in the wild and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Imagine that they can grow in the wild and I can’t grow them in my yard! We returned to the car intending to get our lunch and find a nice rock to sit on and picnic. Since we were unable to find a good spot we drove on back to the Information Center and just ate in the car.
Our next stop was Linville Falls. Once there we had a nice hike to the lower falls. It is amazing to realize the power that the falls produce. There are several trails there but by this time we were hot, sweaty and hiked out so we headed back to the campground via the grocery store.
Jerry baked some sausage balls this afternoon and after putting laundry on I took a brief nap – don’t think I would have made it I hadn’t!
Tomorrow we head to Trails End Campground in Waynesville for some more exciting days. I have surely enjoyed our time here and would love to return. In fact I told Jerry I had never wanted a house in the mountains but I’m about to change my mind about that not that it will happen but it might be nice. We have only tapped the very cream of a beautiful part of North Carolina – there is so much more up here to see. We are very blessed to live in a state that has such beauty from one end to the other!