Friday, July 03, 2009

Bagging a Famous Peak

Finally Bagged! The summit of Table Rock!

There are a number of very prominent peaks here in North Carolina that I've never hiked. Sometimes I can't say just why. Generally it's because I ran out of time when I was in the area, or just chose to climb another mountain instead.

My only excuse for never having hiked to the top of the most famous peak in Linville Gorge is because, frankly, I was never on the eastern side of the gorge. In all of my other trips to the gorge, I was either on the western side or the extreme northern inlet of the place. I was just never in the right place to climb to the top of the singular peak we call Table Rock.

I'd seen the mountain plenty of times, but never had been close enough to get to the summit.

On the way in to the Mortimer Campground we saw a sign for the Table Rock Picnic Area. I knew that was just below the summit and accessible via a Forest Service road. So we got in the truck and headed toward Table Rock. What I didn't know was that the picnic area was 13 miles away and that the road was very narrow and quite tortuous. Still, we pushed on and after about half an hour of very careful driving we arrived at the parking area below the summit.

There were quite a few cars and trucks in the parking lot, but I didn't see many people. I later found out that the vehicles largely belonged to rock climbers who were scaling the high walls around Table Rock. But, once again, I found that I had the trail all to myself. This is one place that I really didn't expect to find any solitude, but there I was, hiking alone to the top of Table Rock.

The trail to the summit from the parking lot is only one mile long and it's not tough at all. The day was warm but not hot and whenever I came to a clearing or an outcropping of rock there was a strong breeze blowing that cooled me off.

From a distance, it doesn't look as if Table Rock can be hiked. It looks as if it's surrounded by high cliffs and that a summit attempt could only be achieved by a technical climbing route. However, there is one sloping ridge line to the top that allows you to walk up without having to use a technically challenging route.

In quick order I found myself at the top of Table Rock, which I'd often see from the western rim of the gorge, but had never climbed. It's an impressive 4,000+ foot peak with unlimited views in almost every direction. Since it sits perched astride a wilderness there is lots of territory to see untouched by the hand of Man. But looking to the east I did see one single structure poking out of the green. Normally I'd have been pretty pissed off at this, but I'm relatively certain that the building is the Outward Bound School, which is pretty cool.

After hanging out on the summit for about half an hour I headed back down the trail to collect my wife (who was sleeping in the cab of the truck). And I encountered a number of the rock climbers also returning to their vehicles.

The hike was quite an easy one, but I'm glad that I finally bagged Table Rock Mountain. I recommend it, but the next time I go there I hope to get to the summit via one of the longer trails from another part of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. The drive to the picnic area was tiresome and I wouldn't look forward to doing that again.

Trail head at the parking lot.

Early on, looking toward the south half of the Gorge, I could see the distinctive formation known as The Chimneys.

A telephoto shot of The Chimneys.

The rocky top of the peak begins to lift out of the trees as you approach the summit area.

The trail winds through tortuous terrain.

Not sure, but I think this might be Shortoff Mountain, or Hawksbill.

A stitched panorama shot I took from the very summit. (Click to embiggen.)
That's the Linville River carving out the gorge a couple of thousand feet below my vantage point.

Familiar heath growing in the exposed top of the peak.

Bagged! Another of North Carolina's famous peaks!

Is this the Outward Bound School? I'll have to ask someone.

A large boulder along the trail on the way down.

On Table Rock's Summit Looking East.

Yes, you can walk up this peak. (Taken in March 2009 from the opposite side of the gorge.

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