Our first trip into the vast unknown of the PISGAH NATIONAL FOREST, was a cold and rather windy March Sunday morning. We arrived around lunchtime and began hiking the Babel Tower Trail (2.4M).
This trail is somewhat strenuous with a couple of steep rock climbs, but the VIEWS ARE AMAZING!
We set up hammock at the top of this rock here, and ate our usual lunch — Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich, Beef Jerky, Tuna Crackers, and Trail Mix!
This particular day, we took it easy. Just kind of exploring around, and seeing what these forests had to offer. Caught some beautiful scenery, and got the legs worked up. Caroline our dog had a great time too.
Some of the sights on the forest floor were ferns, icicles, and fallen tree’s/limbs. Keep in mind that the weather is always windy and about 20 degrees colder in this area of the mountains than it would be back in the triad. I always pack an extra long sleeve shirt and a hoodie, working with the different layers as my body temperature rises and falls from hot to cold.
This was a short hike. Our next visit wouldn’t be so short.
Flash forward a few weeks, and here we are again! Ready to explore, the weather is a bit warmer (42 degrees F in the Pisgah), and Caroline was back in action ready to play in some water. Because of forest fires parts of the Pisgah had been temporarily shut down, but we tried to drive as much down the dirt road entrance as possible before turning around and picking another trail. You could definitely see some of the smoke in the air, and smell it as well.
We searched and found the Pine Gap Trail (1.46M). It goes down to the river and around to some lower falls (apparently).
We arrived around 1pm on a Saturday this time, and as we parked in the lot off the dirt road, we ran into a few people that had just hiked down. Of course we always try to strike up a conversation and ask how it was etc. — we saw a total of 4 people and 1 dog. They all said they could not find the lower falls as described, and found the trail to be very hard even for a dog and extremely slippery. It seemed to be, the trail was a flop. They all wished us luck, we said our farewells and headed on down.
The trail was in fact pretty slippery, but Caroline was racing forward and ahead of the game. She’s a different breed of dog, and when I tell you she will do anything, I mean it. She won’t be left behind, she will follow us through fire.
We finally made our way down about a mile and a half and had reached the roaring river. The few people ahead of us said they went to the left for miles and never found anything. So, we went to the left alongside the river determined to find falls and after a few rock scrambles and river crossings, we were not turning back. It was absolutely beautiful, but it was NOT easy at all, not at all, nope.
After miles and miles and miles of hiking along this river, it seemed as though the sun was getting lower…oh, it was. It was about 5pm when I slightly started to worry that there was no end and no way to get out except going back the way we came in. We still hadn’t found the falls and after 2 river crossings in the freezing, slippery river, multiple hill climbs through the “forest floor”, stepping in random holes, and just being completely frustrated at this point, I lost it and just laughed hysterically, slid down a huge hill of tree limbs, branches, leaves, and who knows what else, and into the riverbank. This was it. I mean what else was there to do besides hike out of here? My work at the office meant nothing at this point, my home, my life, nothing. It was me and the forest, and I tell you, there’s no better feeling when all you have to worry about is getting out of there.
The way the river water falls over rocks is simply one of the best things to look at while you eat a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich with your dog. It was getting later, so we made our little pit stop a quick one and kept going.
As you go along the riverbank, there’s curves, and indents with an open “cave-like” presence where the rocks are covered with moss and water is just dripping down everywhere. The life that is present here is majestic and serene in just a couple of simple words that do the scene absolutely no justice. It was about 6:30pm at this point and Caroline was reaching her point of exhaustion as were we. This was one of the last stops we took before nightfall really fell upon us.
We were booking it. Giving this river trail all we had, and still, hoping there was a way out besides turning around. We had no tent, we had a hammock. No sleeping bag, no more food, and just a little bit of water left. And thankfully, he packed a headlamp, because I hadn’t brought one thinking this was a DAY TRIP. Lesson learned on that note.
And suddenly, BOOM there it was. The bottom of Linville Falls. We had made it. And at about 7:30pm I crossed the French Broad River one last time in a panic of tears, a lot of yelling, and complete absolute fear. As I finally made it across, we called for Caroline as she herself was crying too, from a rock in the middle of the river. Finally, with a lot of encouragement, and promises of treats, she crossed the river and joined us on the other side where we began the main Linville Falls trail upward to get back to the car.
In the pitch dark with one headlamp, we continued to hike the 1 mile out and ended at the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance where the Linville Falls Visitor Center is. We continued through to the trail, for 1 mile and into the parking lot off the dirt road we began on (Old NC HWY 105). Another mile down this road we approached our car, got in, and drove to the first Arby’s we found and gorged down food as Caroline slept in the back.
This day trip came with more than sore legs, it came with a little fire in my soul that told me I can do anything, ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING that I want to do. What a great realization and what a great experience to provide for myself and go through with the best love of my life, and the best canine companion of my life. It’s true ladies: a date in the wilderness beats a fancy steak dinner and you learn more about each other this way. <3
As I’ve sat here and written the longest blog I’ve ever written, I’m on my fitness ball at work pretending I’m working and dreaming of what’s next in my adventure book. Stay tuned for many, many, many more to come. My hope is to encourage others to get out and explore and experience life-changing moments as these, and as always thanks for reading! 🙂
P.S. — After a little searching, I found that we weren’t even on a trail. We made our own. See below where I’ve marked in PINK the route we took this day along the marked ORANGE trail we were actually supposed to take. You’ll also find some good links of information on the Pisgah National Forest below!