- When I
heard of the fire in Linville Gorge, I barely took notice. Brush
fires are relatively common during dry seasons so I was not immediately alarmed. After a few days had passed,
the local news reported that the fire was not under control
This began to worry me. How do you fight a fire in some of the
most rugged terrain in the "lower 48"?
that the only way to find exactly how much damage has occurred was
to take a look for myself.
Despite warnings from friends and family, I loaded the camera and
daypack in the car and headed towards the higher elevations.
we left Morganton on Rt. 181, we could see glimpses of Table Rock
in the distance. Table Rock rises out of Linville Gorge to form
a prominent landmark. Despite news reports, it was clear that the
fire was far from over. Table Rock was engulfed in a cloud of ominous
brown smoke. The skies were deep blue everywhere but above Linville
turning off of 181 we didn't notice any unusual activity until we
started on the dirt road leading to the Table Rock Picnic
Area. An aviation fuel truck passed us in an obvious hurry. I rolled
down the windows and could smell the burnt wood in the air.
We expecting to see a roadblock or a cop blocking our way.
Much to our surprise, there were no such obstacles. After driving
2 miles on the dirt road we pulled into the parking area at the
Hawksbill Mountain Trailhead.
we climbed the steep trail to the 4000 foot summit of Hawksbill,
we couldn't help but notice the chatter of helicopters coming from
the gorge. The sky was blue, but the sounds of a forest fire being
were coming from a neighboring valley. As we climbed, the anticipation
could be felt in the air. We did not have any views, so we couldn't
tell what was going on in deep gorge below. After a mile and a half
we emerged from the dense undergrowth into a wide open summit. The
views from Hawksbill Mountain are great in clear weather and today
was no exception.
view towards the beginning of the gorge, near Linville Falls was
clear. Looking south toward Table Rock revealed an awesome sight.
Helicopters, with water buckets dangling below, were swooping down
to plumes of smoke emerging from the dense forest. Two of them,
dumping huge buckets of water
worked together to stop a fires advance. They flew close to the
tree tops and would disappear below a ridge to refill their
buckets. We watched with awe as this ballet unfolded below us. The
pilots and ground crew knew what they were doing. It was obvious
that there were highly experienced men battling the blaze below.
This was the type of drama that you would see on TV and not in your
back yard! After working the fire line for over an hour, the
choppers disappeared through the smoke and flew out of the gorge.
They were probably refueling from a truck similar to the one that
passed us earlier. Our great concern for the many old growth trees
in the gorge was soothed. We didn't see any high flames and it appeared
as if just the underbrush was burning.