Welcome to Hiking the Carolinas

Return to the Home Page

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"?

I decided 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.

Smoke

 As 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 Gorge.

Hawksbill Mountain

After 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.

The View

As 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 fought 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. 

Firefighters

The 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.

Conclusion and Photos from the fire

  to the page that you came from