Big Lost Cove Cliffs – 9-16-2015

After being unable to hike for almost 6 weeks since my last hike in August due to back and knee pain, I was finally able to get back to the mountains for some much needed therapy with Mother Nature. Ever since my first trip to the Big Lost Cove Cliffs with my friend Dave Aldridge, I had been wanting to go back as we did not get to spend enough time there on that trip due to a strong thunder and lightning storm that came up just as we got onto the lower part of the cliffs. I knew there was much more to explore and on this trip we would certainly make an all day expedition of doing just that. I would be accompanied by my fellow friends and mountaineers Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden, John Forbes, and Dan Till. It was a warm September day as we made our way up the first hill from the trail head.

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View of Grandfather Mtn. from the upper part of Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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Looking across the upper part of Big Lost Cove Cliffs

Although it is uphill for the first part of the journey, this is short lived as one of the unusual aspects of hiking to these cliffs is the fact that you basically hike down hill to them. Of course this means coming back is mostly uphill unless you use two cars and know some unmarked side trails which could bring you out at points lower than the cliffs in the Little Lost Creek area. After a mile and a half or less, the first thing you come to is a rather tall cliff on the left which is well hidden in the trees. You can step out onto a small overlook at its summit which is just off the trail, but it is a long way down and the views are nothing compared to the main cliffs to come. I still recommend checking these out and on the way back we ended up going to the bottom of these cliffs which is spectacular ! They are MUCH larger than they seem and the area at the base is well worth the climb down to see !

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Me, sitting on top of the first cliff that we would explore the base of on the way back

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This is a view of the first cliffs I am sitting on as seen from the upper and main part of the Big Lost Cove Cliffs.

Moving along we continued down the trail losing more elevation until I finally was able to find theĀ  side trail that leads down to the upper and highest part of the main cliffs. Once you come out on top of these you can go left or right as you are now able to walk all over these massive cliffs. I usually go left to the highest part as there is a rock there that is very unique that I like to photograph from. I call it the ‘Keyhole Rock’ from my previous trip where I took a pic of Dave sitting on top of it. From there I make my way down to the lower end of this part of the cliffs where one can see across what I call ‘the gully‘ over to the lower part of the cliffs that we would be going to next. The views from here looking towards Grandfather Mountain are phenomenal. I plan on returning during peak leaf color this Fall as I am sure it will be breathtaking as you can see from zoomed pics I took of the cliffs last year from a different location. We spent quite a bit of time here taking it all in. It was everyone’s first time (besides me) so we would not be in a hurry. To get a better idea of the ‘big picture’ of this major cliff system, you may want to check out some zoomed pics I took of them in previous years from an undisclosed location here, here and here.

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Dan and John standing on the upper section of the Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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View of Grandfather Mountains from the Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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View looking back across the upper Big Lost Cove Cliffs from the lower part

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Looking up the edge of the upper part of Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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Looking down from the upper part of Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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Dan sits on the brink enjoying the view from the upper part of the Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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Another angle of Dan on the edge

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Tommy getting some shots from the lower end of the upper part of the cliffs

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Another angle of Dan as he sits on the edge taking in the incredible views

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View from behind the keyhole rock which is the high point of the upper part of the cliffs

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The uniquely shaped keyhole rock

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My foot beside a Bigfoot track we found on the cliffs

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A very focused John as seen through the keyhole rock

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Assorted mosses growing on the cliffs

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John and Dan standing at the high point of the upper section of Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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Looking across the lower end of the gully towards the next part of Big Lost Cove Cliffs that we would be going over to next

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Tommy on the lower end of the upper section of Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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Tommy taking in the views on the upper section of Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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View of Grandfather Mtn as seen from the upper part of the cliffs

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Zooming in on The Grandfather !

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Zooming closer on Grandfather Mountain

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Super zoom of Grandfather Mountain. The swinging bridge is behind that large rock there.

John and Dan would actually climb down the upper side of the cliffs to check out some ledges hidden below in the thick tree growth before we left that area and made our way back to the main trail to go lower on the mountain to reach the next side trail. This trail is even smaller and with no markings whatsoever is even harder to find. It is a ways DOWN it over some rough terrain to reach the cliffs and it gets confusing once there but, persistence will gain success. Not far down this trail there is a large rock on the right and I remembered exploring it with Dave before and found a huge cliff system hiding in the trees there. I definitely took the time to show this to the others in the group and not only did we cover the entire base of this awesome rock formation but, although there is no trail, we ended up finding a way around and up to sit on the top of it which was awesome !

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First view of the base of the hidden cliffs

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Dan and Tommy checking out the base of the hidden cliff

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There are huge rocks at the base of the hidden cliffs, some that have narrow crawlspaces between them

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Looking back you can see how large these rocks under at the base of the hidden cliff

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Making our way along the base of the hidden cliffs

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Looking up from below I see the rest of the crew already on top of the hidden cliff

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Once on top we found a lot of unique rock formations to hang out upon. Dan O is posing for John as he does some camera tricks in a water filled pothole while Tommy (Bol’Dar) sits atop of rock that has mostly air beneath it. it appears as he is floating on it like a magic carpet rock !

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Having fun atop the hidden cliff

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Part of our view from atop the hidden cliff

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More of our view from the hidden cliff

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So many of the rocks found among the cliffs here resemble reptile or aquatic forms.

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This turtle rock had very little surface touching the ground with more air than contact beneath it. There are several rocks like this found here.

After getting the views from there we got back on track and made our way farther down the trail to the next part of the main cliffs. These are somewhat different than the upper section of the cliffs and we came out in a slightly different spot than Dave and I did but, we followed ledges until we eventually made our way over to the far end of them covering every inch of these magnificent rock monoliths before it was over. The views from here are equally impressive and we spent a significant amount of time here as well.

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As we came out on the upper edge of this section of cliffs, we were right at the other side of the gully as this pic shows looking across it to the upper part of the cliffs where we were at earlier. You can now see how tall those cliffs really are. Also keep in mind that there is a lot more of the base that disappears into the trees that you can not see !

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View towards Grandfather Mtn from this part of the cliffs

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John stands at the edge of this section of the cliffs. You can see across the gully to the upper cliffs we were on earlier

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Here you can see more of the base of the upper cliffs behind John which clearly shows just how much of the cliffs disappear into the trees at the base. There are much more of them than meets the eye.

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Looking down from the edge

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Me, Bol’Dar and Dan O checking out the cliffs (Photo by John Forbes)

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John doing his famous death defying Gnome Pose on top of the lower cliffs with a good view of the upper cliffs behind him

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Balancing act on the edge of life

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Me on one of the many ‘air rocks’ somewhere along the cliffs (Photo by John Forbes)

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It always amazes me how trees can grow on the solid rock cliffs but, this one is doing well and the view of Grandfather Mtn in the background only adds to the beauty found here on the very edge of the cliffs

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Me and Bol’Dar getting air near the cool little pine tree along the cliff`s edge (Photo by John Forbes)

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I could not resist doing a Gnome pose there (Photo by John Forbes)

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Here Dan O practices his David Blaine levitation trick along the edge of the cliffs !

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View across the gully of the upper section of the enormous cliffs

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Here John and Dan O are on one of the lower ledges as John points towards the lower part of the gully as they are discussing something that obviously pertains to it. Most likely they are talking about descending into it !

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View across the lower part of the cliffs across the edge that we will be traversing

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Looking down,, you can see what I call the ‘cowcatcher rock” at the base. The plants and mosses that thrive on these cliff edges are unique and gorgeous. No landscaper in the world could design something as pretty

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Zooming in towards the cowcatcher rock you can see more of the colorful landscaping that Mother Nature has provided for our viewing pleasure

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John carefully makes his way across these mighty cliffs

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Looking down from my puckering perch

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Breathtaking view looking down from my puckering perch

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John provides some scale to the cliffs as we make our way across the edge

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John and Bol’Dar making their way across the cliffs

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This shot displays the height of the cliffs

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There are many various varieties of fragile plants and mosses that grow here so please be careful not to step on them if you visit these cliffs

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Like kids in a toy store for the very first time, John, Dan, and Bol’Dar explore every inch of this beautiful place

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The diversity of colors here never fails to impress no matter what season it is

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Mother Nature. The ultimate landscape artist

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Looking back at what I just came down.

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Actual pic of me making like a mountain goat as I carefully come down the cliffs edge (Photo by John Forbes)

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You can not have a fear of heights or suffer from vertigo while doing this. Oh, and be extra careful not to trip or stumble.

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Enjoying the view as I make my way across the edge of the cliffs

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John makes his way to the higher levels

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John performs the ultimate Gnome Pose from the top of Big Lost Cove Cliffs

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Gnome pose with a view

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Bol’Dar stands on the high end while John investigates the edge

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Bol’Dar

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Bol’Dar adds some scale to the cliffs

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Looking down at John who has made has made his way carefully down to one of the lowest levels you can safely get to without ropes

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Incredible view as John and Dan O live life on the edge

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Eventually we all rendezvous at the high point of the lower section of Big Lost Cove Cliffs. Bol’Dar has found some really nice rock depressions to sit in that were very comfortable.

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John sits in the Hillbilly Rock Recliner and claims it is the most comfortable rock seat he has ever sat in !

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Looking back across the lower section of the cliffs that we had just came across. The upper section of cliffs is obscured in this shot and can not be seen

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Me, Gnome posing along the main cliffs (Photo by John Forbes)

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The group sits comfortably in the Hillbilly Recliners on the high point of the cliffs

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Looking back across this part of the cliffs

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Nice view from near the end of the cliffs

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View from the hillbilly recliner rock,, you can see a part of the upper cliffs in this shot

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Dan O and me making our way across the cliffs edge (Photo by John Forbes)

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View from the far end of the cliffs

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View of Grandfather Mountain from the butt end of the cliffs

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Me, sitting on a puckering perch at the very end of the main cliffs (Photo by John Forbes)

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Me, sitting on a puckering perch at the very end of the main cliffs (Photo by John Forbes)

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We all spent our final moments of being on the cliffs on this rock before moving on

When it became time to leave we ended up bushwhacking up through the woods on an off trail adventure to get back to the main trail (rather than go back across the cliffs). This became a good idea because we soon came across more hidden cliffs as we found ourselves at the base of some very high rock formations with narrow chasms running beneath them which resembled a miniature Great Channels of Virginia. We were quite excited at this off trail find and to top it off we were able to climb up a narrow spine to the top of the highest one to get some views which would orient us as to our location. Of course when we would leave these rocks, we would find a real trail on their backside which led 50 feet or less to the main trail ! I am sure not many have been to the base of them but, there is a trail to their topside that I am sure Dave and I would have found had it not been for the rain storm that day.

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One of the oddest trees I have ever seen. A tree with a spine ! This was found during the off trail route we took just before finding the base of the large rocks

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Bol’Dar checks out one of the entrances to a channel

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Bol’Dar checks out the first of the large, house size rocks we soon found ourselves at the base of. There were channels running under these.

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Checking out the channels at the base of these new found cliffs

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Dan O appears out of the canopy as he emerges from the trees after climbing up the steep rock spine from the base of the cliffs some 25+ feet below ! This is only the first level, there are a couple more to go before we would reach the top.

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Looking up towards the top of the large rock, we still have a ways to go

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John takes a break before climbing the rest of the way to the top as he waits on us to catch up

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On the climb up I came across this hole that gave a view down into one of the channels below

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Looking across the front side of the cliffs on my climb up, you can see just how hidden in the trees these are. They are completely surrounded by trees with only a very small part of the highest point being visible from anywhere

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John was the first to the summit

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Making it to the summit of the hidden cliff (Photo by John Forbes)

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Looking down into the dark abyss from whence we had just came from.

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Once on top I could see a small part of the main cliffs. That is the right side of the lower end of the upper section of the main cliffs where we had been when we first came out onto the main cliffs earlier

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View looking towards Grandfather Mtn from the top of these newly found cliffs

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Bol’Dar and Dan O make it to the top

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The view looking off the front of the cliffs. Here you are seeing the tree tops and the route we had just came from. Those trees are at least 40 to 50 feet high and we came from the main cliffs below them to find these and climbed up to this level from their base. It was quite awesome !

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Notice the rock on the right. it was once laying flat but something toppled it over causing that narrow spine (which used to be flat against the main rock) to stick up into the air.

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I am told that this might be Old Time Mountain Bog Huckleberry ? which is very rare in this world and comes from the Netherlands ? If so, then those birds sure come a long way to poop !

From there we should have went farther down the main trail as I am positive there are more side trails that will lead over to two more of the lowest parts of these mammoth cliffs, one of which would be the top of what I call the ‘Cowcatcher Rock’. I had forgot about these until I got home and looked at some zoomed pics I have of the cliffs from far off. Oh well, just another reason to go back, as if I need one !Instead we would go back up the main trail to the first cliffs and make our way carefully down to the base of them where we would hang out for quite a while exploring the huge fallen rocks and overhang rooms found there.

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Once back on the main trail, there are signs advising of the seasons the cliffs are closed for climbing due to the peregrine falcon activity.

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Once we got back to the first set of cliffs that you come to on the way in, we decided to explore their base beyond the point that I had done on a previous trip. This is the beginning of the route down.

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Following the base line of the cliff to check out some of the odd horizontal rocks that stick out from the vertical.

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John checks out a rock puzzle at the base of the cliffs on our way down

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Bol’Dar was first to get to the base. he is standing at the lowest point I had been before until this trip. There is a lot more cliff beyond him that we would soon see up close

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Looking up at the puckering perch I had sat on at the start of the day when we stopped briefly at the top of these hidden cliffs, the first you come to along the trail going in etc

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Bol’Ddar standing at the point where I turned around at on my last trip to the base of these cliffs as I was short on time then,, we would explore every inch of her this time.

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Looking up at some of the unique rock formations on the vertical side of the cliffs as I make my way down

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Looking back at the way I had just came. I am about a third of the way down,,

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Continuing down the base. As you can see it is a lot farther to go down and many fallen and overhanging rocks ! This was quite a playground !

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Cool spot along the cliff base. That dark crack went back in a lot farther than I expected !

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Dan O nears the lowest point at the base of these gargantuan cliffs with much overhanging rock overhead !

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At the lowest point you can see John and Dan O. If you look above John at the rocks sticking out over his head, take note that they are sitting loose, on a slanted ledge just waiting to fall as you will see in some pics to come.

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A happy Gnome poses at the cliff base

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You can see the massive amount of rock overhang above John as he happily poses !

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Looking up at some of the huge overhanging rock

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Bol’Dar practicing one of his motto’s ‘Snack early and snack often!” below these mighty cliffs

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RAT beneath the cliffs (Photo by John Forbes)

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Looking at the fallen rocks along the base of the huge cliffs made me look up,,,,,, (see next pics)

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Looking up I am seeing the rocks that were over Johns head in one of the previous pics. You can see one large and one smaller one just sitting on a slanted ledge. These are just waiting to fall.

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Close up of the rock that was overhead. it is just sitting there waiting to fall !

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Although the picture does not show it, the narrow ledge those rocks are sitting upon is not level but, is rather slanted quite a bit !

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Making the slow climb back up from the base of the cliffs

Eventually the time came to head back so we climbed up out of there and back to the main trail where it did not take too long to get back to the car but, not before checking out a faint side trail that led to a stealth camp and, some more rocks to play around on.

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Back on the main trail and headed back to the car. John waits on me.

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The opposite of the previous pic ! (Photo by John Forbes)

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Stealth camp on a faint side trail on the upper side of the main trail

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Cool rock found on the side trail we explored

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Some more large rocks to explore that the side trail led to. These are above the main trail and were fun to climb on

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John crosses a large downed tree on the way back

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A view from where the trail crosses under a power line near the trail head

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An orange sunset sky over Johnson City as I neared my home. Was a great way to end a great day.

It had been a killer day on the cliffs with some great friends and I can not wait to get back here in the Fall when the leaves are in full color. Until next time,,,,,

Posted on 21 October '15 by , under RATtreks.

One Comment to “Big Lost Cove Cliffs – 9-16-2015”

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