RAT`s Annual B-Day Hike – 9-8 to 9-10-2016

Almost every year I have tried to take 4 or 5 days off to go hiking around my birth date in September. Although I have missed a few I managed to make it happen in 2016. This one would only be for 3 or 4 days which is the shortest yet but, it is way better than none at all ! I will also add that the location and the unusually hot weather made it seem much longer. For the first time ever and to my delight, I would be joined by my son Tyler Tarpley. Unfortunately though, my usual compadre Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden would be unable to attend. The locations I chose for this event was in the Linville Gorge as Tyler had only been there once before and there was much more I wanted to show him. Day one was spent gathering last minute supplies, packing up and driving over where we stopped at the Gorge Rat`s campsite at the Hawksbill trail head with just enough daylight left to complete the climb to the summit before the sunset.

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View from Hawksbill looking towards Table Rock as the sun began to set on our first day.

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The view from behind our campsite on day 1. (That is Grandfather Mtn in the distance)

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View from behind our campsite on day 1.

We hiked as fast and hard as we could to arrive just in time to get a drink of water, eat some smoked BBQ pork ribs, and setup my tripod before the sunset colors started. It was not the most phenomenal twilight I have seen but, it certainly was not the worst either. Just being there was soothing and tranquil and was a great prelude for the days to come.

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One of our first views as we started gaining elevation on our quick ascent of Hawksbill Mtn. That is looking towards Brown Mountain. Seeing the orange glow made us quicken our pace even more as we did not want to miss the sunset.

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We did make the summit before the sunset show started but, not by much !

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View from Hawksbill looking towards Sitting Bear with Grandfather Mtn to the far right in distance.

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Panning farther right towards Grandfather Mtn

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View from Hawksbill towards Grandfather Mtn

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Looking farther right towards Brown Mountain

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Continuing the pan to the right. This is looking East just to right end of Brown Mtn.

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Farther to the right (looking East)

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Next frame right you see Table Rock with ShortOff Mtn in all their glory

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A little farther to the right looking down the gorge

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The sunset show was about to begin !

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Panning more to the right you now see the West side of the gorge coming in to view

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More right (SouthWest)

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And finally almost due West the show is beginning !

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Looking West obviously !

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Continuing to pan right

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Tyler getting some pics with my larger camera

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My attempt to get Table Rock and the moon together

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Sunset from Hawksbill

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Sunset from Hawksbill

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Sunset from Hawksbill Mtn

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The show is usually better after the sun has gone down

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Sunset after the sun had gone down

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The later it got the more colors came into the scene

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We could see the lights of a community far off in a valley beyond the gorge shrouded by beautiful colors

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My pictures can not do the view justice.

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We could see a rather large fire in that small town in the distance.

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The view was mesmerizing

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Tried some night time photography using my headlamp ! It is a long way down beyond that edge !

The following series of pics are from my larger camera although, not necessarily any better than the one I took with my pocket cam!

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Table Rock as seen from Hawksbill

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Our amazing view from Hawksbill. It was a great first time for Tyler.

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Sunset from Hawksbill

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Setting sun from Hawksbill

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Sunset

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Sunset from Hawksbill

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The setting sun as seen from Hawksbill

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Almost gone

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Sunset from Hawksbill

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Zoomed shot of Table Rock, Little Table Rock, Part of the Chimneys behind TR and Shortoff mtn in the far distance as seen from Hawksbill

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We thoroughly enjoyed this show !

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Sunset from Hawksbill Mtn

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Hawksbill sunset

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Sunset

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Sunset

We stayed there until it was fully dark and enjoyed watching the distant lights and stars before making the slow and careful descent back to the trail head where we had already setup camp.  As we entered into the woods on the other side of the road I heard something behind us and looked back to see a pair of eyes glowing in my headlamp !  I am not sure what it was but, it did not bother us although, I could not stop wondering about it the whole time I was in my tent ! We only had to finish off the pork ribs then crawl into our tents to listen to the sounds of the forest. I watched the stars until sleep came over me.  I slept off and on and the next thing I knew I woke up just in time to catch part of the sunrise from the overlook at the back end of the camping area. It was going to be a beautiful day.

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Glowing eyes across the road as I looked back !

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Early morning sunrise as seen from behind our camp at the start of day 2

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Sunrise as seen from behind our camp early on the morning of day 2 (that is Grandfather Mtn prominent in the distance)

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Watching the first light of day 2 as seen from behind our campsite

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Pre dawn light on the morning of day 2 as seen from behind our campsite

After a quick breakfast we broke camp and loaded up the vehicle to make our way farther into the gorge as it was already getting hot. The destination for Day two was to be the Table Rock parking area where we would spend the day hiking through the Chimneys and down the side trail to The Camel. From there we would be going across the entire length of the NC Wall most of which would be on the edge as I planned to take Tyler out on each and every rock spire finger there was until we reached the Amphitheater overlook and up from there back to the top to complete a giant loop back through the Chimneys to the parking area. Our plan was to day pack that then pack our overnight stuff and camp closer to the Chimneys where we hoped to have a grand sunset followed by an excellent night in the high country.

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Our camp on the morning of day 2

It did not take long to drive up to the Table Rock parking area, don our day packs and begin the short climb up to the Chimneys. We took our time as starting out early allows for stopping to enjoy more things which we did at the many overlooks on both sides of the narrow ridge. The early morning sun was just starting to kiss the tip top of the highest points along the Chimneys which made for some great highlighted shadows. We continued through the Chimneys until we reached the unmarked trail that would lead us straight down to the Camel.

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We made it to the Chimneys in time to see the suns first light upon them

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Our early morning view as we begin into the chimneys. We could see the Camel over there awaiting our arrival !

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Looking back the other way we could see the sun beginning to kiss the West side of the gorge

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Awesome view of the backside (East side) of the Chimneys as the sun awakens it to meet the new day !

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Tyler making his way through the tight squeeze between the two infamous rock spires as we follow the trail towards the Chimneys

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Following Tyler through the squeeze

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Is that a woman’s face on the side of the rock cliff ? The trail meanders along a narrow cliffs edge with views like this the entire time.

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making our way into the Chimneys

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Tyler looking down from one of the many rock spires of the Chimneys

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Tyler on top of one of the many rock spires found in the Chimneys

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Looking back towards Table Rock

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Well known rock spire at the entrance to the Chimneys

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The photo ops here are endless !

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The beginning of the main Chimneys. Not far from the ‘Crack of Gnome’ !

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Looking over at the rock formation known as Botswanna Arete.

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Looking back. Here you can see the rather large vertical cliffs found below Little Table Rock.

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Looking up at the main Chimney tops as we continue below them

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View of the Twin Towers rocks as the sun first touches them

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View looking back at Table rock and Little Table rock and where we had just came from.

Once we reached the infamous Camel Rock I showed Tyler the small side trail that leads over and down to the overlook there. We also went down to the various puckering perches found on many of the rock spires along the way as I showed Tyler all the sights there are to see in that area. We spent a lot of time in this unique and always awesome place. One day I plan to make the effort to climb down to its base and explore down there and who knows maybe one day I`ll stand atop it !

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The Camel Rock in all its glory !

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The Camel Rock

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Up close and personal with the Camel as he overlooks the gorge

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Tyler making a boot adjustment at one of the Camel overlooks

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Another angle of the Camel rock

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The Camel Rock

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View of the river as seen from behind the Camel

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Magnificent view looking over the Camel

From the Camel I led the way across the mighty NC Wall. My first time on this side of ‘the ditch’ was here as,  fellow Gorge Rat Mike Jones led the hike that day, only we were going in the other direction. I have since been across it two more times, each going the way Tyler and I would be going on this day. The sun kept climbing higher in the sky with each passing minute and the temperature followed suit. The NC Wall is mostly exposed so there is not much escape from it. Despite the heat we took our time slowly making our way across the wall right on its edge the entire time. There are numerous Rock spires that finger off the main wall which we took the time to go out on each and every on of them. They are all very narrow and vertical cliffs each with its own unique view of the gorge.

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Tyler looking down from the first of many very narrow and very high rock spines that are part of the mighty NC Wall

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Looking over at the NC Wall as we still had a long way to go

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Continuing out to the tip of the narrow rock spine

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Tyler looking off the end of the rock spine. It`s a good thing he is not afraid of heights !

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View between the rock spine and the NC Wall with Tyler giving it some sense of scale

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Looking back at the Camel

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I zoomed some here to get a view of the Sphinx rock that sits below the NC Wall

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Looking back over at the rock spine we were just standing on

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A lower angle on the rock spine we were just standing on in an attempt to give you a sense of how high it is

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Looking over at the top of the previous rock spine. The views never quit here.

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Trying to find the bottom of the previous rock spine but, as you can see it never really ends until you reach the river !! The crack in between it and the NC Wall would be fun to explore.

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Looking back at the previous rock spine you can see a 60+ foot high pine tree growing in the crack ! Lots of stuff to explore at its base.

As we continued across the wall I pointed out the Old Man`s Head, the Moss Monster and The Sphinx and showed Tyler the route we would one day take to reach them. After that the route can get slightly confusing as the wall actually goes downhill if you wish to stay along its edge and end up on the Amphitheatre Trail. I made a mistake here on my last trip across and I was determined not to make it again ! Avoiding the short bushwhack I got John Forbes and myself into last time I managed to find the right route and over to the Amp Overlook where we took our boots off and had a long water and snack break as it was just after noon time and it was HOT !!!

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Tyler taking in the vast views as we make our way across the main part of the NC Wall

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Looking back there is always another great view. This is where the previous rock spine actually connects with the NC Wall and the huge chasm it creates between the two entities

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Breathtaking views looking back around and over the previous rock spine plus, you can see how it`s not just a 200 foot high rock but, rather many more hundreds of feet as if you was to fall you would bounce and continue all the way to the river !

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The next narrow rock spine has a very narrow ledge around the dying side of it which one must crawl around in order to reach the tip of this marvelous structure. Tyler chose not to follow me out this one and remained on top above me !

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Crawling along the narrow ledge to get out to the point

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Once I made it out to the point of this rock spine I was able to get this close up view of Old Man`s Head and Moss Monster and some of The Sphinx (in that order of closeness) that all sit at the base of the NC Wall

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Looking back from the point of the rock spine you can see the top part of it that I crawled around the bottom left side of. Tyler is up there somewhere !

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Panning slightly to the right I find Tyler

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Tyler was quite content looking down on me as I crawled around on the narrow spine

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Another quick look back after I crawl under the overhanging rock at the narrowest part of the rock spine

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The killer view Tyler was getting from the tip top of the rock spine. Looking at the Old Mans Head, Moss Monster and The Sphinx and in that order of closeness. I can not wait to go down there and explore.

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Tyler getting one last view of the narrow rock spine before we go back to the main wall and get around this ravine to go out on the next spine

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Following Tyler as we continue across the NC Wall

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Looking over at the previous rock spine you can see the lower part that I crawled out to the tip on ! The overhanging rock I crawled under is on the back side of the tall part !

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I love these cool looking Bonzai shaped trees in the gorge !

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Small camp found on the edge of the NC Wall

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Looking back you can see the rock spine (in the middle) I crawled out on (where the moss covered rock is) while Tyler stayed on top.

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Looking back the view is incredible. That`s the first rock spine we were out on.

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I just can not get enough of the view from the NC Wall. The sun was getting bright and I was not carrying my larger camera but, you get the picture !

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The sun was just now getting on the other side.

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Our view looking forward as we continue across the edge of the NC Wall. The rock jutting out closest to me is one I sat on with legs dangling on my last trip here with John Forbes. After seeing it from where he was, I would not do it again ! That rock spire in the bottom right is Moss Monster. Shortoff Mtn is seen in far distance.

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Hovering over the rock that I straddled on my last trip to get a closer shot of the Moss Monster rock spire that sits at the base of the NC Wall

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Not really a definitive trail across the NC Wall but, it is not too hard to find the best route. I tend to stay as close to the edge as possible for the views although there are some higher routes

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Looking back at our progress thus far

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Just a cool rock formation along the way

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As you meander along the NC Wall there are constant reminders of the not so long ago forest fire that scorched all of this

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Looking down into the gorge through one of the swags along the NC Wall

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Down on yet another narrow rock spine I could get a good zoomed shot of the Camel Rock and the keyhole space between it and the NC Wall

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Tyler anxious to get out on the next big thing !

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Tyler looking way down deep into the huge crack between him and I

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Tyler enjoying the NC Wall

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Tyler looking ahead at what was to come. He never once asked how much farther it was to go !!!

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Looking back you can see the keyhole crack of the Camel Rock with Hawksbill off in the distance

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The sun was just starting to touch the Camel

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Once I caught up to Tyler out on the next big thing, I could see down into the huge crack he was looking down into earlier

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In this view of the crack you can see the jutting out rock I sat on during a previous trip here with John Forbes. Its the lowest one sticking out from the square edge of the main ledge (and not the two lighter colored ones above it) !!! I`ll admit, it was not a good idea ! Also, see the stingray shaped rock in the distance ? I predict it will slide off and be in the bottom eventually !

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Tyler copping some visuals including looking down on the rock tower that I photographed John Forbes climbing to the top of !!

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hanging out on the huge rock towers along the NC Wall

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Now standing where Tyler was in the last two pics you can see the rock tower that John Forbes climbed down to and stood atop of !

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Zoomed shot of the Camel

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Zoomed shot of the Camel

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Another shot of the ‘Rock That John Climbed’ !!

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Our next part of the NC Wall. It gets trickier here to stay on the edge as it terraces a lot and slopes quite a ways down hill which you need to follow if you want to meet up with the Amp Trail.

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Getting closer to the end

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some attractive Flora found along the NC Wall

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A cool rock along one of the terraced edges of the NC Wall. one must be careful along this section as you could take a wrong step and end up in the bottom !

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Met this friendly juvenile Eastern Milk Snake

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Staying close to t he edge of the NC Wall you can see HUGE house size boulders in the Linville River far below

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Crawling under this overhang is about as close as you can get to the edge of the NC Wall !

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Looking back across the last section we traversed over

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Almost to the end. Just around this corner to the top of the Prow is where the Amp Trail should be.

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One of my favorite places along the NC Wall is where you can look down onto the Sphinx.

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Looking back you can see how we had to come down in elevation to stay with the edge of the wall

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Tyler stand at the edge of the NC Wall and looks down upon the Sphinx. I think he desires to go stand on it as much as I do !

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Close up of Tyler on the edge of the NC Wall

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Getting some views of the Sphinx from the top of the NC Wall

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Looking at the last section of the NC Wall. You can see the Prow in the lower right part of the image. I hope to climb or at least rappel that one day.

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In and around another crag on our way towards the end of the NC Wall

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I always look for this infamous spot anytime I am here where you can frame the Sphinx with this notch in the NC Wall !!!

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The Sphinx as seen through the infamous Sphinx Notch in the NC Wall !!!

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The Sphinx Rock

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Last section of the NC Wall before we reach the Amp Trail

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Just over that high spot to the Amp trail !

Due to paying closer attention to logistics needed to find the Amp Trail, I did not take any more pics until we actually reached the Amp Overlook. After a long rest at the Amp Overlook we began the climb up to the main trail (MST) on top. This climb always wears me out and I am happy when I see the top. The heat made it even harder on this day. I was nearly out of water so I was happy when I got back to level ground and enjoyed the shaded easier walking back to by the Chimneys and down to the parking area where we had drinks waiting for us on ice !

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View looking into the Ampitheater

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Looking across the lower part of the Amp at the Mummy Buttress rock

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Looking across the Amp and over the Mummy Buttress with Shortoff Mtn. in the distance

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Gnarly twisted tree growing out of the Amp Overlook

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Tyler letting the dogs breath while eating a snack on the Amp Overlook. it was starting to heat up by this time. The temps were around 90 + the whole time we were on this trip.

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Zoomed image of the end of Shortoff Mtn with Piano Rock glowing in the sun. You can see a trace of Lake James beyond Shortoff

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As far as my pocket cam would zoom to get the Piano Rock (another one on my list of things to do)

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Looking down into the lower part of the Amp from the Amp Overlook

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Looking across the gorge (and gnarly tree) from the Amp Overlook

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Once back on top and back to the Chimneys area, I took this shot of the Twin Towers and Catbriar point as we made our way back through the Chimneys to the Table Rock parking lot.

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Part of the awesome view across Catbriar cliff. The clouds helped to make this a better pic.

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I never tire of this view looking over the Botswanna Arete rock spine with Table Rock and Little Table Rock in the distance

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Once back to the parking lot / picnic area we chilled out for awhile in the shade. this crow kept cawing at us. Probly saying ‘nevermore’ in crow language !

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Zoomed shot of the crow above our picnic table

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Cool carving near our picnic table

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Our supper (ribeye steaks) seasoned and awaiting the coals to get hot

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These nice rock formations are hiding just beyond the Table Rock parking lot. We did some exploring while we waited on the heat of the day to pass.

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Following the rocks near the parking area

We hung out in the picnic area for the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening cooking Ribeye steaks and resting. Once it cooled down we packed up our overnight gear and made our way back up the hill to the Chimneys where we would setup camp and then find a spot to watch the sunset. Like the day before it was not the best sunset I have ever seen but, then again I have never seen what I would call a bad one !

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We got back up to the Chimneys just in time for the sunset show to begin.

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As the orange glow began to show on everything we could see a large group at the place we had hoped to camp at so we would have to choose a different location

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The Chimney rocks with an orange tint as the sun was setting

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Looking Northwest

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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The moon was already up as seen over the Chimneys

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Moon over Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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The moon over the Chimneys during the sunset

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

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Sunset from the Chimneys

Those sunset pictures were all taken with my pocket cam. The following series is what I managed to capture using my larger camera (although it is NOT an SLR) :

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Taken with my larger cam you can see more of the people on various points of the Chimneys there to see the sunset show !

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

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Sunset from the Chimneys (taken with my larger camera)

We hung out until well after dark to watch the stars and lights before going back to our camp where sleep would come much quicker and easier than the night before. We were however, rudely awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a group of young people stammering all around us, shining bright flashlights and talking loudly as they looked for a place to set up their huge tents. It took awhile to get settled down and back to sleep. I awoke about an hour or so before first light and woke Tyler up so we could get our things together for a day hike up Table Rock in hopes of catching a killer sunrise from the summit. This would be a first as neither of us had been there before. Going light and with headlamps on we climbed up to the summit in pitch black darkness as quickly as we could so we could see the soon to be approaching dawn.

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First bands of light and colors as seen from the summit of Table Rock. This is looking over top of Brown Mountain. We did not see any of the famous Brown Mountain lights during the entire trip.

Despite our not being familiar with the route and it being circuitous and slightly confusing (esp in the dark) we did make it to the summit before the first traces of light began. Due to the lack of any significant clouds it was not what one would call (from a photography point of view anyways) a spectacular sunrise event however, we both thoroughly enjoyed its beauty immensely and stayed on the summit until the sun had completely risen above the horizon and began casting its warm glows upon the Linville Gorge.

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sunrise from the summit of Table Rock

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As the sun got closer to showing itself, the colors were fantastic and we could see the fog laying in the many valleys below.

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Waiting on the sun from the summit of Table Rock

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sunrise from the summit of Table Rock. That is Grandfather Mtn to the left

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Checking out the fog laying in the valleys

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Morning is breaking in the gorge ! View from Table Rock

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Looking towards Grandfather Mtn as we awaited the sun to rise

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Hawksbill to left and grandfather to right

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I tried my best to get the valley fog but, I just do not have the camera for it

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As the light bot brighter we explored some of the immediate area while waiting on the sun. Here Tyler found a puckering perch on the far East side of Table Rock.

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I joined Tyler on the puckering perch and got a few pics of the killer views there. This is looking over at Hawksbill Mtn.

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I particularly liked this angle

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The sun was getting close so it was about time to climb back up to the summit

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Back on top we could start to see the fog rising in the mountains to the West

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Looking up the gorge (North)

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Sunrise from Table Rock summit

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The sun is about to wake up the Grandfather !

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Sunrise from the summit of Table Rock

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Setup and waiting for the show to begin

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Our view looking behind us

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Looking behind us to the West around Table Rock and over top of Little Table Rock

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Looking back to the summit at my larger camera waiting on the sun to show itself

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Finally ! Our first view of the sun !

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Sunrise from Table Rock

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There were not many clouds so what started off good did not end well.

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The sunlight glowing on the gorge

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Good morning gorge !

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Hawksbill as seen from Table Rock summit as the sun slowly came up

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Soon the sun rose above the lower clouds and became too intense to shoot

I took the following pictures of the sunrise with my larger camera although they are not any better than what I obtained with my pocket cam:

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First light from the summit of Table Rock (taken with my larger cam)

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First batch of colors seen over top of Brown Mountain from the summit of Table Rock (taken with my larger cam)

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Waiting on the sun from the summit of Table Rock (taken with larger cam)

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Finally the moment we had been waiting for ! (taken with larger cam)

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Morning has broken ! Although, due to the lack of clouds it went downhill fast. (taken with my larger cam)

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sun rising over brown Mountain as seen from Table Rock (taken with my larger cam)

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Sunrise from Table Rock (taken with my larger cam)

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Once above the cloud line taking pics was futile for me

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sunrise from Table rock (taken with my larger cam)

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Beautiful morning colors as seen from the summit of Table Rock (taken with larger cam)

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Grandfather Mountain about to be awakened by the sun (taken with larger cam)

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Sunrise over the gorge as seen from Table Rock (taken with larger cam)

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Two worn out, sun baked, sleepy heads on the summit of Table Rock watching the sun rise !

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Morning gorge views (taken with larger cam)

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Hawksbill from Table Rock sunrise (taken with larger cam)

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An ocean of mountains seen from the Table Rock summit (taken with larger cam)

We followed the top of the mountain across to its other end exploring everything we could find to poke our noses into along the way. I wanted to locate the Devils Cellar but, I had no clue where it was so I was unsuccessful in doing so. We did take the time to go out the side trail and over to Little Table Rock to explore stuff out there before going back down to the parking area. I really liked that area and plan on coming back again in the future as there are plenty of cliffs and drop offs to explore on the river side.

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Although the sun became too intense with no clouds to filter it, the views were not bad as the sun began to light things up as it awoke the gorge for a new day.

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The sun slowly starts to highlight some features of the gorge

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The sun was about to wash out any possible pics towards the East !

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View from Table Rock

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View from Table Rock

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Making our way across the summit of Table Rock

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Apparently there used to be a structure or tower on the summit of Table Rock as here lies its remains

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making our way across the entire length of Table Rock

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Looking over Tyler`s shoulder at the view from the top of Table Rock

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and then I seen it ! The flying saucer shadow of Table Rock on the West side of the gorge ! How cool is that ?

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Our view including the shadow of Table Rock !

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Yeah I kinda became obsessed with the shadow for a few minutes !!

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Tyler checking out some of the many cool rock formations found on top of Table Rock

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Tyler takes a break at the cool overhanging rock formation

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I couldn`t resist creating this bird beak shadow effect !

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A dog and a bird or rock guy with long nose ???

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I loved this part of the trail !

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Following the spine along the summit of Table Rock

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Looking back at Tyler wondering how he got behind me !

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Following the spine I can see we are just about out of mountain !

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The top of Table Rock was not what I had expected at all

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It does get gnarly in places !

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Climbing higher to reach the ultimate view that Table Rock has to offer !

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Some views along the way

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Tyler takes over the lead

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Tyler stands on top of the world at the highest point on Table Rock

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Tyler enjoying the beauty of the early morning sun from the highest point on Table Rock

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Tyler on the highest point of Table Rock

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We were still half asleep but, it was all worth it for this view !

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Looking back at what we had just came over to reach the view

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Tyler coming back up from checking out the ‘edge’ of the summit below us !

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The amazing early morning view from the top of Table Rock

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View from Table Rock summit

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Opposite view of Hawksbill from the Table Rock high point

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Looking back across the top of Table Rock

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Following Tyler farther down off the summit to the drop off as I wanted to see the view of the parking lot before I left the summit !

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Tyler on the edge ! I had a feeling the buck was about to stop soon !

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Another one of those cool Bonzai looking trees that has the ability to grow from solid rock !

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Life on the edge

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Looking up at our previous summit perch

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I love all the different textures and elements this view provided

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The shadow of Table Rock could still be seen but, the sun was getting higher so it would not last much longer

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Early morning view from Table Rock

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And finally, the view I was looking for and was not easy to locate !!! The parking lot as seen from the top of Table Rock !

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Looking at The Camel off in the distance as seen from Table Rock

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Zoomed shot of the Chimneys and the Camel as seen from somewhere on the side of Table Rock

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Zooming in as much as I could to capture the very unique features of the Camel. As you can see there is a lot more to it than is seen from the NC Wall view.

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The ultimate zoom shot of the Camel from Table Rock !!

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Nice camp site on the summit of Little Table Rock

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View from Little Table Rock

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View from Little Table Rock

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Tyler taking a break on a cool rock tower located on Little Table Rock

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Just a few of the many cliffs found on Little Table Rock

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I hope to get down to the base of these one day as I am sure there is much to see down there ! The cliffs of Little Table Rock

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Looking down the cliff from my puckering perch on Little Table Rock

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Cool campsite on top of the big cliff on Little Table Rock

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I enjoyed Little Table rock as much as I did the big one. I look forward to more exploring here in the future.

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Looking down into the gorge from Little Table Rock

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Looking down and slightly zoomed in on a rock cliff in the bottom of the gorge from Little Table Rock. I have to wonder if this is part of the Conely Cave and trail ??

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View from Little Table Rock

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View looking North with Hawksbill on right from Little Table Rock

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View from Little Table Rock

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View from Little Table Rock

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Tyler poses in front of a small rock cave we found on the way down from Table Rock. It was dark when we came up so we missed it !

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Unfortunately there are always those that think its ok to spray paint their graffiti on rocks in pristine places. I think this has since been removed by some hard working and caring folks.

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An old cave RAT !! (“You kids get out of my yard !!”)

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making our way down from Table Rock seeing the stuff we missed in the pitch dark on the way up !

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Looking up at the part of Table Rock you see from the parking area where we had been earlier. Now I know why you do not hardly ever see anyone on that part of it !!

We broke camp and packed up the car and with still a lot of daylight left we moved on to our next location. It was another very hot day (lower 90`s) so we opted to find somewhere that offered more shade and we were already thinking about somewhere to swim at ! I figured that the trail to Devils Hole and Sitting Bear would be sufficient so we made our way to that trail head. It was early enough that it was not crowded and we were able to easily get a parking place in the very small parking area there. Replenishing our day packs we headed up the trail once again. The hill winded us pretty good mainly due to the heat of the past couple of days so we took our time. Once we reached the trail to Devils Hole we decided not to go down there for swimming mainly due to the long climb back up that we would have to do in the hottest part of the day. We opted instead to climb further up to the Sitting Bear Rock as I had always wanted to go there and it would be downhill all the way back. Plus I had another plan for a closer swimming hole afterwards !

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Carrying our camp stuff back to the car from the Chimneys area after we got back down from Table Rock (seen in the background here) and broke our camp ready to move to a new location.

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Part of Table Rock as seen from the road on our way out.

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Part of Table Rock as seen from the road on our way out.

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Campsite along the Sitting Bear Rock trail

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Devils Hole Trail. We would be putting this one on ‘the list’ for later.

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The trail up to Sitting Bear Rock is steep and there are several huge rock formations like this one along the way

It is not a long distance to reach the Sitting Bear Rock but, the steep climb makes up for it ! After some huffing and puffing and a few rest breaks we finally made it ! It is an interesting rock formation to say the least and the area around it is riddled with many different cliffs as well. The trail continues out the ride beyond it which I know leads to many other cliff overlooks and other trails and I hope to explore all of them at some time in the near future. The only bad thing about this rock is that you can not really get a good view of it from anywhere. We noticed many climbing anchors attached to it and hope to come back one day to climb to the top of it.

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Part of Sitting Bear Rock

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Tyler stands at the base of Sitting Bear Rock

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Part of the base of Sitting Bear Rock

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Part of the top of Sitting Bear Rock

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We could not help but notice all the climbing anchors all over this rock. I think it was here when we decided we would definitely be getting some climbing gear !

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Sitting Bear Rock

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The base of Sitting Bear Rock

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Tyler goes around the perimeter of this gigantic rock formation (I think he was looking for a way up!)

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Someone was nice enough to leave a carabiner in the lowest climbing anchor. Would not do us any good though as without climbing gear and technical climbing skills we would never reach it !!

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Continuing around the base of this interesting rock I was amazed at how undercut it is and wondered how it was formed. There is a LOT of rock above this very narrow base !!

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The relatively small base of Sitting Bear Rock

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Tyler sees just how hard it would be to free climb this rock to get to the first anchor !

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Hanging out around the base of Sitting Bear Rock

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Looking towards the top of this giant bear ! Lots of anchors but, no lanyards or a way to get to them ! Next time I come here I will have what it takes to climb it !

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Sitting Bear Rock

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Sitting Bear Rock

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Other side of Sitting Bear Rock

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Sitting Bear Rock

After hanging out at the rock for quite awhile we started back down but, we did find a faint side trail not far from the rock that led out to a really nice cliff facing into the gorge. You can look up and see the top part of the Sitting Bear Rock along with views into the gorge including the main ridge that leads down to the Devils Hole. This did help to put some perspective on things. I imagine in the Winter time when the leaves are gone, there would be a decent view of the Sitting Bear Rock from here as well. It also looked suitable for climbing yet we saw no signs that anyone had before. This will all be left for another trip another time.

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View from nice set of cliffs we found not far from the Sitting Bear Rock. This is looking towards Hawksbill

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Looking over at the tip top of the Sitting Bear Rock from the cliffs we found nearby

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View of the cliffs that are beyond the Sitting Bear Rock

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View from atop the cliffs we found near the Sitting Bear Rock. These are much larger/ higher than they first appeared.

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Looking over and down at the Devils Hole Trail route that follows that ridge line / draw down to the river

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Looking farther down into the gorge you can see the apex of where the Devils Hole Trail comes out at the river

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The view from these cliffs are pretty sweet. I want to come back and go to the base of them.

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View from our newfound puckering cliff perch near the Sitting Bear Rock

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Looking down over the edge

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It`s a fair ways down to the bottom of these small but, very nice cliffs

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One last look over at the Sitting Bears head before we left

It was mostly downhill back to the vehicle which did not take near as long as the steep climb up. We were both very hot, tired, and dirty so, it was decided we would go to a swimming hole to cool off and get clean and then head home actually a day early. I guess it was the heat of being exposed in the high country for three days along with the extra energy that is required anytime you do ‘gorge miles’ that drained us as normally we would never end a trip early ! We clicked on the AC and drove the short distance to Upper Creek Falls which was also on our way home.

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Swimming hole on Upper Creek located just above the main falls (taken in 2012)

As always there were several cars in the parking area at Upper Creek and it did seem farther than I remember it being to get down to the top of the falls but, once we headed upstream to the large swimming holes there it was all worth it. The cold water was very refreshing and a fitting end to what had been a very good time spent in nature. I did not even take a camera down to the swimming hole and although we did stop for an awesome post hike grub out at the Italian restaurant in Pineola, I did not take any pics of it either ! With our shorts still wet and our bellies full, we made the hour drive home to unpack our gear to air out in the still very hot sun before laying down for a much needed nap. We were tired yet, we were already thinking about the next adventure. Until then,,,,,

Posted on 25 October '17 by , under RATtreks.

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