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Trip Report - Linville Gorge, North Carolina, USA

[For private use only, not for re-publication in any mass media. Copyright 2005 by El Dorado Hot Springs. No part of this report may be reproduced in a public forum or printed in multiple copies without the express permission of Camilla Van Sickle & Bill Pennington.]


From SR126 above Lake James, North Carolina, take Old NC 105 North five miles to FR 117, marked by a steel gate on the right.




At 14 miles long, 1,000 feet deep much of the way, and a 2,000 foot drop, WORLD GUIDE CLASS Linville Gorge is second in size in this country only to The Grand Canyon; with all our hearts, we hope the message is clear; even in `conservative' states like North Carolina, there are HUNDREDS of nuding spots if people would only care to find them. We spent most of a week clambering up one side of Linville and down the other, beginning with spectacular 90 foot Linville Falls at the top; we visited after a heavy rain and was it ever a sight to see. The falls drops in two stages, marking the beginning of the gorge; millions of years ago, the falls were 14 miles down stream. With regret, we compuNude that there are no nuding opportunities at the falls, but worry not--virtually anywhere from the falls downstream for the next 12 miles is Naturist Heaven. Locals say, "Skinnydipping has been going on in the gorge since Gramma & Grampa's time, at least, but no one talks about it. They just do it." (That a syndrome observed elsewhere, including Vermont.) We asked, "What about the law." "Shoot! The law 'round here is too lazy to even know where the bottom of the gorge is! Don't worry none 'bout them." Just over Jonas Ridge from Jonah Hole (WG. p. 81), 10,975 acre Linville Gorge Wilderness Area offers dozens of campsites where Nude could Naturally be the Norm, more than 20 miles of nude hiking, and some very extraordinary rock formations, including Sitting Bear Rock, Hawksbill, Table Rock, and Short Off Mountain, technical rock climbing at its best. Down in the gorge, the Linville, which the Cherokees called "Eeseeoh", a river of many cliffs, twists, turns, and drops seemingly forever, a non-stop series of calm water, rapids, and waterfalls. The fact Linville is a wilderness area is the biggest favor the bureaucracy could have done for all nature lovers, especially the ones who choose to love nature naturally, because access is limited and the trails are just difficult enough, though not really that difficult, that few actually go down to the bottom of the gorge.

It looks like it on maps, but there's no access from the bottom; the access closest to the bottom is FR117, the first National Forest Service gated road on the right, North of Paddy Creek Naturist Friendly Campground (248PADDY); it's on Old NC 105 (Kistler Memorial Highway on the official detail map), north of several private hunting club gates. Park so as not to block the gate; follow the road four miles to the end, then descend steeply to the river. Because the gate was locked, we walked the entire distance in and out in cloth freedom, knowing no one was in there. It was GREAT! Along the way are more than a dozen crystal clear springs and streams to drink from. There are several much faster ways to the bottom of the gorge, but this is by far the easiest and the most open = best sun window of all.

From FR117 North on 105, to six miles from the top, four wheel drive is recommended. We made it (but only just about) in our ever-nimble Volkswagen front wheel drive diesel Jetta, thanks to some skillful driving. Had it been raining, we probably wouldn't have made it, so plan accordingly if you wish to go UP that section. Coming down from the top is another matter; there are some steep uphills (YES, there are some steep uphills going DOWN Old NC Rt 105), but they're short. Most drivers should have no trouble going down Old NC 105 with a regular car. Linville Gorge is a remote Wilderness Area. Few roads. No phones. No Rangers. Few or NO people to render aid if one is injured; for example, in all the time we spent there, we never saw anyone down in the gorge save a nude family WAY upstream, too far away to engage in conversation, but we waved to each other. NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. NOT FOR THOSE OUT OF SHAPE! KNOW YOUR LIMITS. DON'T GO ALONE. Remember, discretion is the better part of valor. Be nude, but, above all, be safe. Obtain a detail map from the information cabin just below Linville Falls Overlook. See also 292PINE.GAP for nuding at the top of the gorge. The highest elevation is 4,100 feet at Gingercake Mountain; the average river elevation is 2,000 feet. Area attractions include Linville Caverns, Grandfather Mountain, the famed and fabled Brown Mountain Lights phenomenon at Wiseman's View, and Lake James into which the Linville River flows. This area has it all. What a place.

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