Linville Gorge. Maybe I shouldn't have tried to combine the two, especially when the summer heat finally decided to come out, but why aim low?
Friday night we camped at the rim of the gorge, around 3,600 feet. We kicked around and looked at the waterfall, "hiking" maybe a mile. The next day we packed up, left the car, and headed down the Pinch-In Trail to the bottom of the gorge, around 1,800 feet. The Pinch-In trail is steep, but I liked it because it had spectacular views most of the way down, something the Spence Ridge and Conley Cove trails lack. We wandered south on the Linville Gorge trail for a bit before heading north.
We set up camp (next to these guys).
On day two we headed up to Table Rock, which I think deserves its own post, after moving camp about a mile north. (We wanted to get past some yellowjackets and be closer to the trail we'd hike out with on day three.) Our new site had terrific swimming hole access, but more garbage than any wilderness area ought to. People, don't be pigs: Pack it in, pack it out.
On our last day, we headed up Conley Cove until we reached a choice: Head down the Rock Jock trail, which came out on the road fairly close to our car, or continue up a little ways and hike about three miles on the road. At that point, we were all suffering - or, rather, three of us were; our fourth is indefatigable - from carrying packs on steep terrain for three days plus, even more importantly, hiking in the heat and humidity. The body needs to acclimate to working in the heat, and mine sure hadn't. We unanimously elected to take the easier road hike. It was relatively pleasant for a road hike, as it was a dirt road with shade and little traffic, but the uphill still seemed endless. Seeing the jeep in the parking lot was a really exciting moment, but not quite as exciting as eating dinner in a restaurant, and that was not quite as exciting as getting to take a shower.
A final note: We ate at Famous Louise's in Linville Falls, and we didn't see what the fuss was about. I didn't expect (or find) many vegetarian options, but my omnivorous friends declared their food mediocre at best. Cute atmosphere, though.