They say a mile in Linville is 3 miles anywhere else
My legs were seizing.
Fist-sized knots had formed in my quads, turning each step into a potential fall, but there was nothing to do except keep moving up the mountain. No amount of stretching would banish the cramps. And it only got worse when I stood still.
Trudging onward, I tugged the zipper of the small pocket attached to my pack’s hip belt, pulled out an electrolyte cube and took stock of our situation while I chomped on it. We were five guys with full packs, on our third day of hiking through the Linville Gorge in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. And our water was nearly gone.
We made camp at the head of Pinch-In Trail, the route that would take us 1,400 feet down into the ravine they call Linville.
There’s a lot of victory language aimed at tough hikes like this: “I conquered the trail. I wasn’t beaten.” But the presumption that nature can be defeated by your presence in it is downright arrogance. You are here at the pleasure of your environment. We were about to learn as much.
But for the time being, we enjoyed the camp fire, told stories, crushed more than a few beers, and bedded down for a good night’s sleep. We’d need it.