God Heaven Hope Jesus North Carolina Shortoff

One of my favorite conversations

When I went to Shortoff Mountain in the Linville Gorge last October, I had the pleasure of William “Wigg” Faulkner serving me as a guide. He has been visiting the Gorge for years and years, and over the last few years he has been systematically exploring the Gorge’s many rock outcrops, springs, and canyons. Linville Gorge has many secrets, and as another explorer of the area has said, it does not give them up easily.

One of the scenes I had the privilege of seeing, the pond on top of Shortoff, is not a secret nor is it difficult to get to. it is not hidden away along some scraggly rabbit trail, with torn and windblown surveyors flagging hinting at its existence. The pond is right along the main trail, the Mountains to Sea Trail, which extends over 1,000 miles across North Carolina.

This was the first time I had been on Shortoff, and I had heard about the pond on top of the mountain. As we stopped, Wigg told me about the pond and shared fond memories of it. Wigg told me how the pond used to be bigger than it is now, and in recent years, there was a fire on top of Shortoff that scarred and destroyed much of the area. With a longing in his voice, my friend said, “I don’t know if it will ever see its former glory.” To this I replied, “One day, it will.”

Two short sentences. Major theological implications.

The pond on top of Shortoff, like the rest of creation, is subject to futility and hardship and entropy under the curse. The sin and fall of man in the Garden of Eden did not only bring death to man, but all of creation. Once there was Eden, and now it is fallen. Now it is decaying, just like you and I. Thistle and thorns have overtaken the garden, and if you’ve done any off-trail exploring in Linville, you definitely know this to be true. But also like the rest of creation, the pond on Shortoff is groaning and aching for the day when Jesus Christ returns and the great reversal occurs. Sin and death are defeated, eradicated, and will only remain in stories as conquered foes of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. All creation will be made new and restored to its original glory. Not the glory of pictures we’ve seen from a hundred years ago, but glory of when man was not at odds with God. The glory of when all was right in the cosmos. Like Christians now, like the nation of Israel prior to Jesus Christ’s birth, the pond on Shortoff and the rest of creation is desperately singing “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

Perhaps you’re wondering where I’m getting all this, and you’re right to think so because I am certainly not smart enough of a man to figure it out on my own. What do you expect from a guy who likes to wander through the woods to say, “Ooh! Pretty !”? The Bible has many places in it that speak of when all things are made new, but I will only get you started:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
Romans 8:18-23 (English Standard Version)

Also, I highly recommend the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn for further study on the topic.

Matt Chandler says in his book The Explicit Gospel, “The aim of the Scriptures is to direct our worship to the one true God of the universe, and the universe itself is designed not to occupy our worship but to stir our heart of hearts to behold its God. The heavens do not declare the glory of themselves, after all, but the glory of God.”

An analogy I thought of while thinking about this is that it is like my marriage. I love my wife, and I love her baking, cooking, parenting, creativity, photography and many other traits and talents…but these all stem from her. I love HER, and many things come with that. If I only love the cookies she makes or the pictures she takes, but spurn her? That is no love at all, but hostility. With Jesus, I long for the renewal of creation, the sinless existence, the amazement of heaven, but without Jesus all of these things would not be. Love Jesus, friends. All good things stem from him.

Next time you are out, and you see creation subjected to futility and decay and death, be reminded that the Lord will one day make all things new. Yet even in that, the renewal of creation is not our hope, but Jesus who brings this renewal.

Art Loeb Bonas Defeat North Carolina South Carolina Trip Planning Wildcat Falls

Planning ahead for 2013

Yeah I know, it’s not even Christmas yet. What am I supposed to do, wait until January 1st to start setting goals for next year? Negative.

So what’s on the agenda? And what do I know of these places?

1. Bonas Defeat Gorge
Bushwhacking a boulder choked canyon that lies adjacent to Panthertown Valley to the north. There is an automatic spillway that opens when water levels are high, and floods the gorge. High sketch factor. I heard there was some work being done in the area, so I don’t even know if it is accessible or not. No attempts in wet weather.

2. Waterfall exploration on Highway 11
If you driven towards Table Rock or Ceasar’s Head on Highway 11 in upstate SC, you’ve no doubt noticed Lower Wildcat Falls along the north side of the road. There are 2 sections of Wildcat further up. Close by are a couple sections of New Millenium Falls and Sweet Thing and Last Thing on Slickum Creek. These are not connected as far as I know, so there’ll be bushwhacking and route finding.

3. Art Loeb Trail
30 something miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Cold Mountain, cutting straight through Shining Rock. I’ve never backpacked for more than 1 night, and this will take some shuttling and definite planning.

4. Henson / Westface / Fantasy
Only 1 sure goal for the Linville Gorge, although I doubt that will be my only trip. I had this trip planned for the end of July 2012 buy it fell through. It will be route finding, scrambling down Henson Creek to the Linville River, up a gully to the top of Westface Rock, if there’s time search for the caves along Fantasy Creek and then backtrack up Fantasy along Futuristic Wall. Snakes likely.

5. Falls Creek Falls
East of Jones Gap in upstate SC, the pictures are impressive! An uphill slog to a complex falls.

Beyond those, I have some things in mind. I’d like to visit Daffodil Flats when it’s in bloom, do a traverse of Big Pisgah Mountain, explore below the cliffbase of Blackrock Mountain and general backpacking for a night or two in Panthertown Valley, go to The Stool at Table Rock, hike down to the Gorilla at the Narrows of the Green River Gorge, bushwhack to the base of Raven Cliff Falls, visit Jocasee Gorges, Congaree National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I’m opening this up for people who would like to join, so by all means, let me know if you’d like to go out adventuring in 2013.

So many things to do and places to explore. I love the Carolina’s. Hopefully I can check one or two of these off my list.

Crack of Doom Gorge Rats hiking scrambling Shortoff Mountain Trip report

Shortoff Mountain and the Crack of Doom

I recently drove up to Linville Gorge for the *Fall 2012 Gorge Rat Gathering. We’d be ratting around on Shortoff Mountain, covering the majority of its trails today. This would be a full day.

I arrived at WolfPit at 7:30am, screwed around with my gear, and finally hit the trail up Shortoff at 7:45. The sun was rising and a low lying fog lazily coated Morganton and Lake James. Taking the long way up (as opposed to the old Jeep Trail), I was met with my first sights of the Gorge as I came to the cliffs of Shortoff. What a welcoming sight! There is something about that first high view visual of the Big Ditch that is really special. I don’t know if it’s a sense of finally being in one of my favorite places, if it’s the mountain air, if it’s an endorphin release, or something entirely different. If you’ve been to the Gorge, you know what I’m talking about.

I continued on along the main trail, stopping for every overlook, spotted Wigg’s Point (which is directly above the Crack of Doom), passed the Gully Pipe and eventually came to a clearing full of hammocks. I knew I was in the right place. After over a year of participating in the forums at, I was able to meet some of the guys face to face.

My first scramble with the Gorge Rats would be into the Crack of Doom. As far as we know, only Bob Underwood (Credit goes to Bob for finding and naming the route) and his friend Cato Hollar had been in it. Wigg had done the scouting and found the entrance hole on a previous trip, and now we found ourselves standing at the mouth of what would be one of the best scrambles in Linville Gorge. We bushpushed our way down a scratchy gully and came to a hole. A couple guys opted not to even go down at this point. Even though I went down, I foun myself asking the question that seems to come up on many Gorge expeditions: “We’re going down THERE?” It was going to get much better, or worse…depends on how you look at it.

So down the rabbit hole about 8 feet and we’re back on the ground. In a few more steps we emerge at a drop off., with a small ledge and a hole that goes back into the mountain. Headlamps on. We enter into a floorless fissure cave. Well, it has a floor, but it’s at least 20 feet below us. The floor gains elevation as it reaches the back of the cave, so it’s accessible, but only by walking a small 6″ ledge (at the best spot) while holding your body weight against the opposite wall. Five of us pile into the back of the cave, enjoying the natural air conditioning, then begin to head down the crack one by one. There is all kinds of loose rock and debris in the fissure, so careless steps could send that rock and debris careening down the crack and onto the noggin of the descender. One at a time.

There are three rock shelves, and reaching the lower levels involve having to chimney your way down. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, in the scenario of this crack (which is probably 3feet at its widest spot), it means you press your feet against one wall while applying pressure to the other wall with your back and shoulders. You then use variations in the rock as footholds and handholds, and work your way down while you keep applying pressure to both walls with your body. 10 feet down to the second level, then half chimneying/half climbing down another 8 feet to the third level. The chimneying is much easier than the climbing, because climbing down has the greater difficulty of not being able to see any foot or handholds. Of course, there is always the thought that the rock you’re using as a handhold may have some nasty spider or venomous snake living behind it. Once at the bottom level, you can scurry down the ledge to what we called “The REAL Crack of Doom,” but it’s more appropriate to call it the Suicide Crack because it would be suicide to descend it. There is ado much loose stone and talus in the crack that any attempt to use the route would be an express elevator to the bottom, guessing 100ft below, and even if you were to use a rope and a helmet, you’d be bombarded with falling rock. An all around bad place. Once below the shelves, a tight 90 degree turn puts us into the Serpentine Crack IN the mountain, where you might have 18″ of wiggle room to slide yourself through. The crack empties you out onto a beautiful balcony on the side of the cliffs of Shortoff Mountain, giving possibly the most amazing northern view of the Linville Gorge. It is prime for wonder and awe, marveling at what a creation the Lord has made. But after so long, one has to work their way back UP the Crack of Doom.

Upon emerging, we took a bunch of pictures and talked about the Crack, then split up. The group I was in went to the Olson Trail along the cliffs of Shortoff. This is an easy trail as far as Linville Gorge goes. If you’re looking for it, coming up from Wolfpit parking area, it’s about 22 steps past the Mountains To Sea to the river intersection. Turn left, and look for remnants of white flagging. Olson offers spectacular scenery from Shortoff mountain, and it’s always changing. You’ll hike along some flat areas, sidehill, scramble over some boulders and under some ledges, and pass by some magnifiscent rock walls. Wigg took me to the Spring Tree, and View One, and his tunnel nearby View One which also offers a splended campsite (save there is no water). But the Crack of Doom was really the star of this day..