First we stopped at Lake James State Park so I could show G the campground (he had not seen it before). Turns out it probably would have been a wonderful day/night to camp -- if a little chilly on the lake. Next we stopped at the Ranger Station to let them know we wouldn't be using our site in case someone wanted it -- the 17 sites were all reserved for tonight. We also got the driving directions to the trailhead for Shortoff Mountain.
Below: Lake James with part of Linville Gorge visible on the other side -- the "gap" between the ridge line. Shortoff Mountain is on the right side of the Gorge and we would be on top of it in a few hours. (All photos taken with my P&S camera in an effort to have a light pack. I wish I'd have brought my DSLR anyway.)
So we finally made it to the trailhead and hit the trail around 1pm. It took us about 90 minutes to make it to the top of Shortoff. It was quite an uphill hike, rising about 1300 ft in about 1.5 miles. It was about 2.2 miles to where we stopped for lunch. The views of Linville Gorge from the top were amazing.
After hiking along the top/plateau, we moved from the burned areas back into the foliage with rock ledges where we could step out and view the Gorge. We came upon two 'campsites' (unoccupied) and at the second campsite, the view up the Gorge was just amazing. This is where we sat and at our lunch before heading back down. I could have stayed there a lot longer than we did, watching the turkey vultures fly beneath us, but we had a long drive back home. Despite 10 cars parked at the trailhead, we only saw 4 other people all afternoon.