The Final Scene: The Last of the Mohicans
(refer to pages 46-47, 50 & 51 in On the Trail of the Last of the Mohicans)
The Chimneys of Table Rock, Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, Pisgah National Forest (Grandfather District), Burke County
Magua's head hits the rock, blood gurgling from his mouth. Hawkeye & Cora embrace. At this point, the scene shifts away from Chimney Rock Park, though most will never notice. A geologist friend once told me that she could immediately tell that the scene changed locations. She could see the change in the rocks. She's about the only one.
I had heard a part of the film was shot at Table Rock, so naturally I headed for the summit. Beautiful, but not the right place. After speaking with the appropriate Forest Ranger, I learned the filming actually took place at some rock formations known as The Chimneys, about a half-mile south along the ridge from the parking area. The Ranger told me simply, "keep feeling to your left." Well, I "felt," many times, and did find the place, but it wasn't until more than a dozen sojourns, and well after the book was done, that I found the "easy way." To that point, I'd scrambled over rocks, leaped over deep chasms, and "felt" everything there possibly was to "feel" to my left! It's really not that hard, once you know the way. Follow the trail for about a half mile, enter the tunnel-like canopy of rhododendron that continues the trail, and head off-trail, to your left, in a sweeping arc once you feel that you have passed the heights. It's only a 20-30 minute, or so, walk, with some splendid vistas to be enjoyed along the way.
By the time we arrive at Table Rock - and the film takes us there a heck of a lot easier than it will be for you without it - you'll have traveled 13 miles of winding, dusty, dirt road and hiked along a trail that is barely marked in areas. When the film crew did it - crew AND cast - lugging cameras and lights and other necessities, one of them broke his ankle. But, all that behind you [and, hopefully, no broken bones], you will be forever grateful that you made the journey. It is a beautiful place. More so in person than it is even on film. There is unspoiled solitude and stellar scenery in all directions. I have been there in the spring, when the air is clear and you have an unimpeded view for miles & miles. I have been there in the heat of summer, totally enshrouded by dense fog. I have been there to enjoy the emblazoned hills in the glory of autumn, facing the breeze that literally took my breath away. I have been there in the dead of winter with snow swirling in all directions, causing directions to blend into one. There is no best time. It is gorgeous, and almost mystical, always.
This site is freely accessible, a part of the National Forest system. There is no water on-site. There is a picnic area and out house at the trail head. The area is a designated wilderness area, bear sanctuary, and home to some endangered species of flora and fauna.
SEE ALSO: FIRE IN LINVILLE GORGE