As to the Sandy Flats trail being closed, HAH. The folks in the cabin have likely NEVER been in the gorge. I have NEVER seen a ranger at/in the gorge. Hike where you want. Its a wilderness.
Ya know, I kinda was thinking the same thing later on. How can you really close a trail in a wilderness?! Oh well, I just didn't want anyone to come whining to me if they got fined by one of Linville Gorge's elusive rangers.