Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway - 03/24/12

The weather forecast predicted it was going to be partially cloudy today, with scattered rain showers and temperatures in the mid-60’s. We decided to take a chance on the weather and tour a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We departed the Bear Creek Campground at 12:30 p.m. Our first stop was the Visitor Center, at Milepost 384 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, to pick up a map and literature for our tour. The map showed a waterfall at Linville Falls, located at Milepost 316. We decided that would be our destination for the day, so off we went!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a two-lane, well-paved blacktop winding road. It is a mountainous road with steep ascents and descents. It has a maximum speed posted at 45 mph. It extends 469 miles along the crests of the southern Appalachians and links two eastern national parks: Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains. The northern end, Milepost 0, is near Waynesboro, Virginia, and the southern end, Milepost 469, ends at the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina.

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides awe-inspiring scenes along its length. Overlook areas are provided to view the surrounding area for as far as the eye can see. We were especially fortunate during our visit to witness the effect the sunlight conveyed on the surrounding landscape through a partial cloud cover. As pure white puffy clouds floated slowly through the visible patches of blue sky above, their shadows created the illusion that the mountaintops were actually moving.

Our next stop was at Glassmine Falls, at Milepost 361. We were at an elevation of 5,200 feet and the falls, visible in the far distance across the valley, fall 800 feet into a narrow rapidly flowing river below it. The valley in this area is the water basin for the city of Asheville. It comprises 20,000 acres and provides 30 million gallons of water to the city.

We visited Mount Mitchell State Park, at Milepost 355. This area boasts the highest point east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet. There is a steep trail that leads to a very high visitor viewing tower. The visitor is required to climb a considerable number of stairs to reach the top of the tower. We contemplated climbing the tower, but commonsense prevailed. It would have proved to be too difficult at our age and physical condition. Fortunately, we were spared any further thought of climbing this tower, when cloud cover moved in and hail started raining down upon us. We retreated to the safety of our vehicle, thankful for the Divine intervention that spared us from any feeling of remorse for not climbing that tower.

After driving 68 miles we arrived at Linville Falls, at Milepost 316, at 4:00 p.m. The falls are located about a half mile from the parking lot. The first part of the trail is wide and partially covered with small rocks. The remainder of the trail is an obstacle course around medium sized rocks on a very narrow dirt covered trail. The trail is somewhat steep in parts, but we were up for the challenge on this trail. There are two falls that are fed from a creek flowing down through the mountain. The falls are about ten feet apart, then drop down about twenty feet into a swirling pool of water about forty feet in diameter. This pool of water is then funneled downward very rapidly into a narrow winding channel of rock. The volume and velocity of the water surging through the channel is phenomenal and is a surreal sight to behold. The sound from the roar of the water scouring the rocks was quite loud and made conversation difficult to hear one another. As we were returning to our vehicle, a cloud appeared against a brilliant blue sky backdrop and released its built up moisture content upon us.

We’re getting hungry, time for dinner! While at a gas station I asked the clerk for a recommendation of a good BBQ restaurant in the area. The clerk recommended Countryside BBQ in Marion, North Carolina. We arrived there about 5:30 p.m. The parking lot was full and inside the restaurant, it was packed with customers. We had a premonition this restaurant would not disappoint us with their BBQ. And it did not! Their BBQ was delicious, their wait staff was friendly and their service was fast and efficient.

A perfect ending to a day of adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tomorrow, another new adventure begins!

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