Sunday, September 06, 2015

Blue Ridge Parkway

After our extensive visit of all of the New England states, we were ready to leave the traffic, wall-to-wall people, and the tight spaces.  We were glad to be able to breathe some Virginia mountain air and uncongested roads.

After resting from two days travel we were ready to take the bike on a long ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Along our route to the park we were reacquainted with kudzu. Years ago our government brought it from Japan for use as a post-construction ground cover.  Unfortunately, nothing here eats it and it grows unchecked.  This 'topiary' is really a hillside with trees and shrubs under the kudzu.   

A view of the James River, the first ingress into this part of the country.  George Washington planned a series of canals on this river to open a route west.  After river travel was well established then equipment and materials could be brought in for the railroad.  Rail travel brought in more people and goods so that roads could be improved or built.  Just think--our national system of roads started on our rivers!

After a pleasurable hour of riding the foothills, we arrived at the James River visitors' center and canal at mile marker 60 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parkway  extends 469 miles along the crests of the southern Appalachians and links two eastern national parks--Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains.  It starts in North Carolina and runs the entire length of Virginia.

This map is only half of the entire route.

Here are what we came to see--the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.  The hazy blue gives this part of the Appalachians their name. 

A beautiful drive with lots of overlooks, and hiking trails.  The Appalachian Trail runs (northwards) alongside and across the rest of the Parkway from just south of our entry point.

Some color starting to show.  Our photos mute their vibrant colors.

Some fun twisty curves.

We love the folded mountain valleys.

View west over the Shenandoah Valley.  Here we were 1800 ft above the valley.  Our highest point of the day hovered around 3500' and the lowest (on the crest) around 2400'.

In trying to capture this curve I took a "selfie" in the mirror!

We enjoyed our ride, stopping at interesting overlooks, taking pix, smelling the wonder odors of pine, warm meadows, and dry leaves.  At Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and Farm (about mm 6) we took a break.  We got my National Parks Passport stamped and bought a new coffee mug for Duane featuring a guy on a red motorcycle riding the Parkway.  We also walked the short path along this reconstructed mountain subsistence farm.  A lot of these farms consisted of many acres, but the pastures and fields were small and scattered among the trees.  Some of the buildings in this display are original to the spot, some moved from nearby.  I thought they were ingenious.  This is a weasel-proof chicken house.

This is a brood house.  The chicks can run in and out, but all are protected from their enemies.

A bear-proof hog pen.  The hogs free-ranged in the forest, then brought here to fatten up.

Laundry.  Water from the spring was poured in the middle.  The ends were used to lay out the clothes for beating with a paddle to soften their roughness.

After our break we rode directly from the Parkway onto the southern entrance to the Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive (mm 105) at Rockfish Gap Entrance Station. The views were much the same, so I didn't take many pictures.  This is a view of Moormans River.  For the people who lived in these mountains, the rivers were a vital lifeline to the outside.  Most people managed to grow or make a little extra in good years, and needed a way to sell their surplus for the things they couldn't make or grow.  A handful of freight line companies plying the treacherous mountain roads  filled the gap between farm and river.

We rode on into the Park to Loft Mountain Wayside (mm 80) for a late lunch at the wayside short-order restaurant, then turned around and rode our entire route back southward.  It was relaxing and fun to be back in the cool mountain air.  We once again managed to avoid any rain and arrived home safe and dry.

Next we visit the "flatlands".

Louise and Duane 

1 comment:

Paul and Marsha Weaver OCT. 17, 2009 said...

That drive is so lovely. The first year we traveled we were there on Oct. 17. We went on a hike and could only go up a short way. They actually had snow and ice. The trees still have gorgeous fall colors.

Not sure if I could have handled doing the laundry in that sink.