The Blue Ridge Parkway - from Boone to the end (well, almost!)

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June 29th 2010
Published: June 30th 2010
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There are a great number of photos in this blog but we make no apologies. The Blue Ridge Parkway has simply been too spectacular! Please make sure you see the pictures on pages 2 and 3 as well!!

We rejoined the Blue Ridge Parkway in the town of Boone, named after the explorer Daniel Boone! We were Couch Surfing there with a great guy named Jared. He's an artist and a musician and very talented at both. Whilst we were staying we got to see his band, Living Art, practice for their gig that night. Because it started at 10pm and was going on until 2 or 3 we didn't go along but their rehearsal session sounded fantastic.

After a very peaceful and relaxing night we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the car park for the Boone Fork Trail. It was packed! Well, it was Fathers' Day!! We passed the barbecue areas where, by the look of some people, the nearest they get to a hike is taking the cool box from the car to the table! The BFT (no, not the Armed Forces Basic Fitness Test) was 5 miles in total and nowhere near as strenuous as we had anticipated. There were a few climbs and scrambles but the views we got of the rivers and beaver dams made it all worthwhile. At about 4 miles we joined another trail to take us around a lake where day trippers were kayaking and boating. It was a glorious day.

Eventually we made our way back to the car and headed to the town of Blowing Rock. It was a beautiful place and we found a lovely motel to stay in. We had a very restful evening in the Sixpence Pub and had a really good night's sleep once the other guests and their dogs turned in for the night!!

On the Monday morning we drove back along the Parkway to Grandfather Mountain. There we paid $15 each to enter the site. The road twisted and turned all the way to the top where we parked up and walked out to see the "Mile High Bridge". This picturesque suspension footbridge is apparently a whole mile above sea level, but many thought it was above the creek below. It certainly was a sight, and several people were rather anxious just walking across as it swayed once there were several people crossing!! The views from the rocks beyond the bridge were truly spectacular.

From the gift shop we went back down to the lower car park where we ate our picnic lunch before setting off on our adventurous hike for the day. First we had an uphill mile through the trees to join the actual Grandfather Trail. Then the going got tough! There were several steep ladders to climb and the occasional smooth slope negotiable only be a wire rope which we used to pull ourselves up. It was hard work and definitely "don't look down" territory. Eventually we made it to the top of McRae Peak where we felt on top of the world! The trip back was tough though with one very steep ladder to go down and some thick, rocky undergrowth to negotiate. Luckily we never got lost and felt a huge sense of achievement when we were back at the car looking up towards the peak we had climbed.

Inside the Grandfather Mountain Park is an animal habitat centre. there sick or wounded animals have been taken in and it's like a mini zoo. It was amazing to see a Bald Eagle and a Golden Eagle up close but it's quite sad that they are there because of gunshot wounds. We also got to see a black bear which was cool, but we wished we had seen one in the woods!!!

That night we were back in Boone, or rather in a remote house a few miles North of the town. Again we were CouchSurfing and we had a good night. The idea had been to stay with Bart and Kelly Jo for two or three nights but time was racing on and we had to head on down the Parkway. That meant just a feast of Bart's home-made bean soup and oven baked bread before bed and goodbyes in the morning.

From there we went to the Blue Ridge Music Centre. Sadly it isn't yet finished and the lack of display items disappointed us. After our day's hike we did get to see two musicians playing and singing sadly depressing country songs. they were good to listen to, but not good for the mood so we moved on before long! The walk had been a nice one through thick woodlands and open meadows.

Further down the parkway we stopped briefly to look at a display about the different types of fencing which are used in rural America. You may laugh but it was quite interesting. There are 4 different types all with their own pros and cons in different terrain. See, who told you travel wasn't educational?!!!

Next up was Mabry Mill. This picturesque watermill is the most photographed location on the Parkway. It is set in delightful grounds where you can see demonstrations by a wood carver, a blacksmith and yarn spinner. The setting was marvellous and the classic cars in the car park just seemed to top it off nicely.

Our destination was Roanoke where we were CouchSurfing once again. That's for the next blog though. After Roanoke we intended to drive the remaining 120 miles of the Parkway. We stopped at St James River, the lowest point (in terms of altitude) on the route. It was a lovely spot for lunch and we also walked over to see how locks used to control the water level when canals were in use. They are pretty much the same as anywhere else but we hadn't seen anything like it in the USA.

After lunch we did a circular trail to "Otter Lake" which didn't have any otters in it as far as we could see. It was a really nice walk through the woods though and we managed to disturb some deer at one stage which caused a commotion in the undergrowth. Still no wild bears though!!!

The final 30 miles of the Parkway eluded us. The road was becoming increasingly sinuous and our fellow travellers had no idea how to deal with this. Slowing down to 10mph to get round bends became so tiresome that we decided to leave the Parkway and pick up the Interstate Highway. It certainly made the journey to Harrisonburg much quicker and far less stressful, except of course for the places where lorries (sorry, trucks!) overtaking lorries slowed things down to a crawl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Additional photos below
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30th June 2010

very nice pictures.

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