Blue Ridge Parkway

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November 4th 2019
Published: November 5th 2019
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October 22, 2019 we continued out of SNP and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) after our hike up Tuck Mountain. It was rainy and drizzly most of the day as we continued on to mile 60 to Otter Creek Campground. By the time we arrived the skies had brightened and it was mild in the 60s. The sound of the creek was so relaxing. The foliage we saw along the parkway has been much more vibrant than in SNP. I don't know if they have different trees or if the weather conditions had been that much different. The BRP is narrower, windier, and steeper in places so far and not as many outlooks and some are not easily accessible with the RV. If it were a busier time of year we would have had difficulty getting into some of them as we would not have had as much space to turn around. The BRP is almost 500 miles connecting the SNP and The Great Smokey Mountains National Park. There are many more on and off access points to surrounding towns. This first section is referred to as the Ridge Section and I have noticed some of it is more rocky along the road compared to the SNP was more tree lined.

When the sun broke through we were rewarded for our "roll with it attitude" toward the rain. We came upon a vista that moved me to tears! How Mike was able to stop and pull into the turnout I will never know. I can't think of a more beautiful scene of nature! You know when you are in an airplane in the clouds, then you get above them and it's clear and sunny? That's it! But looking out at mountains, farms, and beautiful fall colors, and scattered clouds below. I took lots of pictures again they probably do not portray the beauty we saw. I did try out the wide lens too so excuse the "fishbowl like" edges. I could have sat there for hours but as quickly as it appeared the clouds rolled in and it disappeared! We've seen such natural beauty in the west on a huge scale, Mike keeps saying, "I had no idea all of this was here in the East." All of the times we've been to Virginia but just didn't explore it's western area. I'm so glad we are seeing now.

Our second day along the BRP we visited an area just south of Otter Creek along the James River. We parked away from the exhibit area to get a longer walk in. We had to cross the creek twice and enjoyed a wooded walk. The James River is the lowest elevation on the parkway at 649 feet above sea level. There were remnants of an old canal system from the 1800s that included a locks system for transporting people and goods from Richmond to Buchanan. At one time there were 90 locks. While there we walked a "trail of trees." It was interesting but I only remember 2 of the 12 I think they identified. White Oak has leaves similar to the Oaks in Maine but they are rounded, and I remember the Beech Tree for it's smooth grey bark. I know we saw walnut, hickory, and a couple of different pines. Later that day we made our way to the "Plateau" area. There was only one camping option here and we were not able to get a spot. It was just outside of Roanoke. There were no commercial campgrounds in the area either so I asked about WalMart. We were given directions to the closest one. Since it was a couple of hours before sunset we pulled into a turn out and decided to cook our supper there and watch the sun go down. We were all alone and although the sunset wasn't as dynamic as I thought it would be, we enjoyed seeing deer graze in a nearby field. We counted 12 of them at one point. I called WalMart and it turns out their city ordinance does not allow overnight parking. With some more research I was able to find that Cracker Barrel about 10 miles away does allow overnight parking so off we went. Note to Self.....Google Maps does not know you are driving a 28 foot motorhome! We got routed through this really tight neighborhood. Once we made it, I began research to find a GPS for RVs. We've been trialing it for the last 2 weeks, I will be purchasing it.

Overnight at Cracker Barrel was ok, we got some rest and felt safe, just not very quiet or dark. And no, we didn't go in for breakfast. We did however get back to the Parkway much easier and less stressful with Co-Pilot. We had a gorgeous sunny day. We drove through some pretty farms. We made our first mission to get to the campground and secure a site which was no problem this time and met the camp hosts who volunteer there for the summer, I was interested in learning about that since we may decide to do that. The gentleman said "you'd have to work really hard to find 8 hours of work a day here". I was encouraged to hear volunteering does allow for time to explore the area as well.

In this section, Rocky Knobb we drove further to see an old gristmill and log cabin that used to be a working homestead in the area, Mabry Mill. Built in 1908 and ran for 30 yrs. This area was quite busy and we saw our first tour bus. We had been talking about how we hadn't seen any tours along our way. With so many access points it makes it easier for buses to get to this area. They used the mill also as a sawmill and to operate some other tools along with grinding for grain. He also had a grinder that was wound by hitching a mule to a post and lead it in a circle to leverage it to make molasses out of sorghum which is similar to sugar cane. Mr. Mabry even build troughs from 2 streams to better feed the wheel of his mill for more power. He used the sawmill mostly in the spring with the snowmelt and rains creating more powerful current to operate the blades. The log cabin was like something out of Barnwood Builders. Notched corners, hand hued beams, we loved it! Cedar Shakes on the roof! Way cool! Later after we got back to the campground we took a walk along a trail that took us through a cow pasture, complete with grazing cows!, through an overlook that was gorgeous and to an old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) cabin that was used when they worked on building the parkway and apparently the AT used to run through there before being re-located and this building had been a shelter for hikers. The view from that was beautiful. On our way back through the cow pasture we flushed some deer but one stayed right on grazing despite our approach. You will see a picture of her, notice a long stick in the trail beside her, that is how close we were and Mike has kept that stick. He is burning the names of the trails we hike into's coming out really great!

So remember I told you we had to stay at Cracker Barrel? Well because of that, we weren't able to refill our holding water tank that morning. Mike ran out of water in the middle of his shower so we had to pull in the slides, take up the jacks and ride down to the campground dumping and refill station. Oh how we are still learning😊 None of these places have any hook ups so daily we dump and refill our water. We use the generator when we need to but the basics we can run off the batteries. I forgot to mention when I told you about the SNP. Our first night there was our first night without hook-ups. It was COLD! We ran the generator to heat up our bed with the electric blanket and were running the furnace. BUT, you can't run the generator all night. So I pulled out all of our blankets, we bundled up and I even had a hat on when we went to bed. The blankets were so heavy I couldn't toss and turn if I tried! Anyway, as we shut down the generator we noticed the furnace didn't shut off....we have enough battery power for the furnace! Hallelujah!

Our last day on the Parkway landed us in North Carolina. We passed another primitive cabin, Puckett Cabin. Mrs. Puckett was a mid-wife, she deliver over 1000 babies the last in 1939 just before she died at age 102. She lost 24 of her own children and didn't even become a mid-wife until she was 50. The cabin was another great representation of the time. Just like the one at Mabry Mill.

From there we visited the Blue Ridge Music Center. The museum showed the history of blue ridge music. We learned the fiddle comes from the Europeans bringing over the violins and the banjo came from the African immigrants. Their version was made from gourds. They had a gourd banjo on display. The music blended with the blend of the settlers of the area. There was a showcase of the Carter Family who we heard a lot about watching the Ken Burns Country Music history documentary several weeks ago. Having seen that I think made me appreciate this music center more. There was a group of musicians playing in an open session that anyone can join in. They explained this is how it was back in the early days, people just came together and played. In this particular group they had mandolins, a banjo, guitars, bass, violins. Even a young man about jr. high age came along and joined the group with his violin. I loved it, moved to tears again. We bought a CD and have been listening to it, and it makes us picture this group. Thankfully we were able to camp where we planned in Doughton Park at mile 239 on the parkway, and we enjoyed our last hike here to yet another primitive homestead.

The history we have learned and were able to see made me think about how in today's busy world those "ole days" seem very inviting, simpler times. It was not an easy life. Less distractions yes and I can imagine great pride for being self sustaining. Everyday had purpose and that purpose ultimately was survival. planting food, harvesting, canning, hauling water, hand chopping beams for your house and for your heat. The last cabin we visited recorded the man was a shoe maker. My New Balance friends can appreciate this little took him 2 weeks to make a pair of shoes! In today's world you can make "cases" of shoes in a day. They spun materials to make their towels, blankets, rugs, clothes. I was reminded of a little fact we learned at the Stonewall Jackson Headquarters tour. Gentlemen kept small notebooks in their pockets to track their bartering for services/goods they provided and were owed. I love that part of that time, trading services/items for jobs. Everyone had a trade or goods to offer and that's how they kept themselves going. They were just as busy but in a different way.

We drove 290 miles of the 469 miles of the Parkway. It was very enjoyable. The first part was mountainous and rocky in parts along with some wooded areas. Hardwoods mostly. The second part was more soft woods with the hard, more and more farms. Also more towns. We hit one area too that had HUGE rhododendrons all along the road. I imagine they are gorgeous in the spring. Some of the hills were steeper and sometimes it looked like the road would disappear. Mike said there were some areas that made him anxious as he does have a fear of heights. We left the parkway in Blowing Rock NC, back to civilization and on to Charlotte.

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