Monday, April 18, 2011

On the Ridge

Mountain Vista
Most of Sunday was spent driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you set aside for a moment the spectacular vistas the fact that the parkway exists at all is a startling fact.

Not only did someone propose that the spectacular countryside be set aside for protection (mostly) but then some insane genius felt that putting a parkway along the very tops of the mountains was an even better idea. Truly splendid. It is a unique was to appreciate the resource in the most spectacular manner.

Transportation and Jungle Gym
We drove south from Asheville yesterday doing the requisite stops at the visitor center and folk art center. Maps in hand we drove south. When we arrived in Yellowstone last summer we stopped at the very first pull-off to admire the Madison River valley. If you haven't spent time in the West it was an amazing first view of the grand landscapes. Yet, by the end of the week we were amazed at how common the view was and how deep was the bounty of the views and experiences after we had plunged deeper into the park.

So it was true with the Blue Ridge. The first stop we made was very nice. Yet, in comparison to what would come, mundane. Opportunities to stop are frequent and the views are designed to be breathtaking. Apparently one of the design points of the parkway is to force you to move at a slow pace and take time to appreciate what you see.

Tunnels are numerous and exciting especially when you're wearing sunglasses. Most are short and when you enter you can clearly see the other end. There were one or two however that were on sharp curves and were longer than most. They provided the special challenge of not only overcoming the fear that Wile E Coyote had painted it on a flat rock face but also dropping the sunglasses, turning on the headlights and not steering into oncoming traffic in one smooth motion. Much fun.

Mid-April seems a great time to see the landscape as the tourists are scarce and the landscape is just awakening from winter. We started in the lower elevations with spring going strong. Lots of blossoms and pale green leaves emerging on branches. By the time we neared Mt. Pisgah the trees were still barren and blossoms scarce. Spring was still waiting to come forth though the trees were heavy with buds and the grasses were a startling green.

Route 151
Lunch required a drive down Route 151 into the town of Candler. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, Route 151 is a steep, narrow, winding affair that promises a steep plunge if you veer off one way or ledge wall on the other side. It eventually levels off to Deliverance country and we stopped at a small gas station where I don't recommend dining. Soldiering on, we eventually stumbled upon a Subway and then returned up Route 151 to get on with our trek.

The goal for the afternoon was to get to a place called Graveyard Fields and do some hiking. There were waterfalls that were worth seeing and we meant to see them. Graveyard Fields gets its name from the overturned stumps of trees that fell in a large windstorm. Fire eventually erased the remnants of those stumps but the colorful name stuck.

The hiking was relatively easy though long. We covered a little under five miles. The hike criss-crossed meadows, streams, and wetlands. We scrambled up rocking hillsides and were rewarded with views of several waterfalls. More than anything, I got to see my boys doing something other than toying with electronics. Very rewarding.

All in all, a spectacular start to a visit to the area.

Mountain Brook Trout Stream
Lower Falls at Graveyard Fields
Looking Glass Rock

Looking East

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