Back on the road – Blue Ridge Parkway
After surviving my jet lag and cooling down from the sweltering heat of the Philippines, we’re rolling down the road again. My first order of the day is burning off the poundage I gained from guzzling those delicious, greasy Filipino foods. Fortunately, the Lake Norman Motorcoach Resort is only a few minutes away from Lake Norman State Park, where entrance and usage are all free. That is one four-letter word we love. We are so used to paying park fees that we felt a little guilty using their beautiful hiking trails on several occasions.
When we were in Alaska we met adventurous and great people from all over the states. One couple was Joe and Judy, whom we first met during our 18-hour Arctic Circle Tour and consequently bumped into again several places in Alaska. We eventually exchanged addresses and they promised to host us when we got into their neck of the woods in North Carolina. Fast forward a year later, here we were knocking on their door. The door of their brand new class-A motorhome that is, as they met us at the lovely Bandit’s Roost COE Campground for a few days. We’re so glad we took them up on their offer, as they gave us a wonderful tour along part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and also provided us valuable input for our trek to the northeast this summer. They even celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary with us. Congratulations, and thanks again Joe and Judy!
While driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway a ribbon of highway, we learned that the Blue Ridge Mountains are noted for their bluish color when seen from a distance. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a great scenic mountain drive that extends 469 miles along the crests of the southern Appalachians and links two national parks – Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the north and the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina to the south. There are nine campgrounds along the parkway, if you are so inclined.
Construction of the Parkway began in 1935 as part of FDR’s New Deal to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression era. The Blue Ridge Parkway, also known as Americas Favorite Drive, was designed especially for leisurely enjoyment of the scenic wonders along the way which can be enjoyed from many overlooks. There are several worthwhile attractions along the way, including short and long walking trails which give folks even more viewing opportunities.
The area of our drive between Mile 275 and Mile 316 is considered the High Country of NC. It was tempered with fog, rain and overcast skies during the first part of our day, but things cleared up nicely later on. For us, the crowning point of the Parkway was at Mile 304, the Linn Cove Viaduct. It is a 1,243 foot long elevated roadway engineered to wrap around the mountains to minimize impact on the fragile environment.
The S-shaped structure consists of 153 concrete segments, only one of which is straight. Weighing 50 tons each and joined by epoxy and massive steel tendons, the segments form a deck nearly one-quarter mile long that is supported by seven piers. This is an amazing achievement when you consider the technology at that time, and the effort required just to access this area for construction.
At Milepost 306 is Grandfather Mountain, best known for its “mile-high swinging bridge” that connects two of the mountain’s peaks. Heavy fog shrouded the mountain that day, so we’ll save that stop for another visit.
Just off the parkway at Milepost 316.3 were trails that led to various overlooks for a wonderful view of Linville Falls, which can be seen roaring through a dramatic rugged gorge.
There are plenty of stopping points, and everywhere you look there’s something else amazing to appreciate. Each season provides an ever-changing appeal, and in our case we were just a little early for the blooming of the Rhododendrons that adorn the Parkway. I captured a few early blooms along the way, but we will be driving other sections of the parkway during the next week and hope to see many more of these beautiful blooms.
During this stop we stayed at Bandits Roost Campground, a COE park at Wilkesboro, NC. Click here for Steve’s campground review of Bandit’s Roost and the Lake Norman Motorcoach Resort.
Lastly, these Wood Thrushes were rustling on the leaves while Steve and Joe were busy planning.