Category Archives: Blue Ridge Parkway

Back on the (Blue Ridge) Parkway; Mt Mitchell at last… (Part Two)

Mt Mitchell, North Carolina, view from summit

Reaching the final approach to Mt. Mitchell seemed like a significant victory after our day of detours. But, every vignette and vista we’d drifted by that afternoon wafted on a Seals and Crofts “We May Never Pass This Way Again” sort of feeling: The secluded luxury of an island home, seemingly adrift upon an anonymous lake; the two-on-two basketball game played out on the dirt drive of a home impossibly pressed between road and mountainside; glittering bursts of fall color reflected in the waters of a rock-tumbled stream …


Part One: Taking the Long Way (On the Blue Ridge Parkway)

Road to summit; Mt Mitchell, North CarolinaA left turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway gained us two clearly defined lanes; a little more berm to the sides of the road would have been nice, but we were alone on the roadway. No need for greed. It was Zach’s turn to drive and my turn to describe the scenery as I simultaneously admonished him not to look at it. Thank goodness for “scenic overlooks”!

Zach drove us as far south as the end of traversable Parkway. There would be no easier return via the southerly lane as I’d hoped; the road closure encompassed both directions of travel. But we’d made it to Mt. Mitchell and could hardly wait to look out from the highest point in North Carolina…

Mt Mitchell summit GI took the wheel back after passing an ominous “tipping vehicle” sign but braked frequently for the blazes of sunlight lighting up suddenly snow-tipped trees. Matt had asked earlier if we would see snow, and I’d made no promises. But now, we gathered in the glistening mountainside with wide eyes and digital cameras, hushed to silence in a wintry cathedral…

We burst from the truck at the mountain’s peak, giddily snatching on gloves 20 degrees!  Mt Mitchell, North Carolina; Hannah, Matt and Zachand hats for our instant winter experience (it was 20 degrees up there!).

Odd… It was so incredibly perfect that it felt utterly unreal. Ethereal…

Mt Mitchell, North Carolina; misted woods

Like a specialty garden store’s version of “Christmas in the woods”…

Or the real thing…

Heavy fog drifted into the hollowed mountainside, but the woods remained crisply clear. Gigantic icicles dangled like misshapen swords from frosted tree limbs.Mt Mitchell summit; trailside A web of whiteness stretched in all directions, shimmering to life every moment sunlight pressed through a cloud. We walked and ran at a decent clip down an arbored path, the boys determined not to touch any actual trail as they bounced from tree root to stump to boulder along the way. Hannah and I snapped photos until the cold urged us into jogging as well. Zach glided down the downed iced-over trees, while I tried not to calculate the difficulties of medical rescue should he make a miscalculation that launched him over and off the edge.

Matt and Zach; trail closed!  Mt Mitchell NCIt was fitting that the trail to the observation tower was closed. We laughed about that before exploring a couple of other side trails.

Mt Mitchell, North Carolina; elevation sign; Matt and Zach

Mt Mitchell, North Carolina; road to summitThe fog thickened, so dense that there were no long distance views. Instead, it felt as if all the glittering glory had been poured into our bubble of space, floated upon wintry clouds that incidentally hid the world beyond us as they softly enfolded our little bit of heaven.

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Taking the Long Way (on the Blue Ridge Parkway)… Part One

Zach’s exact words, as I made a casual grab for the “sissy handle” on the passenger side were, “Mom, that’s not really going to help much if we go ‘over’.” “Over” meant off the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the northeast of Asheville, North Carolina. “Valid point,” I thought. My attempts to adjust the steering wheel with the same hopeful hand motion used on aberrant bowling or golf balls hadn’t been fully effective either. So I reminded him that he shouldn’t be able to see me or the handle and threw in another “keep your eyes on the road, smart guy” (essential mom-talk)…

Zach actually compliments me on my “calm” when I’m relegated to passenger status. And don’t get me wrong, he’s a composed, competent driver-in-training, but keep in mind we were “elevated” to the tune of 6500-plus feet! Matthew, who completely idolizes his big brother, was hiding under a blanket in the back seat (“I’m not really comfortable with Zach driving up here”). I firmly believed it to be a good decision (believe me, it was much harder sitting through night-driving on the way to his dad’s last night), but I got a little nervous every time Zach calmly commented on stunning views I knew to be slightly beyond his peripheral vision.

Zach is aware that I’ve inadvertently hit both a deer and a wild turkey within the past year (I’m doing better than most of the area hunters and with the comforts of lumbar support, a heated seat and climate control). He was also with me last week when a truck swerved into my driver’s side mirror. Good education, I’m thinking…

Anyhow… We had actually set out to see Crabtree Falls at the suggestion of Kevin, the incredibly helpful bell captain at our hotel. Kevin is a passionate outdoorsman and shared all kinds of useful information on the area’s waterfalls and caves. Unfortunately, a rockslide had closed off northbound traffic to the section of Parkway he had suggested. Nature can be pretty natural sometimes. So, I had to come up with a Plan B. I do a lot of Plan B’s…

Mt. Mitchell seemed a good bet. Our ultimate destination was Zach’s soccer tournament in Charlotte. I’d added on a couple of days in Asheville to break up the driving (and play a little!). It seemed a terrible waste not to hike some new trails on a trip that took us within breathing distance of the Black Mountains of North Carolina. So, we did the requisite hairpin turns on an alternate route that took us far north of the park detour. I will admit to a couple of second-guess moments as we strained to find the landmarks along the new “Plan B” route pieced together with the help of (in order of their appearance) a gas station employee, a helpful trucker, an EMS driver parked outside of Wal-Mart, and a couple of teen-agers at a grocery…But, we did get there! We found the Parkway. Zach drove us an hour south to Mt. Mitchell. And it was magnificent. No embellishment necessary. Part Two: Back on the (Blue Ridge) Parkway; Mt Mitchell at last…

 

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