Blue Ridge Parkway – Day 2 (or, Health & Safety Gone Mad)

Well, we survived Bates Motel but wasted no time in checking out.  After a cup of Hot (I hesitate to call it coffee, as it had no discernible taste, but it definitely had some temperature to it) we got on the road back to the Parkway to pick up where we left off and complete the remaining 60 miles at the northern end.

As we were travelling further up there was definitely a more reddish tinge to the leaves on the trees; a trend that we hope will continue for the next couple of days.  We stopped at a number of overlooks and did a few short climbs to look at some scenic views and to take a huge number of photos.  Today I started to get serious panorama fatigue; it’s amazing how easily you can start to get nonplussed about yet another spectacular vista with an amazing array of fall colours blah blah blah.  You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  Each one is even more stunning than the last.  Still, I was longing to see a skyscraper or something for a bit of variety.  I did discover the video function on my camera and had fun trying that out for some of the drive.  None of the pictures or videos really do any of the scenery justice though.

Our major excursion today was to Humpback Rocks, which is a 740 foot peak on the way up to Humpback Mountain.  It was pretty steep in places, being just as difficult to descend as it was to ascend, but the view at the top was amazing.  The Rocks are a rocky outcrop that jut out over the Parkway far below.  What amazed me is that there are no safety barriers whatsoever and there were adults and children of all ages just scrambling up and down the fairly smooth and slippery rocks with seemingly no regard for their safety and the very real possibility of slipping over the edge to a gruesome death.  There is no way that we could climb on something like that back in the UK, Health & Safety would just not allow it.  More’s the pity.  Still, Health & Safety seems to be the opposite in the USA, i.e. scarily non-existent.

For one part of the trip up Humpback Rocks we veered off the popular path and a little further onto one of the trails that leads towards the Appalachian Trail (just to say that we’ve been on it.  Well, a few feet of the 2,000 mile length anyway).  Very quickly we found ourselves alone and suddenly slightly more worried about the very real possibility of coming across wildlife now that we didn’t have strength in numbers with our fellow hikers.  It’s uncanny how loud and bearlike a tiny squirrel can sound when it unexpectedly crashes past you on the woodland floor.  We swiftly rejoined our fellow hikers on the more popular trail 🙂

Once back on familiar tarmac, we dropped into the nearby Visitor Centre to see a replica farmstead to learn about how the early settlers lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This included a couple of real life banjo players who were really good and totally added to the atmosphere and didn’t put us in mind of Deliverance at all, no siree.  Diddle-ling-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding.

That brought us to the end of the Parkway but we skipped across the border to the start of the Skyline Drive to pick up our annual pass (the Blue Ridge Mountains are free of charge, the Skyline Drive is not) and some information in order to plan the next two days’ trips in advance.  Then on to tonight’s hotel which is lovely and far far superior to yesterday’s lodgings.  Then again, this one is about twice as expensive.  This time I’m not scared to take a bath or remove my shoes.  We only have one microwave in this room, but it looks as though it would actually work without electrocuting anybody.  Time for Bed.

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