Posts Tagged With: Blue Ridge Parkway

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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Blue Ridge Parkway – Day 1 (or, Bates Motel Revisited)

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile long national park that runs through Virginia and North Carolina.  Today we covered about 25 miles of it.  We had a 4 hour drive from home to reach the area first; all pretty uneventful except for the sight of a car randomly careering across the road right in front of me into a crash barrier, and that was only about 2 miles from home.  Thankfully it quietened down a lot after that.

We entered the Parkway at the James River Visitor Center and picked up lots of useful information from an incredibly lovely Park Ranger who gave us many suggestions of places to visit along the route.  We didn’t have a lot of time today so we made our way straight to Sharp Top Mountain which is 3875 feet high and has spectacular views all around from its summit.  Being short on time we opted to take the bus to the top and then walk (stumble/slide) back down.   Imagine a chunky minibus being controlled by a slightly unhinged driver on a very steep, very narrow, VERY bendy mountainside.  We had a few Italian Job moments, I can tell you.  The driver has been doing the same trip every hour for 8 hours a day, six months of the year for the past 11 years and has now covered 107,000 miles.  No wonder he’s a little deranged (but also pretty skilled at navigating the road, it has to be said).

On departing the bus, we had a short walk up to the summit of the mountain and were rewarded with some amazing views on a lovely clear and bright day.  It may be October but it was still really warm up there in the sunshine.  We also had the dubious pleasure of sharing the summit with “two old hippies playing some didgeridoos” as one of our fellow travelers so eloquently put it.  You haven’t truly lived until you have looked out into the distance while feeling like you’re actually in the dentist’s waiting room listening to Abba played on panpipes.  It was certainly a special moment.

It took about an hour to walk back down the mountain, although at a couple of points I thought I was going to take the very quick route straight down the side, not necessarily through choice.

In the UK, the only place that complete strangers say hello to each other is when they are out on a walk in the countryside.  In the USA, complete strangers say hello all the time, on every street wherever you are, which we are just about getting used to (although I was slightly perturbed the other day when a man told me “I like your pants”.  Fortunately that does at least mean trousers, not undercrackers, in the USA.  I think even he realized he was being a bit too forward, as he then apologized and said he only meant he liked the colour (they were teal, FYI).   I just smiled and kept on walking.).   Anyway, in the countryside, they take this friendliness up a notch and so today we had countless people saying “excuse me” and “sorry” and “thank you very much” every time they passed us on the trail.  Which was quite a lot, as it’s a busy old place.

We saw a couple more friendly helpful Park Rangers on our way around, including one who was wearing a corn snake as a kind of living serpentine scarf (very lovely it was too).  No encounters with bears today (the husband is desperate for an ursine encounter) except for the bearskin in one of the nature trail huts.  Oh but we did see a squashed antelope (well, some kinda deer thing) on the highway.  Reckon the car would have come off almost as badly in that encounter.

After a really nice dinner in Pizza Hut (great waitress, you get free refills as standard in this country but she even gave me an extra one to take home, I loved her!  I think the tiredness was seriously kicking in by this point) we checked into our motel for the night.  We had already booked hotels for the next three nights but at the last minute we decided to come a day early so yesterday we booked a one star motel online, one of those “we don’t show you the name until after you’ve booked” affairs.  Well it feels rather Bates Motel and I am definitely not getting into the shower, that’s for sure.  On the plus side, we have two double beds and, bizarrely, two microwaves, plus a “vintage” TV.  And free wifi, which was unexpected.  Oh and an outdoor pool.  It’s still pretty warm here but perhaps not bathing weather.  Actually it’s not a bad place, certainly not for the money we paid, and it’s only for one night as we’re off on our travels again in the morning.  Nighty night.

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