National Parks: Part IV, The Blue Ridge Parkway | Eastern North Carolina Now | The Blue Ridge Parkway running along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains offers the wandering aventurers: panoramic vistas, sunny mountain meadows, and hiking trails of varying difficulty.

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The Misty Mountains of North Carolina

  Rising up from the adjoining foothills and valleys stretching up from northwestern Georgia to southeastern Pennsylvania is the Blue Ridge Mountain chain. The Blue Ridge Mountains comprise a collection of the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, making the Blue Ridge the highest peaks east of the Black Hills in South Dakota. The concentration of the tallest and most massive mountains in this hazy scalloped ridge, that rise up like the big blue shoulders of an assemblage of some really big men, is in North Carolina.

  As one drives on US Hwy. 421 North from Interstate 40 West, from the apex of a high hill in a pass within the smaller Brushy Mountain chain, often one can view these mountains shrouded by a blue haze from over forty miles away. When you cannot see them from that same point along your drive, it is due to the mountains being shrouded in the heavy rain clouds that drop over 90 inches of rain per year in some areas within these mountains.

   Click to enlarge to a much large map of Boone, Blowing Rock and Ski slopes.

  These thick rain clouds, that obscure the peaks of these massive mountains, provide so much of the fresh water for the rivers of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and, on the western side of the eastern continental divide, Alabama and the Mississippi River Delta. These clouds pass slowly through these peaks at typically 3,000 to 3,500 feet above sea level, which eclipses the tops of nearly every one in the northern North Carolina Mountains, where I visited this most recent Memorial Day weekend.

  On this long three day weekend, we were slated to visit my wife's paternal family from central Florida, but that would not stop me form hiking, exploring and, ultimately, digitally recording this experience; however, two successive days of heavy rain did. We were sequestered in the Boone / Blowing Rock area just off U.S. Hwy. 321 South in a log lodge high atop a hill.

  The lodge was large and spacious with a game room, flat screen televisions and high speed wireless internet. The walls were sheathed is white pine, the floors were white pine with elliptical throw rugs, the kitchen and baths were modern and efficient and the beds were plush and comfortable. This was a very comfortable den to rest, relax and wait for the clouds to break. They did not.

  When you would love to test you new Timberland hiking boots on the many trails near and on the venerable, and regionally renowned, Grandfather Mountain, and all you can do with the unabated rainfall is consider the space within the luxurious lodge, you get a little stir crazy, and eventually head out anyway.

  My son, who had driven up from Savannah, and I would not be deterred as we headed toward Blowing Rock and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We got no farther than the Moses Cone Memorial Park, just south of Blowing Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway before the bottom dropped out ... again.

  The night before, on our first night in the mountains, we visited Moses Cone, before we enjoyed a very good, but very expensive meal, at the Blowing Rock Grille in the downtown area. Before that fulfilling meal out, at the Memorial Park, we saw the thick clouds rolling in and inundating the town of Blowing Rock, just to the northeast of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  Watching the clouds floating above the high valley where Blowing Rock is situated: above. From the porch, while rocking in a chair, of the former Moses Cone vacation home: below. Old Barn situated just below the crest of the hill, just north of the Moses Cone house: just below the front porch view here below.

  The next day, with son in tow, we abandoned our trip along the Parkway south to Grandfather Mountain at Moses Cone Memorial Park and headed back to Blowing Rock and shopping at Tanger Outlet Mall. It is a smaller version of their factory outlets and designed to fit into the well healed neighborhood of the quaint village named for the rock that is the subject of a Chickasaw legend. The short version of the legend: a young dispirited Cherokee brave jumped from the craggy cliff overhanging the John's River Gorge, 3000 feet below, and in time, a fierce gust of wind blew the brave back into the waiting arms of a Chickasaw squaw.

  Over the centuries that these mountains have been inhabited by the Cherokee, the Iroquois, the aforementioned Chickasaw, as well as many other Native Americans; and later in the early 18th century the Scotch and Irish, who inhabited these nearly inaccessible, rugged, rocky tops, there are many legends; some based in fact, and some in fun floating about the creaky pine porches on the rises, and in the hollows throughout the region. Although it cannot be verified, there is a tall tale about the old man the lies asleep on the tallest mountain in the Boone / Blowing Rock area - Grandfather Mountain. It is a unique and wonderful attraction in a heavenly section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and bears more mention than I am prepared to offer at this reading, but stay tuned. After the last two visits being rained out, the odds are, with me directly involved, that: the sun will shine, the hiking will be splendid and the pictures much more inspiring than those of recent quality.

  Until that appointed time, I will leave you with this picture of the old man atop the mountain from across the valley as the clouds broke for just a moment. Until they break again ... farewell.

    This article provided courtesy of our sister site: Better Travelers Now
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The Bittersweet that was Darla Travel, Living Tybee Island, Georgia


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