Spring Break day 2 - Blue Ridge Parkway-1

Waynesboro Travel Blog

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My Mazda at mile marker 0. Ready for 469 more markers

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a very unique road in the United States. It connects Shenandoah National Park in the state of Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the state of North Carolina. That is not very special of course, the facts that make it a special road are these: It...
- is 755-km (469-mile) long,
- is a VERY scenic drive for every inch of its existence,
- is like Shenandoah's Skyline Drivebuilt along the ridge of the mountains,
- has many great viewpoints,
- has plenty of hiking possibilities,
- goes through two states,
- has many interesting historic features,
- is managed by the National Park Service.

The first viewpoint at Ravens Roost (mile 10.7)

The last fact guarantees a great experience. Although the Blue Ridge Parkway is not a National Park, one could consider it as such, it would be the longest and narrowest of all.

The road runs in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. It was construction started in 1936, starting in North Carolina and completed bit by bit in various, not connecting sections (see here). A major part of it was constructed by the Works Progress Administration, and agency that provided work for millions of Americans. The last section completed, in 1985, was the Lin Cove Viaduct.

The incredible rainbow seen from Sharp Top Summit, Flat Top Mountain on the background
A very ambitious project, see more about that in the next blog!

The parkway has only a few crossroads with local roads. Other crossings with railroads, major roads, interstates and rivers are all bypassed via bridges. The speed limit is 70 kmph (45 mph). The parkway passes through 26 tunnels, crosses 168 bridges, and six viaducts. Its lowest point is in Virginia at 198 meters (649 ft) high, the highest point can be found in North Carolina and measures 1843 meters (6047 ft).

After breakfast I headed back to the place where I left the Skyline Drive yesterday evening. This was mile marker 0 of the long Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather had hugely improved and a lot of patches with blue sky were visible. 

After the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center (mile 6.1), with a nice flower meadow the first vista appeared. The trees in the valleys deep down below me looked like cabbage.

At Yankee Horse Ridge (mile34.4) the Park Service has restored an old logging railroad and bridge.

Mabry Mill at mile 176
The rails have gone for long but the rail bed can still be seen.

At approx. mile 63 the parkway reaches its lowest point. Just after that I hiked around Otter Lake, a small artificial lake.

Immediately after that at mile 63.9 the parkway crosses the James River. In the past the river was heavily used by ships and a lock system was constructed to negotiate the shallow parts. 

At mile 86 I had planned the main hike of the day: Sharp Top Mountain. This 1177-meter (3862-feet) high mountain was long believed to be the highest mountain of Virginia. A bit strange, since its nearby neighbor is way higher, (and still not the highest). A stone from its summit was actually incorporated into the Washington Memorial in Washington DC. Sharp Top is, with its specific shape and bald summit, a popular destination.

Mabry Mill before and after restoration and landcaping (BW picture by Library of Congress)
Even non hikers can get there since a shuttle bus service is available to take anyone, who is willing to pay for it, via a very steep road to a point close to the summit. That service was not running today, fortunately!

After a whole day with great weather a huge shower started of course midway the hike. When I arrived at the summit the sun re-appeared and as a bonus for my persistence a beautiful rainbow appeared in the valley below me. Wow!

By 5:30 pm I reached the city of Roanoke, one of the two bigger cities that are located right next to the parkway. Time to get fuel for the Mazda. At that point I had reached mile marker 121 (196 km) and the hotel I had reserved for the upcoming night would be at mile marker 292 (471 km). So, I was not even mid way my today's leg. No matter how difficult it was, I forced myself to start driving and not stop anymore.

Well, with one exception: Mabry Mill, at mile marker 176.

Overview of the three legs I drove. Maybe not very well balanced per day...
1. Mabry Mill was built in about 1910 by Edwin B. Mabry, who operated the mill with his wife Lizzie. They ground corn and sawed lumber until 1936, after that the mill fell in disrepair until it was restored by the National Park Service in 1946. They also landscaped the area by constructing a pond, making it a very idyllic place, in fact the most photographed object along the parkway! It is such a picturesque scene that even other states stole the image and pretended the mill was in their state!

By 10 pm, and after driving in the complete darkness for an hour and a half, I left the parkway in the village of Blowing Rock NC. I had entered a new state and I had had a great day!

More pictures below!

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My Mazda at mile marker 0. Ready f…
My Mazda at mile marker 0. Ready …
The first viewpoint at Ravens Roos…
The first viewpoint at Ravens Roo…
The incredible rainbow seen from S…
The incredible rainbow seen from …
Mabry Mill at mile 176
Mabry Mill at mile 176
Mabry Mill before and after restor…
Mabry Mill before and after resto…
Overview of the three legs I drove…
Overview of the three legs I drov…
The Logo of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Logo of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The first viewpoint at Ravens Roos…
The first viewpoint at Ravens Roo…
Yankee Horse Ridge, near mile 34, …
Yankee Horse Ridge, near mile 34,…
Near mile 26
Near mile 26
Yankee Horse Ridge, near mile 34, …
Yankee Horse Ridge, near mile 34,…
Yankee Horse Ridge, near mile 34
Yankee Horse Ridge, near mile 34
Yankee Horse Ridge, near mile 34
Yankee Horse Ridge, near mile 34
Near the lowest point of the Parkw…
Near the lowest point of the Park…
Otter lake at approx. mile 63
Otter lake at approx. mile 63
The trail goes through the water a…
The trail goes through the water …
James River at approx. mile 64
James River at approx. mile 64
Foot trail of James River Bridge a…
Foot trail of James River Bridge …
The locks of James River
The locks of James River
The locks of James River
The locks of James River
James River Bridge at approx. mile…
James River Bridge at approx. mil…
This is how one traveled James Riv…
This is how one traveled James Ri…
Midway to summit of Sharp Top Moun…
Midway to summit of Sharp Top Mou…
The incredible rainbow seen from S…
The incredible rainbow seen from …
View from Sharp Top Mountain (colo…
View from Sharp Top Mountain (col…
The summit of Sharp Top Mountain
The summit of Sharp Top Mountain
The incredible rainbow seen from S…
The incredible rainbow seen from …
Sharp Top Mountain, seen from the …
Sharp Top Mountain, seen from the…
Shame on the states of Iowa and Co…
Shame on the states of Iowa and C…
Mabry Mill at mile 176
Mabry Mill at mile 176
The water supply for Mabry Mill
The water supply for Mabry Mill
Mabry Mill before and after restor…
Mabry Mill before and after resto…
The Blue Ridge Parkway Logo
The Blue Ridge Parkway Logo
Mabry Mill before restoration and …
Mabry Mill before restoration and…
Mabry Mill before restoration and …
Mabry Mill before restoration and…
Waynesboro
photo by: mdalamers