Archive for May, 2014
Day Trips from Dublin: The Blue Ridge Parkway
If you are interested in a day away from Rockwood Manor and driving around the beautiful countryside of the Appalachian area of the US, then traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the greatest drives in America, with wonderful scenic views and chances for hiking, picnicking and visiting some of the natural treasures of the eastern United States.
Work on the parkway started in 1935 during the Roosevelt presidency. As part of the New Deal, it provided work for the men in the North Carolinian and Virginian hinterlands during the depression years. However, work wasn’t completed for 52 years until the Linn Cove Viaduct near Grandfather Mountain was opened in 1987. This piece of road finally connected two of the great national parks of America: the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park almost 500 miles away in North Carolina. Along the route you can see some of the most spectacular natural views in the US. National parkland lines the road on each side so the views of the peaks and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains are unspoiled.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile road that stretches through Virginia and North Carolina. Mile 0 is at the Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro in Virginia, which is about 2 hours north-eastof Dublin. But if you are setting out for a drive from Rockwood Manor then the easiest place to join the road is at Fancy Gap, about a 45 minute drive south of Dublin. Take I-81 South, then join I-77 South and take exit 8 heading towards Fancy Gap. From there, depending on how much time you have, you can either take the shorter drive north in Virginia, or head south and over the border into North Carolina.
If you are in rush to get anywhere, the Blue Ridge Parkway is definitely not the route you should take. The road is just a single lane in each direction and though there are passing places at the viewing points along the road, the speed limit on the road is low so you shouldn’t be charging along. The limit is 45 mile per hour along most of the road, with that falling to just 25 miles per hour in some of the more congested sections. The point of the Blue Ridge Parkway is to enjoy the journey and the spectacular views, not to get to a destination.
Image 2: Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a wonderful drive all year round. If you go in the spring or summer, you’ll see the abundant greens over the hills, whereas if you visit in the fall you can see the trees and plants slowly changing to their autumnal reds and oranges. Winter can be an opportunity to see some snow settle on the higher peaks, but the pass can get treacherous during the colder months and don’t be surprised to see some of the parkway closed due to snow and ice. The Park Service do signpost any detours thoroughly though, helping you back onto the main roads until it is safe to join the Parkway again. If you do find yourself on the parkway any time after October beware of icy conditions and prepare your car thoroughly before you set out, making sure the tires are in good condition, you have enough gas to complete your journey, you have supplies available in case you get stuck and you have coverage in the case of an accident. Make sure you check out the tips and travel tools from the park service to ensure you have a safe journey.
The flora and ecology changes as you reach higher elevations. At the lower levels you will see oak, hickory and tulip trees, while the upper reaches of the road are lined with fir and spruces more suited to the difficult climate. Trees near the peaks will often be distorted from years of wind and ice. Smaller flowers such as Rhododendrons and Dogwoods are visible during the spring and summer through all levels of the road, and can be seen retreating as the cold weather moves in.
Image 3: Black Balsam Knob in the Fall
Places to Visit
If you do want to stop anywhere along the way then there are hiking trails and picnic spots signposted throughout the roadway, but a map to guide you to the most memorable spots is a necessity. Some of the best sites along the road are Mount Mitchell (Mile 355), the tallest peak in the Eastern United States, the waterfalls such as Glassmine (361), Crabtree (339) and Looking Glass (417) which dot the lower levels of the road, and some of the idyllic rural manmade structures such as Mabry Mill (176) and Brinegar Cabin (238). The Parkway does not have a direct interchange with any interstates but all the major cities and areas along the route are also signposted. In Virginia, Waynesboro, Galax and Roanoke are the major towns that sit nearby the road. In North Carolina, the road passes by Asheville and the famous Biltmore Estate and vineyards if you wanted to pick up a bottled memento of your trip.