Saturday, May 01, 2021

Blue Ridge Parkway Day Five and the Skyline Drive

 We left the Franklin County Distillery in Boone's Mill after a lazy morning (cell coverage for a change) and rejoined the Blue Ridge Parkway just east of Roanoke. It was another gorgeous day. Our first stop was the Explore Park, a 1,100 acre multi-use recreation area run by the Roanoke County Parks that has ropes courses, biking trails, kayaking and canoeing, summer camp, horseback riding, and several campgrounds. We walked around but everything was closed, then went down to the river access on a narrow road that luckily we didn't meet anyone coming in the opposite direction!

Explore Park has not only multiple campgrounds but this Tavern (not open of course). 

We didn't have far to go this day as we had reservations at the Peaks of Otter Winery, which is just off the Parkway. We had the leisure to stop at every look out and hike several short trails. The Appalachian Trail runs along this section of the road and crosses every once in awhile. We saw a number of through hikers and some section hikers. Our son James hiked from the start of the trail in Georgia to the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Waynesboro before stress fractures in his feet caused him to abandon his plan to finish hiking the whole trail that season. Later that summer he did another section up in New Hampshire and Maine. 

Doesn't this entrance to the AT look inviting with its picnic table?

The Peaks of Otter was another beautiful spot and our campsite looked out at an apple orchard with one of the 3 Peaks of Otter beyond. This is a fruit winery and although we enjoyed our tasting, we're not as fond of fruit wines as grape based wines. We did buy one bottle of apple wine. Your stay at Harvest Host locations is free for one night but they ask you to spend at least $20 there on their products or services. That's never hard and in fact, we always spend much more!

The view out our dinette window at the Peaks of Otter Winery in Bedford, VA. That's Flat Top Mountain in the distance, one of the 3 Peaks of Otter Mountains.

The next morning was another lovely day and we left earlier as we had a long day ahead of us. We had 85 miles to finish the Blue Ridge Parkway and then planned to do another 40 miles on the Skyline Drive before exiting to spend a night at the Brothers Craft Brewery in Harrisonburg, another Harvest Host member. We stopped at the Falling Water Cascades for a brief hike and then the Apple Orchard Falls, passing the highest point on the Parkway in Virginia (3950 feet vs the highest point in NC which was 6053 feet). 

I love these yellow flowers as I've said before and this photo actually is pretty accurate for a change. The parkway is so lovely in itself interspersed with distant views.

A very interesting stop was the James River and Canal. We walked over the bridge and saw a small section of the canal which was started in 1785, half-completed in 1851, and abandoned in favor of a railroad route. This River, before it was damed several times, was a major route west for settlers. Another 60 miles later we completed the Parkway and started immediately on the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. We wanted to finish the Skyline drive the next day before continuing on to Washington DC to visit our son James, daughter-in-law Morgan and grandson, Kolya. We really want to return one day and spend more time here hiking and camping. Although we did see a lot, one week is still rushing through the area. A more leisurely visit, later in the season when evrything is open would be great. 

One of the locks on the canal is still visible here next to the James River.

The Skyline Drive felt very different from the Parkway. It isn't manicured and is left pretty natural. The Parkway verges are mowed and have various fences and stone walls. The Skyline Drive has many more Visitors Centers, Hotels, Restaurants, and Campgrounds and they were almost all open. We exited on Route 33 and drove 21 miles to our next overnight stop, the Brother's Craft Brewery. We shared the parking lot with 2 other RVs and despite being near the road, it was pretty quiet at night. They brew a large collection of beers right on the premises and sell beer retail as well as at the bar. They do not serve food but our bartender helped us order pizza, which was delivered hot in only 20 minutes and we ate it sitting outside on their terrace enjoying several beers. It was excellent! Scott had a board ZOOM meeting for Rights and Democracy that night and happily, there was plenty of cell service.

I love these gnarly trees and they frame the distant mountains so well.

The next day was overcast and cool but we soldiered ahead on the Skyline Drive. The distant views were not as nice but the road itself is always lovely. Still, it took a while for the 70+ miles and we then ran into construction delays on the highway to Washington. It was later than we hoped getting settled into our next stop, Cherry Hill RV Park in College Park, MD. Our trailer will stay there for 5 nights while we visit our son James and his family in Washington. More on that in my next post,

We often saw farms just off the road, here hay has been rolled up and left for pick up.

We hiked down to Falling Water
Cascades and looked up to the 
parkway bridge overhead

Falling Waters Cascade

OK, I'm a sucker for trees in the foreground.

The AT leads invitingly off the Parkway. We would love to do some more hiking here one day.

Just one lovely view after another.

The wine tasting room at Peaks of Otter Winery

There were a number of lakes along the road.

White Rock Falls

This was an inviting start to a trail

We followed it for a while until it petered 
out in a maze of rocks.

A view up the James River from the bridge,.

White dogwoods bloomed along both the Parkway
and the Skyline Drive everywhere.

I believe these magenta small trees which were
also common are redbuds.

Here's a closeup of one.

Views along the Skyline our last day.

It was quite overcast for most of that drive but
still beautiful.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Blue Ridge Parkway Days Three and Four

 Wow, did the weather improve. Bright sunshine and warmer temperatures moved in to make our trip delightful With a little research we found a series of 4 Harvest Host places for the rest of our week; two wineries, one brewery, and a distillery - lots of booze! There is a lot of wilderness in this section of the Parkway and we saw a number of deer, mostly off the road, but we had two close encounters that gave us a scare. The first time I barely was able to put on the brake, but luckily that we just enough to miss the bounding deer across our path by inches - lots of adrenaline followed. The second time the young deer was just stopped in the middle of the road as we rounded a curve with probably Mom on the side of the road. I braked and the deer ran, so all was well. Luckily we kept well under the 45 miles an hour speed limit to enjoy the scenery. 

You can what lovely weather we now had! Every few miles there is an overlook and the road is often on a ridge so there are views in both directions.

We did a lot of hiking this day. Our first stop was Linville Falls, the spectacular 3 tiered waterfall. We hiked up to the Chimney Overlook and then to another spot at the top of the highest fall. About 2 miles overall, the trail was steep in places but well designed with rock stairs and at times, railings. Our second hike started out with a small waterfall near the road at Grandfather Mountain and then climbed steeply up to a rocky overlook with wooden stairs and decks. Here we could view parts of the Linn Cove Viaduct, the last section of the Parkway, which opened in 1987. This engineering and construction feat was built from the top down to protect the fragile environment

Linville Falls from the Chimney Outlook. It is so hard to get an idea of the size here. There are people on the rock above the falls but they are just specks. 
The view from our second hike. You can see the Parkway in the distance. 

We always found a beautiful empty overlook to park right on the edge of the lot, where we set up our chairs and ate our lunch in the sun enjoying the view. Before we climbed up on the Parkway I stocked up the frig with lots of yummy salad ingredients and some great bread - easy lovely lunches. That evening we spent at the Thistle Meadow Winery, another spectacular spot. We enjoyed the wine tasting very much and chose a great white wine to go with our dinner. I made a chicken curry with coconut peanut sauce and rice. We were able to sit outside and enjoy it and the quiet pretty farm. 

Here's our campsite at Thistle Meadow Winery. Our hosts kindly let us plug into the light pole next to our trailer free. Scott had to borrow their ladder as the socket was high up on the pole. It's nice to be able to use our toaster and microwave although we have found ways to manage without electricity, basically using the oven. 

The next morning was beautiful again - what a treat. Our big stop this day was the famous Maybry Mill which had walking trails around the property connecting many historical exhibits about life in rural Virginia. The mill itself was built in 1903 and had separate flumes to catch the runoff from two local streams. These wooden flumes make quite a jigsaw puzzle above the mill. Normally there is a Visitor Center, gift shop, and restaurant here, but again, everything was closed. 

A view of the Maybry Mill. Those yellow flowers blanket the meadows everywhere and the photos don't do them justice! 

That evening we stayed at Franklin County Distillery along with 3 other RVs. It was quite a contrast to our winery stays as we were right on the highway and had train tracks behind us with an occasional noisy train. Luckily I love train sounds and it didn't happen in the middle of the night and highway noises just form a white noise background for me (Scott doesn't hear a thing once he takes out his hearing aids!). But we really enjoyed the liquor tasting, or rather Scott did. He tried 5 flavors of moonshine - a specialty here and I enjoyed a couple of margaritas - plus a pretty good dinner. That's a nice change for the cook.

Looking down from Chimney Outlook

And that's Scott perched on the edge of the "chimney".
Even though we had bright sunshine, it was early and 
still fairly cold as you see from his outfit.

A steep section of the trail with
welcome railings.

A narrow section of the falls between two cascades.

The visibility was excellent this day.

The engineering of the Parkway is amazing. This
one section is the most expensive road ever built.
It's a section of the Linn Cove Viaduct.

Like the viaduct, the trail had wooden stairs and 
bridges to protect the vegetation. Like the top 
of Mt. Washington, it faces high winds and hard
winter weather.

We passed a number of lakes along the Parkway
and saw fisherfolk with fly rods both there and in
the streams.

The distant views are lovely but we enjoyed the meadows and farmland along the Parkway equally. Fences demonstrating all the types used by rural folk in the past are used today to line the road.

Scott enjoying the wine tasting at
the Thistle Meadow Winery.

The view the next morning from our RV!!!

Trees right near the Parkway were often still in 
winter mode but further down the hills were 

For practical reasons land along the parkway remained farm land and we saw lots of cows. Many roads cross or branch off, most small. Larger ones and highways are bridged with access ramps. There is no commercial traffic allowed. 

Sometimes lovely stone walls line the road, 
especially with steep dropoffs.

Early violets were a real treat.

Another beautiful lake reflecting the blue sky.

When we dropped down into lower
altitudes, spring appeared.

As you can see here too.

And occasionally we enjoyed a fruit tree, here
with a stone overpass.

Our walking path at Maybry Mills

With old cabins moved there to demonstrate the
life of early settlers in the area.

I loved this family enjoying an old-fashioned picnic on the grass.