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.

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