Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Blueridge Parkway

The Blueridge Mountains

This past weekend The Busy Bryants loaded up with the Holts and headed west again.  The 2nd annual Great October Adventure was on.  Last year we visited here.  This year we wanted to continue the rest of the way south down through the mountains and onto The Blueridge Parkway.  We had picked this particular weekend with the hopes that the autumn leaves would be at their peak.  And mother nature did not fail to put on a spectacular show! 

Awesome view of the changing leaves.

The Blueridge Parkway, similar to Shenandoah National Park, is 75 years old.  This parkway travels through part of the Jefferson National Forest and runs through three states (Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee).  Unlike the Shenandoah it does not have a fee to get on or travel down it.  There are a number of ways to get on it and off of it.  There are hiking trails, picnic areas, ranger stations with gift shops and at least two campgrounds.  There is also a lodge at the Peaks of Otter portion of the park.  The parkway is over 400 miles long but we had plans to only travel as far as Meadows of Dan.

A scenic overlook.

We drove up on Friday night so that we could get a early start in the park on Saturday morning.  We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Stauton and were happy with the accommodations.  I made the reservations just a couple weeks ago and I was glad that I had made the reservations.  All the rooms in the area were booked.

Our first night's stay.

We entered the park at the most Northern entrance in Waynesburo close to I-64.  We stopped near the beginning of the park at the first visitor center to get a map and ask a few questions.  They also have an exhibit set up here to tour.  A cabin that was originally in the area of the park when it was being developed.  It made me very thankful for all the things I have at home...like HEAT and a good roof! 

First visitor center.

Original cabin, complete with cracks in the floor and no A/C or heat.

Front porch of cabin.

Very close to this visitor center is one of the first hiking trails.  This trail is to the Humpback Rocks.  The kids, Mark and myself hiked up to these rocks.....it was not easy but well worth the effort. 

Humpback rocks 2 miles ahead

The view  from the base of the mountain.

Me taking Emma up the mountain

Park of the trail

More climbing, yea that is the trail...and it's a good part.

The view along the way

This hike took us up about two miles according to the online map of the park.  I looked at the time when we went up but forgot to look once we got up there.  And I forgot because once we got to the top I was just so in awe of the view.  It was something out of a National Geographic Magazine.  Breathtaking! 

I really can't describe how beautiful this was.  I wanted a family photo up there but we didn't dare take the baby up on the rocks because the footing was not good and really there is NO SAFETY NET once you get out there.  After the climb down and you drive around the mountain you can see the rocks from below.  It was crazy to see how high we had climbed.  Online they said that these rocks were used by the pioneers as landmarks to guide them.  This hike and view alone made the trip worth it for me. 

After all the hiking it was time to eat!  A ranger directed us to a secluded picnic area near the Humpback hiking trail.  There were plenty of tables, a couple bathrooms and grills that could be used for grilling. 

Picnic Area.

Rustic bathrooms....no hot water :(

Time to play in the leaves.

We continued down the parkway after lunch and stopped at some of the overlooks and some of the exhibits. 

My strong man. 

Otter Creek

Otter Dam

James River.

Suspension bridge.

Another view of the James River.

I had no idea the James River went through the park but the area around the river was really pretty.  A visitor center, picnic areas, an exhibit on the James River Canal and a suspension bridge that carried you over the river.  There were more hiking trails in this area too. 

Looking back at the picnic area.

It was close to this area that we got off the parkway and found our second stay for the night.  We had plenty more to go but knew it could not all be done in one day....and for now we plenty of visions to fill our dreams. 

I'll finish this journey with a second part.  Day 2 deserves it's own post. 

A couple more random pictures from day 1....

Otter Creek

Gramdpa and Tommy

Bear country...don't make them mad!

Daddy bringing Emma down the trail.

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