My Favorite Drive in the World: Part 2

"I love places that make you realize how tiny you and your problems are."

So here you are! You came back to see what all the fuss was about after that long run on sentence that was The Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia Edition I take it? Well, thanks for coming back again for round 2. I promise yet another poorly formatted draw about this curvy road that lasts 469 miles and two states, but with photos! 


If you followed along through Virginia you most certainly know by now, I like the highlights, but I do enjoy the less than well worn paths as well. Most passerby's daydream immediately of Linville Gorge and Linn Cove Viaduct the moment the North Carolina state sign comes into view at MP 217, and while those are two amazing destinations to head off to, most everyone continues right past Stone Mountain State Park. Empty Parking lot, check. Trail leading to a quaint bald with no trees in sight, check. why on earth would you NOT check that out? I'm not going to lie to you and say its the kind of euphoric, life changing view that will always stand out in your mind until your dying days, but I will tell you that if you crest the top of that hill, you can see the tiny town of Wilkesboro in the distance, and on the right day and at the right time, a glass of wine and a picnic with some candles or a fire in the pit would be just about perfect. Soon.. I'm making plans!


Leaving Stone Mountain, you kind of get those feelings. Like, those feelings when you asked a girl to a dance in school growing up, or when you applied for your first job, or to a college. Butterflies. If you know anything about the Parkway, you know next up is Boone. Boone means Linn Cove Viaduct. Linn Cove Viaduct means Blowing Rock. Blowing Rock means Grandfather Mountain. Grandfather Mountain means "holy crap sensory overload part one."


It is a postcard. It's literally, quintessentially THE postcard for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Often referred to as the crown jewel of the BRP, I'll bet you at any wayside storefront you stop along at, search out the postcards and tell me if there isn't no less than 20 of the Linn Cove Viaduct greeting you. Make me a liar. Towering in the distance is the nose that everyone likes to call Beacon Heights, and above it, well, that's Grandfather Mountain. 

Everything, about everything is just cool there. The tallest swinging bridge in America is there. 5,280 feet in the air. That's a mile. Just let that sink in. If you feel adventurous, well, you have Calloway Peak you can hike to, or Rough Ridge just below. Or you can have a moment with your inner 90's self and have a picnic at Forrest Gump's curve on the way up or down. Yes, really. He was running on empty in the movie right there. Seriously though, Grandfather Mountain is just the jumping off point for so much. Linville Mountain, Hawksbill Mountain, and Table Rock all right off the top of my head. Trust me when I say, soon enough, I will be writing solely about why I love it so much. 


Moving further south however, well, that's hallowed grounds to me. I can't explain the Black Mountains and the lead in to Mount Mitchell any clearer than this. It makes you feel TINY. Every single view. Every pull off, every wide spot. Every emerging view from Little Switzerland through every single tunnel to the right hand turn to Mt. Mitchell State Park, it makes you realize how insignificant every other little thing troubling you really is.


Mt Mitchell is just my place. Has been since I first tried to go there, only to meet a parkway that was closed 20 miles away with 3 feet of snow on it (after driving 3 hours to get there) and it has been the 9 times since that I've returned. Its the highest point east of the Mississippi. 6,684 feet. As someone who wanderlusts for taller peaks in Colorado and Washington and Oregon, this is that for me. Its different. Its a different look, its a different feel, its all just different. Its usually packed with tourists in the warmer months, but if you don't mind the temps dropping 50 degrees on a spring or early winter day, making the drive up often affords you a bit of peace and quiet. I've somewhat adopted it as a Mothers Day trip because, well, within reason it is the closest I can get to a visit with my Mom. It's just a special place, and I'm not so sure that even when I start ticking off bucket list trips to much higher places, that it will ever really be unseated. If I could give you any one piece of advice if you're thinking about going, it would be just to go. Simply put, its right there. Its profound in every single way. Where else can you really touch the clouds?

So, now is when you're thinking, "man, this is going on forever, we haven't even gotten to anything past this giant mountain." You're right. There's still Craggy Gardens. There's Looking Glass Rock. There's the Devils Courthouse. SERIOUSLY HOW BAD ASS DOES THAT SOUND?! There's even a side quest into Asheville for a Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza that will change your life. There's still 108 miles to go... and that means a Part 3. 

Published: March 24, 2017

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Billy Bowling

Tazewell

Adventurer. Photographer. Registered Dietician. Dad.