Well, it’s fitting that my re-entry into the blogging world is about a trip with my sister! We’ve taken tons of trips together over the years and we added another memorable journey to the list last weekend. For several years now, I’ve ventured up to the Blue Ridge Parkway around mid-October to “leaf peep.” Growing up in South Louisiana, there wasn’t a whole lot of color in the Fall, so this time of year in the NC mountains is always a thrill! This year, my sister joined me for the experience.
This was my fourth trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway this year. The Parkway is 469 miles of highway with no traffic lights or commercial traffic that passes through six mountain chains in the Appalachians, including the Pisgah and Great Smokies (1). Although most of the parkway was constructed by private contractors, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) played a major role in its completion (2). I recently learned that my paternal grandfather was in the CCC sometime between 1933 and 1936, but we aren’t sure if he worked on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I requested his CCC personnel records a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, I’ve yet to receive a reply. The CCC was one of the New Deal programs instituted by Franklin Roosevelt to energize the economy during the Great Depression to “salvage our young men” and to conserve our natural resources (3).
Growing up, thoughts of Americana for me conjured images of old gas station signs and farmland along Route 66 and stereotypes of fair-skinned eastern mountain people of Appalachia. It’s been interesting to learn over the years that Appalachian culture is actually the addition of Scotch-Irish and German immigrant culture upon their arrival in the area in the 1700s to the Native American and enslaved African traditions that already existed in the Appalachian Mountains (4). A true melting pot! With that said, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that, although the land that makes up these eastern National Parks were purchased from private land owners in the Appalachian and White Mountain Regions under Weeks Law of 1911 (5), the land was originally inhabited and maintained by the Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), S’atsoyaha (Yuchi), and Catawba tribes (6).
OK, back to the trip. We stayed at the historic Pisgah Inn right off the Parkway. Under a concessions contract with the National Park Service, the Inn provides lodging on the Parkway at an elevation of 5000 feet at Mt. Pisgah (7). The first Pisgah Inn opened around 1918 and the present Inn was built in 1964 (8). Every room has a balcony with a spectacular mountain view. Although breakfast and dinner in the restaurant is by reservation only for Inn guests, lunch reservations and grab-and-go items from the café can be enjoyed on premises by non-lodgers in one of the numerous Adirondack chairs or from the observation deck.
After a day of sightseeing on our own, the next day we met up with my friends and neighbors, Josephine and Glenn, who were camping in the area. We started off with the ultimate fall season mountain apple experience by visiting Jeter Mountain Farms for cider, hot donuts, and fresh apples. The 411-acre farm has been active in Henderson County since 1813 (9). The food was delicious and the view stunning!
With our bellies full of apple goodness, we headed out in search of waterfalls- which was not hard to do in an area referred to as the Land of Waterfalls! Just a short drive from the farm up Staton Road, we hiked in beautiful DuPont State Recreational Forest to Triple Falls and Hooker Falls. Both were fairly easy, albeit crowded, hikes well worth the effort. Continuing our quest for waterfalls, we headed north west on US Hwy 276. Although this road is known for its numerous waterfalls and attractions (Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, Sliding Rock, and the Cradle of Forestry), it’s known in the biker world as part of Copperhead Loop (US 276/ NC 215/ US 64), a ride chock full of “switchbacks, sweepers, and elevation grade changes.” (10) The loop includes US 276 and NC 215 northwest of the Parkway, but since US 276 was closed to thru-traffic due to lingering damage from Tropical Storm Fred earlier this year, we substituted the Parkway as part of the Loop. With US 276 running parallel to the Davidson River and NC 215 following the path of the North Fork of the French Broad River, both roads were sprinkled with fly fishermen taking advantage of the crystal-clear waters.
As one of the most easily accessible waterfalls, Looking Glass was packed both times we stopped, yet was still impressive. The massive power of the falls spawns a constant mist of water. If you’re lucky, you can catch the sun’s rays illuminated in the mist.
The last stop on our waterfall quest was Graveyard Fields around Mile Post 418 on the Parkway. According to the sign at the overlook, the site got its name from wind-thrown tree trunks covered with moss and spruce needles, which looked like a graveyard until it was destroyed by fire in 1925. Though we started down the path, the combination of fatigue from a day of sightseeing and the crowdedness of the site caused us to turn around and instead enjoy the view of the falls from the Parkway.
All in all, it was a fabulous trip. The rain and low cloud coverage on our first day of sightseeing provided a dramatic backdrop for the spectacular views and helped us to appreciate the gloriously mild, sunny days we enjoyed for the remainder of the trip. No matter how many times I go to this area, the views never cease to amaze me. On two or four wheels, it’s always worth the trip! Beyond the scenery, the company was what made the trip 😊