Aim high! Fall Trip to the Blue Ridge
Some mourn the passing of summer, but not us. We love being in the mountains, and there is no better time to be in the mountains than Fall. Summer is an overrated time of year in our opinion, especially in the Southeastern US…hot, humid, buggy, crowded and prone to frequent and often violent afternoon thunderstorms. The mountains of the Appalachian range simply aren’t high enough to be an effective escape from summer heat.
When Fall approaches, that’s our signal that the heat is about to go and we’re about to get going. Soon the leaves will be changing, and after that color show subsides, there are still usually a few weeks of fine weather AND mostly unobstructed views before winter sets in hard.
After a somewhat subpar and late arriving fall of 2017, we were hoping to catch a better on this year. We deferred our major trips until a bit later in October than usual and stayed as high as we could. In elevation, I mean.
Staying high in NC (Legally) means the Blue Ridge Parkway. Though it is technically speaking Americas MOST visited National Park Unit, we almost always find a section of it that is fairly peaceful. It doesn’t feel like an overcrowded nuthouse like some places do.
We had struck out for the most part on our first two trips out west to see fall color…it was still too early in what had been a warm and wet year. On our third and last trip, we hoped to finally see something. But the forecast was not good…heavy rains, a warm September and two major tropical storm fronts did not bode well for a good year leaf wise. Still, we had high hopes that if we went the high route, we’d be rewarded.
For this trip we welcomed along cousin Gisella and Leonard from Dallas, Texas. They’d not seen the like of these here colors. Having never even see the Appalachians before, we took them to our favorite section of the Blue Ridge Parkway – between Asheville and Route 74 in Balsam, NC…which makes for a great loop drive that requires only a few hours.
We were in luck…there were some colors! Not the peak ones we’d seen in other years but enough to impress the newcomers.
We stopped first at Mount Pisgah. Some of the best views on the parkway are from the area immediately south of here. At Mt. Pisgah itself are few views, but acres of concrete picnic tables, now mostly falling apart, that harken back to the day when the National Park Service considered its primary mission to provide recreational opportunities for motorists. That has completely changed in the last fifty years. Nowadays people are no longer demanding picnic benches. They want trails and wilderness areas to hike, bike, climb, ski and paddle in. And the NPS has likewise changed its mission to one primarily of stewardship for the land. The picnic tables are little more than empty, deserted monuments to a time that was, and nature is slowly reclaiming them.
Brian, goaded on by his wife, got into some mischief involving a hollow tree trunk.
South of Pisgah the truly great stuff begins. We have been somewhat jaded by having visited this place many times over the last decade, but Gisella and Leonard have not been, and were very impressed.
We stopped at Graveyard Fields, which is usually one of the busiest places on the parkway in any season. In Fall, it is typically overrun. Maybe because it was Friday, the crowds were far less in evidence this year. We noted the park service had rebuilt some of the walkways and added some new wooden boardwalks. Brian continued his boycott of the Upper Falls here where his ‘trick knee’ gave out on him in 2014.
After Graveyard fields we continued on past the Parkway’s height of land to allow Gisella and Leonard to take the mandatory photo op at the High Point marker. The views here, as the sun began to set, were impressive. There were some pretty solid colors all around, more than we had hoped for. But sadly we began to run out of light…and so it was back to Asheville.
Rain was forecast the next day. We hoped to get a dry window in the morning to see a few more fall colors!
Next Up…Peak (or as close to it as we got.)