August 9, 2023 Last night, we saw one of the prettiest sunsets we’ve seen on the this trip. The sky turned purple with orange and yellow streaks of sunlight. The longer we waited, the more defined the streaks became. It was beautiful!
This morning we got up with plans to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We couldn’t ask for a better day! The skies were blue and clear with no smoke or haze to obscure the view. The temp was a cool 71 degrees. We packed a lunch and left at 10:00. We made a quick drive through the campground to look at the rest of the park, but especially the sites around the 2 lakes.
We had to cross a bridge to get there and saw a couple of kids tubing on the river. They were giggling and having fun!
We finished looking around and left the campground to get on the Parkway at the nearest access point (Mile Marker 388.8) just a few miles away.
The Parkway took us southwest from there. The road was lightly traveled and many times we found ourselves on the Parkway alone.
We did see some motorcycle groups and sports cars touring the Parkway. It was a great day for a ride.
The road was pretty straight and level for quite a ways. I thought it seemed a little boring at first. Our first stop was to view the French Broad River (El. 2100 ft.)
We got to the next pull-off and read this sign that said “If you were headed south on the Parkway, which we were, then we would encounter the highest, most rugged elevations along the entire 469 mile Parkway.” We were excited!
We stopped to view Walnut Cove (El. 2920 ft.) and saw this construction crew working on building this bridge.
We got kind of freaked out when we saw the workers standing here at the edge of the bridge. We wouldn’t want that job!
We passed through 7 or 8 tunnels , long and short, and each one had a name. Our first one was Grassy Knob Tunnel.
Sleepy Gap (El. 2930 ft.) was next and the Crest of Pisgah Ridge.
A little farther along was Chestnut Cove at 3035 ft. and we kept climbing. The views were amazing!
The skies remained clear and visibility was awesome. Bad Fork Valley came along next at 3350 ft.
We had to pass through Ferrin Knob #1 and #2 Tunnels to stop and view Wash Creek Valley (El 3435 ft.).
The road climbed higher and wound around the mountain so we could get a view of Beaver Dam Gap (El. 3570 ft. )
Stony Bald Mountain was at an elevation of 4563 ft. even though we were standing at 3750 ft. We could see it off in the distance.
Going through Little Pisgah Ridge Tunnel brought us to Big Ridge Overlook (El. 3820 ft.)
Fork Mountain Tunnel took us to Hominy Valley Overlook at an elevation of 3980 ft.
Bush Spring Tunnel brought us to the highest elevation on our drive today near Mt. Pisgah.
Up at the Mt. Pisgah Peak of the Parkway, there is a restaurant, lodge, gift shop, and store.
There is also a campground, picnic area, and trails. We stopped in the gift shop/store to look around. I bought myself a Blue Ridge Parkway Christmas ornament to add to my collection.
We ate our lunch with a view of Mt. Pisgah (El. 5749 ft.). The temperature up here was 63 degrees.
We passed a biker on his way up the mountain taking a selfie while riding on his bike. That’s pretty brave!
We stopped at the Funnel Top Overlook and from there we could see across to the observation tower on the top of the mountain across the way. There seemed to be people climbing the tower.
We passed through our last tunnel – Fryingpan Tunnel.
The beautiful Cradle of Forestry Overlook was at an elevation of 4710 ft. In 1888, George and Edith Vanderbilt of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville purchased the land we could see here from the Overlook. During this time, the southern Appalachian Mountains were in the midst of a major logging boom. At this time, there was no land management or reforestation efforts in place. The Vanderbilt’s saw a need to take action and asked Carl Schenck, a forestry educator, to help. He founded America’s first forestry school, the Biltmore Forest School, which is now the home of the Forest Service’s Cradle of Forestry Historical Site. When George Vanderbilt died in 1914, his wife Edith sold 87,000 acres of the land to the U. S. Forest Service, creating the Pisgah National Forest. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt!
At the intersection of Wagon Road Gap (El. 4535 ft.), we took scenic Highway 276, the Pisgah Highway, through the Pisgah National Forest and down from the mountains.
This brought us to the end of our drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway today at Mile Marker 411.8. Our drive on the Parkway was about 30 miles.
The road was full of twists and turns on our descent.
On our drive down, we passed the entrance to the Cradle of Forestry in America Historic Site.
Our final stop was Looking Glass Falls–a fitting end to a fabulous day in the mountains.
We stood in awe at the top of the bluff overlooking the 60 ft. waterfall.
We took the short walk down to a lower observation deck to see all the brave souls getting up their courage to venture out into the cold water.
I walked all the way down to the river bed so I could test the water temperature myself. It was cold!
There was a young man who braved the cold water and jumped in and another two men swam out to the rock to sit under the waterfall.
From where we stood near the bottom of the waterfall, we could feel the cold water spray on our bodies. It was a gorgeous waterfall and the perfect end to a great day! The drive home after our visit to the falls was on Highway 64 to the Interstate was a lot longer. We passed through some cool small towns and the larger town of Hendersonville. Once we got on I-26, we came upon that same highway bridge building crew that we saw on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but now we saw their equipment from below. It was impressive!
We got back to the campground at 2:00 and just relaxed in our rocking chairs on the patio. Auggie was content to snooze in the sun in a temp of 81 degrees. Last night, we slept with the windows open as the temps dropped into the low 60s, but it was very pleasant. We are loving this weather! Back home in Florida, we are having the warmest summer on record in recent history. High temps and humidity make for some really uncomfortable days we’re told. The AC must be working overtime! We walked Auggie after dinner to see what new campers had arrived. While watching TV, it started to rain lightly. They are talking about heavier rain overnight, but gone by morning! We have a reservation to visit the Biltmore Mansion at 11:00 tomorrow.