Three National Parks, One Great Road Trip, Celebrating America’s Best Idea: Part 3

national

1916 – 2016

It’s a lazy Tuesday morning. No rush. Mileage is pretty low today, right around 100 miles total. But lots to see as I begin my journey on one of my most favorite roads, National Park #2, the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue ridge

Established: June 30, 1936

Completed: 1987

Size: 469 miles

The Blue Ridge Parkway is more than just a road. It’s a park, a ribbon of culture, a physical map of times long past. The Parkway winds for 469 miles from central Virginia to Western North Carolina, connecting Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has nearly 300 overlooks and hundreds more trail access points for hiking and trail running. Along it’s entire length you can see structures from long ago, now protected by the National Park Service, of the families that lived here. As I mentioned, it is one of my most favorite motorcycling roads.

The Blue Ridge Parkway begins at MM0 at Rockfish Gap in Virginia, right where Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park ends. So, after breakfast and loading up the ST, I bid farewell to Staunton and head to Rockfish Gap and MM0.

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Blue Ridge Parkway – MM0

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The beaST at MM0

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Today, I’m heading south, and now home will get closer and closer. It somehow feels comforting, even though being over 600 miles away, knowing I’m getting closer to home, than when traveling opposite.

My first stop today is but five miles down the road, a place called Humpback Rocks. Prior to internal combustion days, Humpback Rocks/Humpback Mountain was a landmark for travelers to ensure they were moving in the right direction.

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The “Rocks” on Humpback Mountain

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Here at Humpback rocks is a Visitor Center and a farm museum that the Park Service assembled to depict farm life in the area in the 1800’s. The buildings were removed  from the surrounding area, brought here and restored to the way they would have been in the mid 19th century.

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It’s a bucolic place. I can imagine myself living here, on a farm like this today, with all the modern amenities we have in the 21st century of course. The beagles would love a place like this as well:

The Walkway

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The Main House

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Farm Scenes

 A Jolt Back to the 21st Century

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Aboard the ST once again, I roll onto the BRP and head for my next cultural stop about 35 miles south:

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Logging was a huge industry in Appalachia in the early 20th century. Whole mountainsides were stripped naked of trees for the lumber industry. Had this not occurred, I can only imagine what that old growth forest would look like today. Here now, we are witness to second growth forest, mere saplings to what the trees must have looked like 150 years ago.

The Blue Ridge Parkway curving through Second Growth Forest

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Continuing southbound on the BRP, I am not very far from my nights lodging, however, I have one more stop to make this day. The BRP gradually descends at this point, making it’s way to the lowest point on the Parkway. North Carolina has the distinction of having the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, while Virginia has the lowest point, at just over 600 feet above sea level, here:

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The James River is the largest river in Virginia, and, in this area in the mid to late 19th century, served as a major commercial thoroughfare. It is a most beautiful river as it makes it’s way under the Parkway, having inspired many artists paintings over the centuries.

James River

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At this spot, the Park Service restored one of the locks that were used here to get boats and barges traveling down Battery Creek into the James River. Today, Battery Creek is not much more than a trickle, compared to what it was a century and a half ago. Here, an exhibit sign explains how the Battery Creek lock system worked:

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Battery Creek Lock

My travels end early today, as I reach my destination right around lunch time. The plan for this afternoon, after lunch, is to get in a few hours of hiking on the trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway and mentally lose myself in the beauty of this place.

Next Post: The Peaks of Otter

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2 thoughts on “Three National Parks, One Great Road Trip, Celebrating America’s Best Idea: Part 3

  1. I’m with you, Bob: That farm museum looks like a mighty inviting spot.

    It’s incredible how quickly–and with what impacts–natural resources were harvested in America’s infancy. Here in the Wasatch Mountains, deforestation by precious metals mining towns apparently increased the frequency and destructiveness of avalanches on those very towns.

    During that same time period, it didn’t take long for the mining towns and their related charcoal oven operations in western Utah and eastern Nevada to consume every bit of raw wood for many, many miles around. Of course the forests have recovered, but–like you–I’d love to know what they’d look like if those industries had never occurred.

    • Here in the Southeast, we have the Joyce Kilmer National Forest, in North Carolina. It is the only remaining old growth forest in the East. It too was almost destroyed for logging by the timber industry until Congress stepped in at the 11th hour! The trees are huge, and some are over 400 years old! Thanks for commenting Ry!

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