Posts Tagged ‘Blue Ridge Parkway’

“The high road of the Blue Ridge Mountains is like a long museum corridor lined with nature’s treasures.” — National Park Service

A sign to ponder. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A sign to ponder. — Photo by Pat Bean

Back to Pondering

I was looking through the many photos I took a couple of years ago when I drove the Blue Ridge Parkway when I came across the one pictured above. The sign left me pondering its significance.

Along with sight-seeing and pondering as we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pepper (who joined me after Maggie died for the last eight months of my full-time RV travels) and I did a a lot of exploring of the parkway's many trails. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Along with sight-seeing and pondering as we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pepper (who joined me after Maggie died for the last eight months of my full-time RV travels) and I did a a lot of exploring of the parkway’s many trails. — Photo by Pat Bean

But it was autumn when I was on the parkway, and the golden, scarlet, purple, lemon and orange hues along the way kept me from pondering too long. It was more important for me to drink in the Technicolor views, which often magically appeared from behind layers of thick white fog and mist as each day grew older.

Now, seeing the sign without the awesome scenery to distract me, I’m back to pondering again.

The sign reads: In June and July, during corn-choppin’ time, this cliff serves the folks in White Rock community as a time piece. Twenty minutes after sunlight strikes the rock face, dusk falls on the valley below.”

Who in the heck figured this timetable out, and what would people be doing at this exact spot on the ridge right before dusk? Pondering, I guess, is what a wondering, wanderer does best.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Ranting Crow http://tinyurl.com/p9qsfk6 Thought of the day. If you get to be my age, you have to wonder why history keeps repeating itself. Perhaps it’s time for a change.

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           “I am a wanderer passionately in love with life.” — Aleksandr Kuprin … Me, too.

Even gray days are colorful on a fall day traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains. -- Photo b Pat Bean

Even gray days are colorful on a fall day traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains. — Photo b Pat Bean

Rainy Fall Mornings

I woke up to a gentle rain this morning, with the hazy light of a gray sunrise streaming in through the slats of the shutters on my bedroom window. At night the narrow, rectangular blank spaces of this wooden curtain cast a pattern of light and shadow on the ceiling above my head.

Virginia creeper alongside the parkway. I do so love the color red -- Photo by Pat Bean

Virginia creeper alongside the parkway. I do so love the color red — Photo by Pat Bean

I often lie away and study this artful illumination, letting my mind drift into fantasy worlds. I don’t like sleeping in the dark, so I never close the shutters, preferring to let the  pale light that flows into my bedroom comfort me.

The first thing I do on awakening this morning is to go out on my balcony and stare at the mountains to the north of my third floor apartment. They are one of the reasons I have stayed put now for nearly two years.

These tall peaks that stretch nearly 10,000 feet up to the sky bring peace to my nest of bright new furniture and growing stacks of  books. I tried to take a photo of this morning’s misty mountain scene, but my camera battery was dead – and by the time I charged it, the mountains had been eaten by the mist, a sure sign it’s going to be a full gray day.

But that’s OK. I love gray days. They turn the mind inward and slow down the chaos of the world.

On this day two years ago, it was also raining. I was in Front Royal, Virginia, waiting at an almost deserted RV park for the rain to stop before I headed south on Skyline Trail through Shenandoah National Park and down the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Appalachian Mountains.

What a grand adventure that autumn was. But then this fall is charming, too. While my body may remain rooted to one place these days, my mind still travels the road. And autumn is a great time to travel wherever you are.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Things I love http://tinyurl.com/pcqvnhk One of my favorite bloggers captures nature at her artful best.

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            “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your head and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.– Steve Jobs

I suspected when I visited Rocky Mountain National Park this past fall that it would be for the last time, which made seeing it all the more precious. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I suspected when I visited Rocky Mountain National Park this past fall that it would be for the last time, which made seeing it all the more precious. — Photo by Pat Bean

Changed Perspective

            I was born at a time when southern men thought it was a good think to keep women barefoot and pregnant. I lived that way for a while, mostly because I didn’t know anything different.

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And seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains this past fall was a first in my lifetime, I suspect it will also never happen again. — Photo by Pat Bean

And then I sat in front of a television with my children and watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and utter the words that have continued to live in my little gray cells: “That’s one step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The words were spoken at a time when forward leaps in my own thoughts and actions were exploding.  I had become a working mother in a field – journalism – that exposed me to a larger world than I knew had existed.

I became knowledgeable about Vietnam, body bags, equal rights for women, and equal rights and integration for Blacks. I learned that that life was not fair, which was as devastating to me as learning there was no Santa Claus when I was 10.


But since I now live in the desert, I expect to see many more cactus blooms … Photo by Pat Bean

I struggled, as all caring parents do, to raise my children to be honest, hard-working, contributing members of society. I watched as the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down, and as terrorists, including the ones who lived next door, eroded our sense of security.

Life became easier for me at last, even as I watched it become more difficult for my children and grandchildren. Opportunities and apple pie are harder to come by these days. I stuck in the backdoor of a newspaper without the proper education that even I required when I moved up to being the one who hired reporters.

And then along comes the Internet, which truly has changed everything. I can’t imagine living without it, yet I grieve for all that it has taken away.

... and many more Tucson sunsets -- Photo by Pat Bean

… and many more Tucson sunsets — Photo by Pat Bean

Finally, I come to today when I have to accept that there are fewer days ahead of me than behind me.  I especially felt it on my cross-country journey this past fall. This will probably be the last time I visit Rocky Mountain National Park, I thought, as I drove Trail Ridge Road through the awesome mountains; probably the last time I’ll ever drive  the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was the same for each of the many sights I experienced on the journey.

Realizing how fast the clock is ticking away has made me look harder at everything, to breathe in each spectacular landscape more deeply, and truly, perhaps for the first time in my life,  live in the moment. That’s not a bad thing. Actually it has been rather exhilarating, and certainly has made me more thoughtful.

I got to thinking about precious moments this morning after listening to the Rolling Stones belt out “This Could Be the Last Time.” The musical number was a YouTube video posted on my blog pick of the day.  Perhaps you would like to listen, too.

The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Flickr Comments  http://tinyurl.com/brllod2 Maybe the Last Time – but hopefully not.

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The many interpretive and information signs along the parkway enhanced my experience of the parkway. It was also great to drive a road where Mother Nature was the focus of all the attention. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S Elliot

Adventures with Pepper: Days 37

            It was a cold morning in Ashville but it warmed up quickly. This last day’s drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway was the steepest, the road traveling up to 6,047 feet, just slightly less than half the altitude of the highest point of 12,183 feet on Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, which I drove near the start of this meandering journey to Texas.

While I didn’t stop at every overlook I know I got over half of them. — Photo by Pat Bean

In addition to being the steepest, today’s colors were among the most brilliant, meeting all my expectations of catching Miss Appalachian in her finest autumn dress.I stopped for lunch at the 3,570 Stony Bald Overlook at the 402 mile marker, and looked out at layer upon layer of color and mountain ridges.

“Wow!” I said to Pepper as she chewed her pork-skin bone while I ate a peanut butter and orange marmalade sandwich.

Thirty-point-four miles, half a dozen stops and  two hours later, Pepper and I were standing at the Richard Balsam overlook at that 6,047 feet for a zillionth replay of beauty and color.

Ponds always stopped me for a closer look, and this one had a great short hiking trail to go with it. Ahhhh. Blue Ridge Parkway I’ll miss you. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Where in Texas you from?” I heard a voice say from behind me.  Because of my Texas license plates I heard those same words at least once a day on the parkway. Many of the speakers were Texans themselves.

I suspected the speaker probably wasn’t really interested in the answer. The question was just the icebreaker for sharing a few minutes of conversation with a stranger. It’s one of the rituals of traveling – a ritual I love.

Book Report: I wanted to skip reporting about Travels with Maggie today. I’m sure you know why. And today, after posting this, I have a 300-mile road trip to make, from Dallas to the Texas Gulf Coast via Interstate 45. I think I’ll be listening to an audible book as I hate freeways, but I have loved ones waiting for me at the end of the trip so the drive will be worth it.           

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Beans Pat: http://tinyurl.com/bzttg42 This one just seemed appropriate for today. My wish is that this time around the losers will help the winners do what is in the best interests of the country, and that the winners will put the interests of the country above personal ambitions or gain. OK. I’m a dreamer.

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Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.” – May Sarton

Linn Cove Viaduct — Wikipedia photo

Adventures with Pepper: Days 35-36

One of the best things about the Blue Ridge Parkway is that it’s totally decommercialized, which means if you need gas you have to exit the parkway.

I found the rock walls along the parkway just as fascinating as the more spectacular autumn views at overlooks. — Photo by Pat Bean

I needed gas, and according to my maps, Linville, North Carolina was where I needed to get it. Right before I got there I crossed the Linn Cove Viaduct, a 1,243-foot bridge that snakes around Grandfather Mountain. It was completed in 1987 at a cost of $10 million and was the last section of the parkway to be finished.            As I was crossing it, I thought how nice it was for a change not to be going up and down ridges for a little bit. The thought turned out to be cause for laughter almost as soon as I got across the bridge. Linville was in the hollow at the bottom of the bridge crossing.

Some times Mother Nature makes words seem inadequate. — Photo by Pat Bean

So down I went, and then back up again to continue my slow, winding, uphill-downhill journey on the parkway.            I would spend the next five hours driving just about 100 miles. While the parkway speed is 35-45 mph, most of the time that’s way too fast for road conditions . And then of course there were the overlooks and Mother’s Nature’s wonders around every bend in the road that needed to be explored on foot.

I spent the night and all the next day at a small, but friendly, RV park just off the parkway in Ashville, North Carolina. It was a welcome break for all that uphill and downhill-ness, even if I had enjoyed every moment of it.

Book Report: Nada. Too busy with other projects. Somehow I’m going to have to push Travels with Maggie back up to the top of my priority list.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: A Silk Road Forest http://tinyurl.com/b82opv8 I thought this arm-chair travel blog was a nice contrast to the forests I was driving through.

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            “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

When I first got on the parkway this day, fog and mist obscured the views. — Photo by Pat Bean

Adventures with Pepper: Day 35

            I ended my travels yesterday, which I had started in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, at Julian Price State Park in North Carolina. It was a beautiful park by a lake, but I had neither cell-phone service nor internet connections.

But when the fog cleared out, the colors of fall were brighter and crisper than I had seen before. — Photo by Pat Bean

I would have liked to have stayed put a couple of days but with a writing deadline to meet the next day, I knew I would have to move on early the next morning so I could connect back to the world.

I didn’t sleep good because it began raining shortly after Pepper and I took a hike around the lake in the early evening, and the dripping continued all night. Normally I love to listen to the patter of rain on my RV roof, but I didn’t want to drive the parkway in the rain the next day. Gypsy Lee handles steep hills quite nicely, but doesn’t do slick well.

The rain finally stopped just before dawn, and as I had my morning cup of cream-laced coffee, I watched the grayness of day overcome the blackness of night. There’s usually a brief moment of this fantastic grayness, before the light of the sun takes charge of the day, that always seems magical to me.

One of many parkway tunnels that I passed through this day, briefly leaving the light behind but finding it just as bright again on the other side. — Photo by Pat Bean

But not when the grayness lingers, as it did this morning.  And when I got on the road, the grayness turned into a thick fog that shut down all but about 50 feet of the road ahead, and all of the grand views looking out from the mountain ridges.

Then, as if someone had clicked a switched, the sun popped out, creating light that pleased my camera more so than any other day I had spent so far on the parkway.

If I had to pick one day as my favorite of driving the 466 miles of the parkway, this day might have been it. But then I’m glad I don’t have to choose because every mile, every hour, every day on the parkway had something amazing in store for me.

Book Report: Travels with Maggie is now at 60,701 words.

            Bean’s Pat: The Crown of the Continent http://tinyurl.com/crkcmxg Take an armchair tour of Glacier National Park – and prepare to be awed.

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“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John F. Kennedy.

Adventures with Pepper: Day 34

Old cars and political observations were the highlights of this day on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It was quite windy the day I drove the Blue Ridge Parkway from Meadows of Dan in Virginia to Julian Price State Park in North Carolina, a mere 117 miles away but which took all day drive.    Mother Nature’s bluster plucked fall’s leaves off the trees and sent them swirling across the parkway like pieces of colored glass in a kaleidoscope.            Along with listening to the hum of the wind as it glanced off Gypsy Lee, I heard several conversations this day that put my mind outside the parkway and tuned into the bluster of politicians’ blowing promises around they probably wouldn’t keep.

This tangled mass of leaves claiming this tree trunk reminded me of the tangled mass of people who together are America. Hopefully we can all learn to co-exist as peacefully. — Photo by Pat Bean

There was the conversation I overheard at the High Piney Spur Overlook. The guy doing the speaking had been showing off his shiny red restored vehicle, one of several I saw this day on the parkway. I suspected there was an old car rally being held somewhere along the route – or perhaps the parkway is simply a place old car enthusiasts like to drive their vehicles.            Anyway, the proud owner of the red vehicle was saying: “I don’t think the country’s as bad off as they are saying. People are eating out and buying new cars,” then with hardly a breath in-between thoughts, he added “It was that Iraqi war that caused all the problems, we didn’t need that.”

The night before, I had overheard a fellow sitting around a campfire at Meadows of Dan ask: “What do you think about where this country is heading?” I didn’t hear the answers because I was walking Pepper at the time, and she, not as big an eavesdropper as me, was pulling me along at quite a fast pace.

Later this day, when I bought some snacks after buying gas, I handed the clerk a dollar too much. He quickly handed it back to me, noting that he always tried to be honest.

“I guess that’s why I could never be a politician,” he then noted, before telling me to “Drive safely now.”

     Book Report: Travels with Maggie is up to 60, 424 words.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day

Bean’s Pat: Morning Mist http://tinyurl.com/azmp3vw I like the idea of each morning holding a mystery in waiting.

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“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.” — Ronald Reagan

The majestic, panoramic views from the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which the parkway follows, can get to be a bit overwhelming. So I also spent some time focusing on nature’s little beauties, like this woolly bear caterpillar that made its way across my Meadows of Dan camp site. — Photo by Pat Bean

Adventures with Pepper: Day 33

Meadows of Dan is a small farming community located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I stopped here because it had a nice RV park with Wi-Fi and I had a writing deadline to meet for American Profile Magazine http://blogs.americanprofile.com

Or like this tiny mushroom growing beneath a tree. — Photo by Pat Bean

It was a pleasant scenic park but nothing special to distinguish it from the other campgrounds I had stayed at along the way. Pepper tried to play with every dog we passed on our walks, and I enjoyed the smell of campfires drifting into my RV as I sat at my computer and wrote.

The best part of my two-day stay in Meadows of Dan was the morning I left.

A blue jay, its bright blue feathers a bit faded at this time of the year, sassed me good-bye as I drove out of the campground, making me smile at its determination to not move out of the road until Gypsy Lee was almost on top of it. While I didn’t see anything, perhaps it had found a tidbit of breakfast hiding among the gravel.

I stopped for gas in the tiny town, where an art show and farmer’s market was underway. The gas pump was an old-fashioned one that didn’t take debit or credit cards and so I had to go inside to pay.

And I loved the contrast of Virginia creeper in its fall dress against the rocks that lined the roadsides. — Photo by Pat Bean

I took time to roam through the country store that was filled with home-made crafts and other goodies, of which I bought bread, honey, plums and an honest-to-goodness fried apple pie, which I ate once I got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway to continue my journey.

The crust was moist and the taste of the grease it was fried in rich in my mouth. I savored every bite, including the rich apple filling that had  been lightly sweetened to perfection. Just writing about it now makes me feel like one of  Pavlov’s dogs.

Eating healthy, which I mostly do, is good for the body. But that apple pie was good for the soul. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in Meadows of Dan, however. There’s probably only so much the soul can take.

Book Report: I’m happy to report that Travels with Maggie is now up to 60,119 words. I didn’t have internet at my last stop and so it was Travels with Maggie that got my attention.

Bean’s Pat: Hurricane Sandy Birding http://tinyurl.com/cwhadl4 In the aftermath of tragedy, life goes on for both humans and birds. Not to make light of the tragedy by noting this birding blog, I join all those mourning for the families of  those who lost loved ones.

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“Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands …” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One of hundreds of inviting places to have a picnic along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I loved the way the light shown through the trees on this shady spot. — Photo by Pat Bean

Adventures with Pepper: Day 32 Continued

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not just about the fantastic landscape, it’s also about the people who made or make the Blue Ridge Mountains, which stretch from Pennsylvania to Georgia, their home.

Except for this couple, I had Rake’s Mill Pond site to myself. — Photo by Pat Bean

My companion on the journey, , besides Pepper,  was ranger and naturalist William Lord’s mile-marker guide published in 1982 by the American Chestnut Foundation. The American Chestnut, whose numbers in the Appalachian Mountains once numbered about three billion, were decimated by a blight in the early 1900s. Today one would be hard pressed to find a hundred mature American chestnuts.            The parkway, however, is home to a few immature trees as the battle to save them continues. Few chestnut trees today grow to more than about 20 feet before the blight fugal disease take them. The people working to save this species, like the chestnut foundation, is part of today’s story along the parkway.

I loved the markers along the Blue Ridge Parkway that helped me make sense of what I was seeing.

One person from the past was a miller named Rake, who built a small pond to have ready water for his grist mill. His advertising gimmick was to allow customers to fish in the pond while they waited for their meal to be ground.            I’m glad I stopped at this small, peaceful place, because the Marby Mill, the show mill of the parkway just up the road a bit, was too crowded for me to park Gypsy Lee, and she ain’t big

I was forced to pass this stopping spot up and continue on to Meadows of Dan, where I would spend the night.

Book Report: I’m in Nashville now, and while I’ve stuck around for a few days, I’ve taken tours and listened to country music, and Travels with Maggie got stuck again.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Marc and Angel http://tinyurl.com/95gpobj 10 Ways to Live Life with No Regrets. I’m not fond of promoting big blogs like this, but the advice these two hand out is just too good to pass up. I read their blog a lot.

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             “Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.” – Henry David Thoreau.

Pepper pulled me down the trail, and I was hard pressed to keep up and not stumble. But when she pulled me back up the trail, I thought: “Oh what a good dog you are.” — Photo by Pat Bean

Adventures with Pepper: Day 32

Oh goodie! I’ll be able to get a good picture of the Roanoke River. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’m suffering a distorted kind of writer’s block as I try to blog about my 466-mile journey down the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s not that I don’t have things I want to tell you about this amazing adventure, but that I have too much to tell you and too many pictures to choose from that I took along the way.

My thoughts seem quite jumbled. I think I need to stop thinking so much about trying to put things in order and just get on with the writing, tackling it piece by piece for the next few days, or as Anne LaMott said so well, “Bird by Bird.”

I got a great shop of the bridge that crossed the Roanoke River, but the view of the river itself from the viewpoint was blocked by foliage. — Photo by Pat Bean

This day Pepper and I crossed the Roanoke River, and had a fantastic view of it from the bridge high above it. Of course there was no place to stop and take a picture, which was why I was happy to see a trail head leading down to a viewpoint right after we exited the bridge.

It was a great little hike, in which I was pulled both up and down the trail by Pepper, but no decent view of the river. I’d have to make sure I filed the bridge-crossing view somewhere in my little gray cells, I thought.

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