Blue Ridge Parkway By Tom Stanley
This is the stuff of legends. This stretch of highway through the Appalachian Mountains is widely renowned as one of the most beautiful drives in the entire country. Beginning at Skyline Drive in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, and stretching a dazzling 469 miles before ending in the North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains. It sounds like something out of a fairy tale.
It was only through an email correspondence with a friend in Asheville that my attention was drawn to this gorgeous attraction. But after reading all kinds of fantastic reviews and travel stories, I sort of inserted it into our route, hoping Joey and Sarah would be down for it. And as I expected, they're down, and just as excited as I am.
This will be one of those days when an early, early start is imperative. From our prior destination (Joey's lovely mother Mary's house in Williamsport, Pa.) just to the beginning of the Parkway, it's a full 245 miles, or 4 1/2 hours by Google's watch. And the Parkway itself stretches so far that, even at 60 miles per hour (which is not exactly sightseeing speed), it's an eight-hour drive. That's not including any attractions, pit stops or photo ops along the way, which are bound to be on our minds when the time comes. If I didn't know any better, I'd say we're going to need some extra time for this leg of the trip.
But if we were to stop anywhere during this drive, here's what we'd be thinking about enjoying.
-Grandfather Mountain (at left)
-Blue Ridge Music Center
-Photo op at Pilot Mountain
-Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
-Mt. Mitchell State Park
(From top) Photo courtesy Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation; photo courtesy Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation; photo by Hugh Morton courtesy grandfather.com