Almost Heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River… Now that you’ve got Country Roads in your head, keep singing along while you read this post – it’s appropriate…
We started our journey down the Blue Ridge Parkway from the top end at Mile 0 near Waynesboro, Virginia along the Skyline Drive, which is in Shenandoah National Park. This portion has an entrance fee of $20 (but didn’t cost us anything as we have an Interagency Pass). The Blue Ridge Parkway extends 469 miles along the crests of the southern Appalachians and links two eastern national parks – Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains.
We climbed up and down the snaking highway – which has a maximum speed of 45 mph – and took in all the changing leaves and viewpoints of the Shenandoah valley and undulating mountains.
Interestingly, while we were at the Loft Campground doing some laundry, we met ‘Campskunk’ a full-time RVing legend and well-known writer on the Internet on all things related to living in a small RV (note: he explained that he uses this moniker instead of his name due to the many strange RVers that he runs into, and based on his former occupation as a forensic psychologist, he’s qualified to spot them. We get it!) Campskunk and his wife have been travelling full-time for 6 years and are now in a tricked-out Roadtrek. He was pretty cool.
We then carried on south and came across the Blue Ridge Music Centre, which happened to have ‘mid-day Mountain Music.’ So what did that mean? It meant 2 old boys playing bluegrass outside for free! They were incredible and the Bear loved it (Bluegrass is her favourite).
The Appalachians are interesting – they don’t have the magnitude of the Rockies or the Alps, but there’s something really appealing about the scenery, particularly accompanied by the ‘hillbilly’ history, culture and charm.
We did lots of hiking along and off the Parkway. The weather was sunny, cool and extremely windy. We pulled into Blowing Rock – a quaint little mountain town with great shops (especially the bakery) – and went to the ‘Blowing Rock’, an immense cliff 4,000 feet above sea level, overhanging Johns River Gorge 3,000 feet below. The phenomenon is so called because the rocky walls of the gorge form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it returns light objects cast over the void. The day we visited it was unusually blustery and after clambering around the lookout, we all retreated for repairs from severe windburn.
The following day, we met our good friends from East Van – Danielle and Witmar – who were in Asheville, North Carolina for a wedding. We met for lunch at Wicked Weed Brewing, a terrific local brewery, and after a day touring around Asheville (which is an excellent town) we went back for a 3 meat / 3 veg BBQ at the RV.
We spent most of the next day touring around Biltmore Village with our friends, then we got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway and crossed into the Pisgah National Forest. The Bear had a wonderful hike up Fry Pan Trail to a fire lookout – described by a park ranger as the best view along the Parkway. It was still windy…
We moved on to Brevard, NC – voted the best small town in America. After a 2 day visit – it certainly gets our vote. What a great place! Highlights included being able to drink a beer (after paying a one dollar membership) in a mini saloon located in the corner of a store while Mama Bear shopped, trying southern-style fried green tomatoes at a terrific restaurant Square Root, and taking in another free mountain music jam session at Oscar Blues Brewery.
We finished our tour along the parkway by entering Great Smoky Mountain National Park – the busiest and most visited (9 million annually) NP in America, and October is peak season. The Smokies are nice but a little too crowded for our liking. It was particularly frustrating creeping along behind all the people with Florida license plates driving below the (already slow) speed limit. Next stop, Pigeon Forge Tennessee!