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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I am in love with the Blue Ridge Parkway

 Drove past a sign that warned of curves, for the next 140 miles! (Ain't that true).
And then another for "descending radius curves"...apparently those are curves where you need to keep adjusting the steering. I felt as though some of the curves were so tight and so long I must have been making a loop back around! Though I only stayed on the Parkway for 48 miles and 9 tunnels, the whole stretch of 469 miles includes 26 tunnels, 168 bridges, and 6 viaducts! The speed allowed is never higher than 45 mph, and no commercial vehicles allowed ... it is perfect for a summer drive with the windows down. The average elevation is around 3000 feet. I almost went up to Mt Mitchell which is around 6ooo feet above sea level. My ears popped.
But, really, the only way to truly commune with nature is to get out of the car and plant your feet in the forest.
Which I did. I hiked to Craggy Garden, a grassy bald, and then also along a trail below the Mt. Pisgah Inn, on property that once belonged to Vanderbilt's Biltmore estate.
This is Cherokee Indian territory. During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt put people to work by building this parkway. Afterwards, the work was finished using the labor of WWII conscientious objectors. The Eastern Band of Cherokee protested, as their land was taken (again) and the mountains and streams and gaps all renamed.

Windy up on Craggy Gardens Bald

Before lunch

  I saw a bunch of different butterflies hovering on the stringy milkweed. I ate blue berries. Hugged an old lightening struck oak tree. The ground was covered with wild rhododendron and mountain laurel- in fact Craggy Garden has the largest continuous growth of rhododendron on the continent! It must be spectacular when it blooms. I saw Carolina chickadee, picked up some hickory nuts, and identified Solomon Seal berries, bee balm, cone flowers, and Pokeberry. And I painted. It has been a bliss full time.

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