We have been travelling the corridor of I-81 between North Carolina and New Jersey countless times. We have made countless memories of several stops, and detours. Oddly, the brown sign of Blue Ridge Parkway intrigue us but we didn’t bother to take it. We were curious but not curious enough to drive on it, until our navigator got us into it on a dark, foggy night late October of last year.
Note: This is not a horror story, it is a prelude to a series of learning stories about Blue Ridge Parkway – America’s Most Beautiful Drive, as we attempt to learn its history, its secrets, and beauty that it keeps.
FIRST ENCOUNTER – MILE POST 420-469
We were on our way to a camping trip in Cherokeee, NC. We usually travel late afternoon to night time. For this particular trip, we were very focused with the camping part that we forgot we are going to the mountains.
It was dark, 8:00PM almost in late October. It was a chilly day and the fog is a little bit lower. Our navigator got us to the parkway at night time with slight fog! We have no clue what we have gotten ourselves into. But my memory keeps flashing back, and it feels like we got ourselves into some kind of a time wrap.
Still with 70% visibility, the fog creates a beautiful dramatic view ahead of us.
This is a narrow road, I thought. The road started climbing uphill. I could tell from the similar curves that we have to go through. I looked around me, and I didn’t see any car traveling with us. I thought I would be more scared if another car would be following us on that dark highway. It went like that in the next five miles, which actually felt like 30 miles.
One of my daughter started feeling scared. It prompted us to pray for God’s protection! That eases her. After passing through several tunnels, the drive through the parkway became tolerable, and I start imagining how beautiful it is in day time.
“If this was day time, we will be looking at beautiful views,” I said.
It was October and fall foliage on series of mountains over mountains would be spectacular.
A stepped drive up is followed by drive downhill. We started enjoying the drive (except for couple of times when there is another vehicle going on the opposite side). The blinding head lights, and having to move far right on a road that doesn’t have roadside and guard rails! Having seated on the right side of the car, I can see the steepness on the right side of the road.
At times the entire family is quiet, anticipating what lies ahead of the dark, foggy parkway. At times jokes started to fill in the car as we try to ease ourselves. Then, followed by lines of stories, and creative sounds which sounded like a beginning of a fairy tale book.
A long downhill brought us near the foot of the mountain. I started seeing lights which looks like street post to me. Then house lights.
“We are almost down the mountain, and hopefully out of this parkway,” I said in an excited voice.
To my calculation, we have drived two mountains. As we went uphill, downhill, and another uphill and downhill.
We reach our destination with much relief. More story lines came out of it.
We woke up the following morning with a hold of beautiful mountains sorrounding us.
We planned to drive the same part of the parkway on our way home but missed the turn at some point. We ended up in Gatlinburg, TN. True enough, it gave us endless views of mountains.
During that time, we have no clue what that place is. For us, it was just a camping trip. We didn’t know it is one of North Carolina’s best.
Fast forward today, as we know more about Blue Ridge Parkway, we learned that we drove the last leg of the Blue Ridge Parkway to mile post 469. We also learned that road we ended up driving to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is the Great Smoky Mountains! We had no clue. Nonetheless, the views were spectacular, and the memories linger!
We have more learning stories as we explore more about America’s Most Beautiful Drive. Stay tuned!