Down the Blue Ridge

Continuation from ‘Shenandoah Adventures’

After a hearty breakfast at Big Meadows Lodge my mom and I set out for the next leg of our Blue Ridge Adventures.

We drove south on the Skyline Drive, the road bending and breaking as we followed the crest of the Blue Ridge. The brilliant sun blazed against the blue hues ambling hills and ragged peaks.

The views along the southern portion of Skyline Drive are gorgeous. Sweeping panoramas are a theme of Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped at several scenic viewpoints and took pictures. Every vista is a postcard view.

You can learn about each scenic turnout on this website – they have great information to help plan your trip.

If you are looking for a great picnic area and campground site, I recommend Lewis Mountain. They have a camp store on site and trailhead.

It took just under two hours from Big Meadows to the southern exit at Rockfish Gap, where the Skyline Drive turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is ‘America’s Favorite Road’ – it is the most visited unit of the National Park Service – winding 469 miles connecting Shenandoah National Park (VA) to the Great Smokies National Park (NC/TN). The Parkway hugs the Appalachian Mountains and provides extraordinary roadside views of Mountain Valleys, jagged peaks, thick forests, ambling rivers and dancing waterfalls.

The Blue Ridge Parkway stole my heart when I was three years old. One of my first memories is spending time with my parents at Mount Mitchell State Park (off the parkway in NC). The Blue Ridge tell nature’s story from the thick fog of the smoky mountain mists to crystal clear skies with mountains stretching for miles.

I’ve been blessed to have traversed the entire parkway on multiple occasions. Most travelers on the parkway typically break up the trip into the parkway units. Some focus on one area of the parkway.

I recommend driving the entire parkway at least once, even if you do it over the course of a few years. Each portion of the parkway has its own treasures to uncover.

My mom and I decided to take the scenic route home driving south on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Humpback Rocks (northern point of Parkway in Virginia) all the way south to the quaint mountain town of Blowing Rock NC.

The first two hours driving south on the parkway was pure heaven – highlights:

  • we stopped at one of our favorite spots: James River Visitor Center and Canal. This is the lowest point of elevation on the parkway with riverfront access. The James River powered early settlers as they homesteaded and farmed in the area. The James River was historically an important part of Virginia’s transportation corridor

Just after two o’clock my mom and I stopped at the Dancing Creek Overlook where we enjoyed Milton Crackers and cheddar cheese while enjoying the peaceful wooded area. It is easy to keep driving and not stop when you are on the Parkway – the views are great for vehicle touring – but I encourage you to take time to get off road, stop a spell. Sit and breath the mountain air.

  • We stopped for a quick walk at The Peaks of Otter. I’ll write a separate blog about the Peaks of Otter soon – but hands down it is one of my favorite spots on the Parkway.
    • Named for three towering peaks, The Peaks of Otter Lodge is a rustic lodge with perfect views of the ‘Peaks of Otter,’ including Sharptop and it’s signature cone shape. Visitors can enjoy peaceful strolls along the calm waters of Abbott Lake (maybe even see an otter?)
    • The Peaks of Otter Lodge invites visitors to enjoy delicious food in their Lakefront Restaurant. I enjoy their menu and local wine list
    • To learn more about Peaks of Otter – stay tuned to my blog in the coming weeks and check out their website. You won’t regret escaping to the ‘Peaks’

We would normally eat at the restaurant, but realized that daylight was short and we still had several hours till Blowing Rock.

My mom and I were excited for a few more hours of parkway scenery but great adventures often have unexpected roadblocks.

When we arrived at Roanoke VA(around thirty minutes south of Peaks of Otter) we were met with an unfortunate surprise

ROADBLOCK. The Blue Ridge Parkway would be closed south of Roanoke – and the detour would make getting to our hotel reservation in Blowing Rock complicated. We ended up having to go to Blacksburg VA and south on I-81 until we got to I-77 (and other side byways) until we finally figured out a way to get to Blowing Rock. This detour still included picturesque scenery but was so roundabout we almost thought about driving home and forgoing the prepaid Hotwire fee.

Yet we persisted and arrived in Blowing Rock just after eight p.m.

By now my mom and I were famished – starving and starting to get ‘hangry’. We assumed getting a meal in Boone/Blowing Rock would be easy enough – but think again.

We went to several different restaurants – Cracker Barrel, Wendy’s, Outback – lots of places and they all closed early because of lack of staff. COVID numbers were down at the time, but limited staff were on call to meet demand.

I want to Thank GOD for Five Guys – the one restaurant that was open. They were out of cheese, but that burger was so delicious and capped off a beautiful and somewhat ‘stressful’ end to the day.

Adventures are meant to be unexpected and made it work.

Stay tuned for my next entry…my mom and I closed out our trip with more Blue Ridge Parkway fun before returning home.

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