The last of our family road trip adventures was to celebrate Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man’s birthday which, unlike the other birthdays, really IS in August. We had no idea where he’d choose to wander, but we did know for sure that it very likely would involve two lanes, four wheels, and plenty of fossil fuel. The man loves to drive. And, boy, does he love his road trips.
Sure enough, before the day was over, we’d driven over 250 miles, down the Blue Ridge Parkway and on curvy country back roads. In fact, we drove all the way to the southern end of the Parkway, then into the countryside a ways before meandering back to the Parkway.
But even though much of our day was spent going forty-five miles-per-hour, there was still plenty of time to take a more leisurely pace on foot. After all, no Blue Ridge Blue Collar Family Road Trip is complete without a hike. First stop: Waterrock Knob at Milepost 451.2.
The beginning of the trail to the summit of Waterrock Knob is paved and quite civilized looking, so it somehow gives the impression of an easy stroll, a painless promenade, a serene saunter. HA! It didn’t take me long to realize that the handrail they had there wasn’t just to steady yourself. It was there so that people like me could heave themselves up with their arms when their legs and lungs wouldn’t go any further. No easy ramble here—really more of a wheezing, shuffling trudge I’d say. At least in my case. But ultimately very rewarding, once I was able to breathe again. I wasn’t too surprised to read that, at 6,400 feet, this trail goes higher than any other trail on the Parkway.
(Rock and ferns at Waterrock)
The next stop was the Devil’s Courthouse at Milepost 422.4. It was not what you’d call an easy leg-stretcher either, but at least I didn’t feel in need of immediate medical attention at the top. It’s a lovely trail, with nice plants growing on both sides, including the pretty pink turtlehead. We were all amused at the juxtaposition of two particular sentences in the description of Devil’s Courthouse in the excellent Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway that I always take along on our Parkway travels. It reads:
According to Cherokee belief, the devil had a courtroom in a cave inside this mountain where he delivered judgment to those who went astray. To avoid damaging rare plants, please stay on the trail.
We were very, very careful to stay on the trail, and I’m happy to say, didn’t go astray a single time.
(Pink turtleheads and white wood asters)
As we headed back home on the Parkway, Tom saw a sign for a side road at Elk Pasture Gap (milepost 405.5) that said something like: Caution! Steep, winding, curvy and generally-nail-biting road! Avoid like the plague if you’re driving an RV or towing a trailer! When I read that and saw the gleam in Tom’s eye, I knew for certain we’d be taking that road (NC 151) back home.
And what a lovely road it was, especially in the gloaming of a hot summer day. We glided down the cool, tree-shaded road, the late-day sun illuminating the trees at a golden slant, the only sound the low hum of our motor and the rustle of the wind in the trees and the birds singing their last song of the day. There was even a tiny waterfall spilling over the rocks on the side of the road that we saw as we rounded a curve.
It was a perfect end to my day with those I love best. The kind of moment that makes you sigh with satisfaction and pleasure, where you feel like there has never been a better moment than right here, right now. And you close your eyes and smile and breathe a simple but profound prayer: Thank you.
(Oxalis and ferns)
(Hoary Mountain Mint)
(You never know what you’ll find around that bend in the road.)