Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man Takes Us For a Ride

view of the Parkway from Waterrock Knob blog

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.

paved part of Waterrock trail blog

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 Waterrock Knob blog

(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.

Devil's Courthouse view blog

trail to Devil's Courthouse blog

turtleheads, ferns, white wood asters blog

(Pink turtleheads and white wood asters)

down Devil's Courthouse Trail blog

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.

ferns with shamrocks blog

(Oxalis and ferns)

hoary mountain mint blog

(Hoary Mountain Mint)

little waterfall on 151 blog

(You never know what you’ll find around that bend in the road.)

22 Responses to “Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man Takes Us For a Ride”

  1. Jayne Says:

    Oh, I just smiled the entire time I read this Beth! What a wonderful day/adventure to take with those you love. The photos are breathtaking. Soaking in your joy in this moment. ;c)

  2. Bonnie Jacobs Says:

    I especially love the last photo, the one showing the little waterfall. Thanks for the tour.

  3. Judy Says:

    I just can’t pick one. They are all some of the best photos I have seen in a long time. Just awesome and breathtaking. I can”t imagine how beautiful it must have been in person! I have so enjoyed reading about all the birthday trips and you are so funny sometimes. I would be huffing and puffing and heaven knows what else on some of these hikes you all take. Thanks for your prayers for Balisha.

  4. Pat Says:

    My famous last words at the bottom of the Waterrock Knob trail…”How hard could it be?”

  5. eemilla Says:

    I just love your blog! The photos are great, and it make me want to get a few more hikes in shorts while we still can. My honey used to camp at a rope swing off of 151, and while I never made the camping trips the view from the rope swing was amazing.

  6. Betsy from Tennessee Says:

    Highway 151 is the one we took from the parkway down toward Asheville. We saw that waterfall —and remember me telling in a blog that we stopped traffic behind us just to get a picture???? That was the same one you saw I think… That was a curvy road—but George and I go up and down those kinds of roads ALOT when we are looking for waterfalls.

    Looks like you had a marvelous day… I’d love to take those hikes (pant pant)… You got some great pictures. I’m SO jealous. Love your area of the country!!!!


  7. Hoary Hare Says:

    Hoary is a word which should be used more often… a word which should itself become less hoary, so to speak.

  8. NCMountainwoman Says:

    What a wonderful day that must have been. Beautiful weather and great photographs.

  9. Benjamin Says:

    I didn’t realize the photo of the roadside mini-falls turned out so well!

    Haha, if it makes you feel any better I use the hand railings too, mostly when I get impatient with teeny-tiny steps or a long ramp/incline.

  10. clairz Says:

    I love that word “gloaming.”

    You must live in the most beautiful place in the world. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos with us.

  11. Jeff Says:

    What a beautiful set of photos! I love the lacy pattern of the ferns. I’m sure you were glad that Tom was driving on NC 151 so you could see the sights! Those small waterfalls are really interesting in the winter when they turn into icicle falls. Have you seen any completely black wooly bears? I read a blog post in Floyd that mentioned one – supposed to be a sign of a long, hard winter. The smaller the orange stripe in the wooly bear, the colder the winter.

  12. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Hey if you went to the Southern end of the Parkway you went (somewhat) close to me! It’s been a looong time since I’ve done that Waterrock Knob Hike, not sure I want to do it with little kids, especially since one is (or both, really are) too big for the backpack carrier.

    Beautiful photos, as always. So love riding those mystery roads.

  13. Sharon Says:

    This is as close as I’ll get to a beautiful hike in the beautiful Blue Ridge (or anywhere else); thanks to you, I’m happy with experiencing it through your words and pictures.

  14. Martha Says:

    Such stunning scenery! What a wonderful way to spend the day with your loved ones, your favourite people. I love road trips and hiking and the great outdoors, so I can just imagine the wonderful emotions you experienced that day.

  15. Bonnie Jacobs Says:

    You are an award-winning blogger, and my post today proves it. Come collect your award, my friend.

  16. Clara Melvin Says:

    I have only three words……Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful!

  17. Sharon L. Says:

    I know exactly what you mean about Waterrock; I was huffin’ and puffin’ by the time I got to the top, but the view was sooo worth it!

  18. CountryDew Says:

    Awesome photos. So glad you had a nice outing!

  19. Tammi Says:

    Your photos are beautiful! I especially love the waterfall. I feel your pain about the higher elevation! My husband & I took a trip to the Smoky Mountains last week from our home in South-central Kentucky. At most, our hometown is 600 feet above sea level. We climbed to Clingman’s Dome which is the highest point in the Smoky’s at 6600 feet and, boy, could we feel the difference! We had to stop numerous times and catch our breath along the way, but it was worth it.

  20. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    Love the signs!

    Tell me this area is not Heaven on earth?


  21. Ariel Says:

    Beautiful photographs. That was a wonderful ride. I especially love the rich, lush texture of the plant photographs.

    I can’t wait to cruise the Parkway with y’all again soon. I miss you and love you.

    PS: I just got y’all a little treat! But I’m not telling you what it is!

  22. Shannon Says:

    AWWWWWWWWWW. THIS. THIS is why I want to be back in N.C. Heart hurting…..must get chocolate. Thank you for the beautiful post.

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