Loving the Blue Ridge Parkway
The amazing project of building this scenic pass through the mountains began in September 1935, at Cumberland Knob, NC. The majority of the work was by private contract but numerous other agencies were also involved: The New Deal Public Works Agencies, including the Works Progress Administration, Emergency Relief Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, Civilian Public Service Workers, all had work opportunities. Many poor mountain people received welcome pay checks. When I see the road work constructed over the rocky crags, through solid mountains in tunnels and the amazing Linn Viaduct, I shake my head in wonderment that mere mortals could do this. Every picturesque mile is amazing.
WWII halted construction on the Parkway. In the 1950s the National Park Service Development Program called Mission 66 completed all except a small portion around Grandfather Mountain by 1966. In 1987, the Linn Viaduct was created to pass Grandfather Mountain without damaging the rugged terrain. With the viaduct completed, The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was joined to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
A few years ago a good friend from Atlanta moved to New Jersey, and I moved to North Carolina. We decided to rendezvous. She drove her new car to my house, stayed a couple days, then the two of us, sharing driving, started at the Smoky Mountain National Park in Cherokee near where I live and drove the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which at the end, becomes Skyline Drive in Virginia. We drove to Front Royal, VA, then to my daughter’s in D.C. Regina drove the last couple hours to her home, and I flew home to Asheville.
We had so much fun. We sang “How Great Thou Art” at the top of our lungs whenever it was so beautiful we couldn’t speak, bought coonskin hats and took our pictures. We took about a million photos, that when we got home, all looked alike. Each curve of the Parkway takes one’s breath away, certain this is more beautiful than the last; so, of course, another picture. We stopped at all the overlooks, visited the Folk Art Center, ate a picnic in an orchard, and toured Blowing Rock. We’d both read all Jan Karon’s novels so we pointed out all the places we were sure we’d read about, looked everywhere for a white cat named Violet, and stayed in B&Bs. When we entered the Skyline Drive it was first thing in the morning and the ranger was just opening the gate. We were the first travelers that morning and all the deer were gathered in the road. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the modern wonders of our world, where God’s creation reigns supreme. But one word, if you are traveling it for the first time: gas, food & pit stop before entering. You have to get off for services, and there are many mileposts between offs.