Virtual Vacation

Part One is Here

Had this years vacation not been canceled due to my treatment regime today’s plans called for a pleasant meander from Asheville to Valle Crucis via that bestest of all American Byways…The Blue Ridge Parkway…

Leaving out of Asheville after sleeping in, always makes that initial climb to the top of the ridges such a long anticipated change in attitude and altitude. Leaving the traffic and the modern speed limits behind and settling into the slower, more natural rhythm of the road as it swings in and out of the clouds, through the laurel thickets, windows down and the moonroof open. The cool air blowing through the car after all those hot humid southern miles across five states comes as a long awaited relief. It’s easy to see why southerners have been spending summers in these mountains for so very long…hoping to escape the long hot summer days and not much cooler nights.

So here we are on the Parkway heading north. First stop is always Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. Stretch the legs, enjoy the view, make a potty run. It’s too late to really enjoy the peak bloom in the Gardens. The guide book says there is a short trail leaving from the Visitor Center. We have never taken the time here so close to the beginning of our day to do the almost one mile hike…Maybe next trip.

Once I can gather everyone up and get back on the road, the next section of the trip is usually short. It’s just about 10 miles to the turnoff to Mount Mitchell State Park. It is almost impossible for any vehicle I’m driving to drive past that turnoff…I don’t know what it is about that road, but every time I’ve driven the Parkway I’ve had to drive up to the peak. This year I would have passed it by rather than fight the construction on top…

The next stop we generally make up the Parkway is all the way up past Little Switzerland at the Orchard at Altapass. The orchard is one of those places that managed to catch my eye even before we made our first trip.

When the Blue Ridge Parkway chose its path, it too followed the ancient buffalo track and came through the middle of the Orchard, dividing it in half. That required a condemnation process, a court fight that eventually reached the NC Supreme Court. The momentum for the Orchard was lost, and it began to decline. Neighbors despaired the loss and braced for the expected development of this beautiful place. The wild growth of the trees became a sadness for Parkway travelers who had seen it in better times.

When it was offered for sale in 1994, Kit Trubey bought the land and her brother Bill Carson with his wife Judy started the preservation of the place, including its apples and its memories. The preservation project is underway today, with hayrides, music, story telling, butterfly tagging, free mountain music on weekends, and a store to sell ice cream, fudge, country products, local crafts. The half of the Orchard that lies above the Blue Ridge Parkway has been sold to the Parkway, to assure its perpetual preservation. The remaining land will be protected by conservation easement. The history of the Orchard continues.

This is one stop that tend to last a long time as the wife and kids spend time looking through the gift shop. Me…I wander down through the orchard and check out the ancient apple trees.

From the Orchard we would drive on up the Parkway to the cut off to Linville. After jumping of in Linville it’s just a short run north on 105 past Grandfather Mountain to the turnoff to Valle Crucis. Each year we stay in Valle Crucis we rent a cabin from Valle Crucis Log Cabin Rentals. They have always been great and our experiences with their properties have always been fantastic. They treated us better than expected when we had to cancel this years reservation. I am sure we will be staying with them again. After picking up our keys at the office we’d be looking forward to that drive up Clarks Creek Road to the top of Nettles Ridge… Here’s the view I expected to be watching as the day ended today…

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