Cooler air drifting in from the northwest has opened the door to the beauty in the hills that we call fall. The changing seasons and the kaleidoscope of gorgeous colors that go with this natural metamorphosis is a special gift for those who love nature, the mountains and the outdoors. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in 1833:
“Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them –
The summer flowers depart –
Sit still – as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.”
Though Northern Georgia has begun to experience this change, in the higher altitudes of the mountains to the north, beautiful colors are abundant. Even without the colors, however, a weekend trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway will reward travelers with a multitude of breathtaking vistas.
The 470 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway are ranked by many noted travel writers to be “The Most Scenic Drive in America.” The southernmost part of the parkway begins slightly north of Cherokee, N.C. and follows an elevated path over the crest of ridges all the way to Front Royal, VA. From its nostalgic beginning near the Indian Reservation at Cherokee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of Tennessee and North Carolina to its panoramic end along the Skyline Drive of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway passes through awesome natural scenery and near much of this country’s pioneer history.
The unique colors that are seen along this path over the mountains are partly due to the altitude, but mostly because of the variety of plants and trees in this part of the Appalachian chain of mountains. In fact, more different species of trees and other flora exist here than in all of Europe ... from the fjords of Norway to the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the late-North Carolinian journalist, Charles Kuralt, who loved this area, one of the prettiest places that the Blue Ridge Parkway passes is Grandfather Mountain, which towers to almost 6,000 feet. Kuralt said that if you view the mountain the proper way from the back side, it has the aspect of an old man staring up into the sky.
Many more interesting side trips are available for those who have the time to venture off the parkway. These could include the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, the Biltmore Estates of Asheville, Chimney Rock Park and Blowing Rock in North Carolina. Virginia also offers the Natural Bridge and both the Luray Caverns and Skyline Caverns near the end of the Parkway.
Villages that are seen as patches of a giant, natural quilt from atop the Blue Ridge Parkway are easily reached by connecting roads. These friendly places offer food, lodging, fuel and supplies to all travelers.
Though visitors travel the Blue Ridge Parkway for a variety of reasons, during the fall of the year, it is usually the explosion of red and gold colors that has the most attraction. It is truly one trip across a historical part of America that everyone should experience at least once. This colorful mountain sanctuary for trees and wildlife that traverses a path thousands of feet above the patchwork of villages, farms and fields is a sight that will forever be a part of each visitor’s memory.