Friday, July 23, 2010

A little mountain music

On the Blue Ridge Parkway, a stop for a little bluegrass at the Blue Ridge Music Center..........Daisy had no opinion about the selections.


There's no drive more like a massage than the crest of the Appalachians.  From Front Royal, VA, not more than 60 miles from crazy busy bee DC, all the way to Great Smokies National Park, we are wending our way. In the distance the hazy blue ridges seem to say slow down, be calm, we've been here for billions of years, and there's no need to hurry.  So we don't.

The speed limit in the first section, Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, is 35 mph.  The park is less than two miles wide but over 100 miles long.  On either side, the valley is green, the river winds, and I can hear the song with the same name in my head.  "Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you.....and hear your rolling river...."

Little towns dot the landscape, but it is still largely agricultural.  It was food that made the valley so coveted a prize in the civil war.  In the town of Front Royal, markers describe the only urban battle in the civil war and  the cunning moves of Stonewall Jackson, outnumbered by the Union forces but not outfoxed.

In Shenandoah, I walked one mile on the Appalachian Trail, an uphill rocky switchback that taxed me to the max and rewarded me with a million dollar finish.  Imagine, 2,175 miles of rocky mountaintop hiking.  I am not sure the AT will stay on my lifelist, but just to re-inspire those thoughts, I am listening to Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" during the drive.  I'd read it years ago, but it is a perfect redo for this trip. In addition to a humorous account of his treks on the trail with his hapless college buddy Katz, Bryson treats me to a geological history of these mountains, the world's oldest, a third of their original size.  They took billions of years to get this soft and pillowy.  The haze that makes them blue is, unfortunately, pollution.
The Blue Ridge section of the Parkway has more elevation, including some 6,000 foot peaks,  and is over 400 miles long.  Sometimes there's even cool relief from the heat wave.  The speed limit increases to 45,  still a casual stroll along the ridge of the Appalachians.
Along the Blue Ridge, rhododendrons grow wild.  In the spring, the parkway is a pink cloud.  I think there are no bad seasons here on the parkway.  Summer is green with wildflowers.  Butterflies are abundant on the pink phlox, queen ann's lace and rudbeckia.  Here the native flora that botanists from England harvested when the land was still wild grows in abundance.  There's also wildlife, although it is harder to photograph.  I saw two black bears as they scuttled across the road and into the bushes, several wild turkies, and deer.  All of them were quite shy.

The park service has preserved split rail fences along the parkway....a delightful way to separate the picturesque farms from the highway.  At one waypoint, five styles of spit rail fence are on display.

The artisty and the beauty of the stonework, the winding, undulating highway, the waypoints, the overlooks,  all built during the Great Depression, convince me that the our current recession would be worth suffering through if one more Parkway were built with our tax dollars.  I find it sad that nothing permanent like this drive in the clouds will be left to show for our investment in bailouts and rescues. I'd rather have a scenic highway than AIG.

1 comment:

jbander25 said...

AHHH.. this takes me back....
I took this route in the late summer of 1970 with my Dad, driving my new-to-me car from New York to Houston. I still have a stool I got at some handcrafters place just off the Parkway. It is truly a lovely trip. Thanks for the lyrical post.