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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Day 1: Blue Ridge Parkway adventure

Posted October 28, 2019 6:46 a.m. EDT
Updated October 28, 2019 7:16 a.m. EDT

— “Astonishing beauty!” That’s how my wife, Cindy, described the first 15 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This was the start of a four-day, 469-mile journey covering the entire parkway from Cherokee, North Carolina to Rockfish Gap, Virginia.

An Alexander Julian jolt of colors.

A Monet-array of textures and light.

Colors above us.

Colors far below us.

Colors right at your feet.

Reds at Cherokee

We see elk grazing in a misty meadow.

We listen to the peaceful music of the Ocona-‘luftee River.

We bump into a dear friend, flutist Linda Metz, who moved to these mountains from Cary because of the overwhelming beauty and the slower place here.

This part of the Parkway is very slow. A wiggly and winding road.

We travel slowly to try to take it all in – tucking our heads into tunnels and then back out again.

We will travel only 61 miles today.

But we will see a journey’s worth of beauty.

At Richland Balsam we reach the highest point on the Parkway, at more than 6,000 feet, and chat briefly with a motorcyclist.

Our jaws drop when we reach Graveyard Fields – an unusual flat mountain valley at more than 5,000 feet. This is our favorite stop of the day.

Graveyard Fields

In the distance we see the embrace of two people on a rock next to a waterfall.

Even where the colors have not yet popped there is beauty. Looking Glass Rock for example.

And Looking Glass Falls -- just off the Parkway near Brevard.

We marvel at the brightest berries we have ever seen.

And watch quietly as the clouds and the mist move in over the Devil’s Courthouse.

We make it to Mount Pisgah in time for a delicious mountain trout dinner at the inn there. The view here is spectacular. But not today.

As a restaurant worker put it, “Take pleasure in the fact, Mr. Leslie, that you are living and breathing inside a cloud at this very moment!”

As ghostly figures fade away in the fog we settle down in a nice warm room and plan our travels for day two on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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