What is the Blue Ridge Parkway and why would UFOs want to land there?

Look at the pictures. Why would anyone not want to land there?

The BRP is a "scenic national parkway", not unlike a national park except that its holdings are largely restricted to the road itself. Amongst other national parkways are the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee - Alabama - Mississippi, on which Mike and I (Eric) did most of our training, and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in Wyoming.

If you ever become cynical about what the elected goofballs in Washington do with tax dollars (which happens to me about every other day), take the opportunity to drive on one of these parkways. Unless you have a heart made of Spam you will have to admit that sometimes something nice can slip through.

BRP construction was started in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corp and was finished in 1987. The road is in great shape, though curvy and of course mountainous with a max speed limit of 45 MPH. It is breathtaking not for what it is, but for what surrounds it - Mt. Mitchell, Grandfather Mountain, Looking Glass Rock on the North Carolina side, and countless other wondrous natural spectacles on the Virginia side that we will be discovering.

The cultural history attached to the BRP is as riveting. Though mountains seldom are the kind of real estate we like to "develop" (thankfully), mountains along with bodies of water are probably the most revered geographic feature in both history and story telling. We try to find them, climb them, cross them, survive them, hide in them and live to tell the tale, marveling at something that can be simultaneously so harsh and so seductively beautiful.

The civilized world generally scoffs at those who have made mountains their cultural home. "Hillbillies", "mountain folk", "renagades" are terms that have often been used. But most of us reap the benefits of a technology aided life where we consider a 10 hour work day a "hard day" without knowing who these people were or why they stayed there. When in 1989 I moved to Tennessee from upstate New York with all the same lack of insight, my thinking was greatly changed upon visiting Cades Cove, a 19th century mountain community well within the Great Smokey Mountains. Judging by grave stones, the average Cades Cove adult lived to be in their 40's. But looking around you can see why they stayed. On any given day during tourist season you can find cars lined bumper to bumper on the 11 mile loop around the cove, and people armed with a zillion cameras and camcorders. Like me, they probably live in a relatively mundane suburban/city house or apartment which is near a major artery and close to a convenience store. We envy those people in Cades Cove who lived to be 45.


MH&E's Big Disclaimer...
Credits - How This Page was Made...

Grandfather Mountain rises above clouds at sunrise.  1999 Hugh Morton

Information, Maps & History

National Parks Service
Blue Ridge Parkway Home Page

Has a detailed full length map of the BRP in .PDF
format (for Adobe Acrobat readers), photography
and other general park information.

The Blue Ridge Parkway
Association

Has maps in .JPG format and general info.

NC Natural's Ultimate
Blue Ridge Parkway Guide

Great page with hiking trail reference, mile-by-mile
parkway description and photo gallery.

Blue Ridge Parkway Online
Commercial site with links for Bed & Breakfasts,
museums, rafting, storytelling , wineries, recipies,
camping, etc..

The Cherokee Messenger:
A Brief History of the Trail of Tears

A very short version of the story of Americans
evicted without due process. While survivors
of the "Trail of Tears" settled in Oklahoma, others
chose to hide in the mountains "of Blue Smoke"
where their decendants now live on the Cherokee
Indian Reservation of western North Carolina.

Books on Biking the Blue Ridge
This is a commercial page. We found Bicycling
the Blue Ridge: A Guide to the Skyline Drive and
the Blue Ridge Parkway
to be very helpful.

Grandfather Mountain
Highest Peak in the Blue Ridge. Check out the
wallpaper pictures by Hugh Morton, many of
which are featured on this site.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
National Park Service Page

Shenandoah National Park
National Park Service Page