On our way to take a trip on the Great Smokey Mountains Railroad, the route included a stretch on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a road noted for its scenic beauty. It is America's longest linear park, running 469 miles through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties, mostly along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. It was built as one of many projects planned under the FDR administration to put people back to work and was half finished when WWII began. One of its purposes was to connect Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smokey Mountains National Park here. In a number of places it crosses the Appalachian Trail as well as many shorter hiking trails. Campgrounds and hotels all along the drive let travelers linger and enjoy the views. For people like us who love to stop and take photos, the road has numerous pull-offs.
When we spent one autumn in New England seriously chasing the fall colors, we learned that rain is not your friend. It knocks those leaves right off the branches. The weather people here are deploring the fact that rain has been in short supply. The bright blue skies provide just the backdrop you need to highlight the brilliants reds, yellows and oranges. Finding out exactly where the colors are the best can be a challenge. The route from our campground to Bryson City took us up to 5,000 feet elevation. As we wound through the mountains we could see glimpses of mist and fog, hiding and revealing as we drove. Some elevations had great colors; others did not. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to drive a few more miles on this beautiful road.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad began transporting goods in the 1890's. These days its steam locomotives have been rescued and restored by railroad buffs and transport tourists like us. The scenery it travels through and the dramatic bridges and trestles have also made it a favorite stop for Hollywood film makers. Today we rode through the Nantahala Gorge, a favorite for kayakers and rafters. Our car had open windows, so we could enjoy the scenery on a perfect day. Every so often train staff stopped by to feed us and bring drinks. What more could you ask for?