November 22, 2011

On Top of the World, Then Down Again

Tim and I had planned to spend the last two days traversing most of the length of the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway.  That’s what we did yesterday, but today the weather foiled our plans.

After leaving West Virginia yesterday morning, we had a lovely drive through the Shenandoah Valley on our way to the Swift Run Gap entrance to the Skyline Drive, which is part of Shenandoah National Park.  Our plan was to make it to Greenville, South Carolina, for Thanksgiving, so we knew we would have a lot of driving to do over the next three days, with little time for stops.  That was ok, however, since the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway are destinations themselves.  In fact, these roadways usually make the top ten in lists of the most scenic drives in the United States.

Beautiful Vistas From the Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive is the scenic roadway through Shenandoah National Park and follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles.  The goal in creating Skyline Drive in the 1930s was to provide a means for motorists to enjoy the awe-inspiring views.  The views are just as inspiring today, even though we were only able to experience the southernmost 40 miles.  From there we entered the Blue Ridge Parkway, which extends an additional 469 miles and links Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.

The Road Winds for Miles
Although I’ve driven parts of both roads on many occasions, it was a different experience today.  Most people come here in the fall for the brilliant leaf colors, or the spring for the flowering trees and shrubs or the summer for vacation.

It’s very different in the winter, however.  Although it was unfortunate that all of the visitor centers and other services had already closed for the season, the good news was that we had the road almost to ourselves.  We often drove for miles without encountering a single car.  With the leaves off the trees, the views into the valleys opened up for us.  The air quality was also better, enabling us to see greater distances, even though it was a bit foggy as the day wore on.  It was hard not to stop at every wayside to admire the views, but we tried to stick to our plan.

Views of Mountains in the Distance

View of Towns in the Valley Below

One of the Stone Tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway
We stopped for the night at a private campground just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and mapped out plans to drive at least 200 miles down the parkway into North Carolina the next day.  It was going to be a long, but beautiful drive.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans.  It was sprinkling rain this morning when we got up, and the forecast called for rain on and off.  We decided that we would start the drive and see what happened.  We entered the parkway near the James River, the lowest point on the entire road, but immediately started climbing to the highest point on the road in Virginia.  As we climbed, the fog started getting heavier and heavier.  Soon, we could barely see 50 feet in front of us.  It was pretty scary, and it was only getting worse. 

We decided then and there to find the next wayside and turn around.  It was too unsafe to go farther, plus, there was nothing to see.  Maybe it would clear up, but it wasn’t worth the gamble.  I didn’t think we would ever find a place to turn around, but we did and headed back the way we came.  Tim did a masterful job of driving.

We quickly regrouped and decided to make our way to Greenville on major highways.  The weather did not improve until later in the day, and the morning fog lingered, although not nearly as bad as it had been on the parkway.  Tim drove 333 miles today, the longest of the entire trip.


  1. What an adventure!!! At least you got to enjoy some of the views on Monday. Tim deserves a few days off! Hope you have a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving. LV

  2. LV, Yes, it was an adventure, and Tim certainly deserves time off! We're here in Greenville and will stay here and take it easy until Friday. Enjoy Thanksgiving with the family. Sarah