Walking the Blue Ridge Parkway in winter is a great way to get a slow-motion view of the wonderful vistas that whiz by at 45 mph in your car. The Parkway is closed so you don’t have to worry about traffic. The only concern really is perhaps slipping on snow or ice. This latest in the Photo Essay series looks at a 4-mile stretch of the BRP between mileposts 412 and 408.
It starts where Scenic Hwy 276 climbs to meet the Parkway at milepost 412. The Cold Mountain Overlook is right there, and that’s where Ken and I parked. Gates are closed in both directions so the only ways to proceed are by bicycle or on foot. No ice worries on this day, February 17, 2016. A bright sun and 40-ish temperature assured a nice and dry road surface for our trek to Pisgah Inn and beyond.
The cliffs alongside the roadway were another matter. As you will often find this time of year, there were giant icicles (some as long as 10 feet) clinging to the granite above the road bed. As the day progressed and the warming continued, we moved to the far side of the pavement to avoid the melting, plunging spears as they dropped from the crags above and crashed on the pavement.
We passed by Cradle of Forestry Overlook and Pink Beds Overlook and their magnificent long-distance vistas enabling us to see all the way to the Black Mountains and Great Craggy Range northeast of Asheville. In the opposite direction is Looking Glass Rock, glistening in the sunlight from the ice clinging to its sheer face. They say this is how Looking Glass got its name… in winter with the ice shining and glimmering from miles away.
Fryingpan Tunnel is about half way to Pisgah Inn. Enclosed within its dark and damp canopy we did have to watch our step as the thin coating of moisture there had not yet melted. The communications and fire towers were standing tall high above on Fryingpan Mountain. The last overlook before the inn is called Funnel Top and offers a nice view of the Pilot Rock and Slate Rock area of Pisgah National Forest.
When we reached Pisgah Inn we sat on the deck outside the restaurant and enjoyed the magnificent view as we munched our sandwiches and soup. The inn and restaurant are usually open from April through November. Following lunch, we continued past the Mt. Pisgah supply store and on to the picnic grounds, climbing the hill to reach the multi-acre meadow beneath the summit of imposing Mt. Pisgah.
The mountaintops on the north side of Pisgah Ridge still had a coating of rime ice, always the last to feel the warmth of the sun. The black balsams in the Mt. Pisgah watershed are very healthy, their boughs a dark, dark forest green. We turned around at the picnic area for the return, walking a total of 8.5 miles by the time we got back to Hwy 276.
I hope you enjoy these new photos from this visit to the high country along the Blue Ridge Parkway as much as we enjoyed the day. Please feel free to leave your comments below the gallery.