Got my fall color fix on our Virginia road trip


I’ve been wanting to see Mabry Mill in Virginia for about a year when I first heard about it. It is hard for me to leave my cats overnight and I considered just waiting (hopefully many many years until we were petless) and going with an overnight or two stays to see more in the area. Although it was a long day in the car (over 11 hours) I’m still glad we stole away a day because you never know what tomorrow may bring. I think before we go again I’ll get a newer BRP book

I’ve learned to check for Blue Ridge Parkway road closures the hard way.  When we left the house that morning it showed a large part of the parkway closed. We decided to take the interstate there. When we stopped at the Virginia visitor center to try to get a parkway map that showed more into VA I checked the webpage again and it was all open!

First stop was the 1910 Mabry Mill (video here). Then we hit several overlooks, and a few trails coming home. Since it’s hard for hubby to eat out with celiac we packed a sandwich but they do have a restaurant right near the mill. It was different how it filled up then dumped instead of just continually having the water rotate the wheel. We walked around the grounds then drove farther up the parkway to milepost 169, at Rocky Knob overlook. That is the farthest we’ve been on the Blue Ridge Parkway that way. We’ve been to the end in Cherokee and I think we’ve covered all in between. There were some pretty yellows there and some trails that we didn’t take.

We were heading to Lovers Leap (that we never really found where you were supposed to look) and pulled off at Round Meadow Overlook at mp 179.3 to watch birds soaring over the autumn colored trees below.

Then on to mp 189 Groundhog Mountain overlook with its island cemetery, to walk up the observation tower.  The first few steps had me thinking my equilibrium was off but their steps are just not equal risers – or level. Not sure I’d classified that as ‘long-distance panoramic views’ but it’s an easy walk.

Milepost 189.1 said it was to view Pilot Mountain but it was completely overgrown.

Pucket Cabin sat right off the road at mp 190 and was very pictureque. The story of midwife Orlena Puckett was pretty interesting. I read she delivered over 1000 babies for $1 to $6 per delivery and delivered her last infant in 1939 when she was 102 years old.

At mp 202.8 you could see Pilot Moutain through the power lines and I guess we were supposed to be able to see Hanging Rock State Park.

We never realized how much of the Mountains to Sea trail just followed along the parkway. We saw deer 2 or 3 times and much-anticipated fall color. We also saw lots of downed trees and could clearly see why so much of the BRP had been closed.

At milepost 216.9 we passed back into North Carolina.

I had Cumberland Knob at mp 217.5 on my list but it was closed.

First overlook back in our home state was Fox Hunters Paradise Overlook at mp 218.6. The valley had fall color and farms with Pilot Mountain in the background. If we knew what we were looking for we should’ve been able to see Fisher’s Peak here too. We pulled up the little road at the overlook and walked up the short trail while we were there.

The autumn colors were almost glowing at Stone Mountain Overlook 232.5 and you could clearly see the slab of granite.

At milepost 235 we just drove thru the parking lot to see if we saw birds like I’d read were often spotted from the Mahogany Rock overlook. We didn’t see birds but we did spot one serious photographer set up and willing to wait.

I had a note that we stopped at 235.7, Devils Garden overlook but no pics to jog my memory as to what we may have seen there. I think that may have been where rattlesnakes and copperheads were often seen… as in only a devil could like it as a garden.

Hubby thought we’d never get home at the rate of time I was spending at all the numerous overlooks. He’s got a bad back and long car rides don’t help. So at mp 238.5 I quickly ran down the AT to see the Brinegar Cabin. It looked like there might be trails there.  I loved the bowed down roof line of the little cabin.

My dad used to sing Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, so I wanted to stop at The Lump overlook with its short 0.3 mile walk, even if it did put a lump in my throat telling hubby why I wanted to stop. We went up the hill and I was a little disappointed that there was nothing to see here. There was a cute dog sticky it’s head out the window watching us walk back to our car though.

If you’ve read my blog at all you know I like waterfalls, so we stopped at Betsey’s Rock Falls Overlook mp 267.8 where we may have heard a waterfall but we couldn’t see one.

Elk Mountain Overlook mp 274.3 had a nice view of the moon and birds flying around.

We drove without stopping as much because we’ve already stopped at some of these overlooks. We’ve been to the lake at Julian Price Memorial mp 296.7 but stopped again for a quick look. Maybe someday we’ll walk the2.3 mile loop here. Funny quick story. I had a shot of fishing lures stuck in the trees from this spot years ago and guess what… they’re still there.

This may have been my favorite stop, well the second favorite after Mabry Mill. Just before we reached the Linn Cove viaduct that I still want to explore, we stopped and walked a little bit of the Tanawha trail, at the Wilson Creek Overlook 303.6.

I don’t know if you remember but I did a B&A photo treatment of the Viaduct falling in because I  always wonder how it stands. Fellow camera members have said I blew up the bridge (in the photo edit), so I guess what I failed at my interpretation of a collapse. For the first time, we walked under the road at Wilson Creek overlook before the viaduct to see a bridge. We came home to look up how the viaduct was constructed… I’m even more in awe of that feat now- and I still don’t get how it stays up there.

The wooden arch Tanawha bridge and waterfall that ran under it on Wison Creek were both sights I had not heard about, and I’m grateful we walked to see them. I imagine that beautiful spot is even better after lots of rain or from the other side of the water.

Now that I’m finally posting this, we are now seeing color locally at whatever our elevation is. The color seems a little different this year. We don’t remember quite so many trees with so many different colors on one tree. The same kind of trees near each other too that some will be completely bare,  some will still be all green and some will have varying amounts of different colors.

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Someday when we don’t have commitments at home I’d like to go all the way to the end and hit a few waterfalls or longer hikes too. I continue to be in awe of the beauty all around us, and grateful that I get to spend time with the man I love seeing it together.

Now back to all that computer work.

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