Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway: Come along on America's favorite road trip

Special to The Miami Herald

Like countless other Blue Ridge Parkway motorists, I've peeked over Wildcat Rocks in North Carolina's Doughton Park to where a tiny cabin sits 1,500 feet below in a postage stamp meadow. It's the quintessential image of Appalachian isolation.

One glance down at Caudill Cabin is all you need to realize why many 1930s residents of Appalachia simply didn't believe that a modern road like the Parkway, about to begin construction, would ever penetrate their mountain empire. Mountain families like the ones that populated the cove around the cabin were still reaching their homes by steep, primitive rocky roads and trails when transportation was far easier throughout the rural South.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, arguably America's most scenic road, did find its way through eastern America's highest mountains, and in September, the Parkway celebrates the 75th anniversary of the start of construction at Cumberland Knob, half a mile south of the Virginia-North Carolina state line.

The road advanced in fits and starts with frequent stalls, the most enduring at Grandfather Mountain where the private landowner rebelled against a route high up on the mountain's fragile wilderness flank. A lower route was negotiated, and in 1987, two years after the 50th anniversary, the final ``missing link'' debuted. The Linn Cove viaduct span had spared that fragile mountainside.

There is still a vast rippled realm of summits in the Southern Appalachians, but the Parkway, believe it or not, may just now be ready for its close-up. Only last year, the Parkway's official main visitor center opened near Asheville. One of the road's interpretive landmarks, the Blue Ridge Music Center, with stirring live concerts, is another recent addition.

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1 comment:

  1. I am from Mo.. I have been along it and it is beautiful...