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I love, love, love, warm weather.  Cold weather, not so much.  As I write in my gratitude journal, I realize, a little bit of  cold weather is certainly better than some of the alternatives.  With Autumn being hurricane season here, we’ve been through two already – Florence and Michael.  Fortunately, we only had a couple of large trees pulled up from the roots that we had to cut up before we could get down the driveway.

In my world, when you wake up to 38 degree weather it’s time to pull out the thermals and flannels. Brrrr….  It’s only going to get colder. I can’t wait for spring.  Is it spring yet?  Only four more months ‘till spring.  

I know you Snow Bears up north are probably saying, ‘what a wimp!”

Note to me: Let’s start over – Autumn is a wonderful time of the year!

Embrace the season!  I am so thankful for this wonderful, crisp, fall day!  Leaves are changing color.  Soon the maple trees will be a bright golden orange color, like a big bonfire.  Autumn is a wonderful time for a road trip to the mountains.

The Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian chain of mountains is the perfect place for a fall ride, with 369 miles of beautiful panoramic views of mountain scenery, rough-hewn cabins, and cliffs with water streaming (sometimes frozen) and trees growing out of crevices in the stone.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, often called “America’s Favorite Drive,” is a scenic drive connecting the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Peak viewing time is usually in October, but this year nature is moving a little slower.    We were a little early for the most colorful leaf display, but were able to get some good pictures.   It’s easy to see why they are called the Blue Ridge.  Trees put the “blue” in Blue Ridge, from the isoprene released into the atmosphere

Below are some pictures (and a little history) from our fall rides on the Blue Ridge Parkway for your viewing pleasure.

Hidden Gems at mile-marker 248

We spent the night at Freeborne’s, a small lodge with clean rooms. Casual and friendly, it’s not unusual to see a parking lot full of Harley’s, Corvettes, antique cars, and hot rods in the parking lot.

After Breakfast at Freeborne’s Eatery, frequented by all the locals and known for its delicious food, we took a trip back in time at Wild Woody’s Campground and Amazing Antique Stores located next door. We met Linda Lee Woody, aka ‘Blondie,’ who has owned and operated the stores since 1971, and had an interesting browse through a unique collection of memorabilia documenting the history of the 1890’s through the ’70’s era that are for sale.

Wild Woody’s Campground and Amazing Antiques
Blondie – in person
An alien was sighted hanging from the ceiling.

The people camping in the tents and vintage cozy campers at Woody’s Campground behind the store are able to fish for trout in the stream and  stay warm by the fire pits

Next we took a short ride to “Sally Mae’s on the Parkway” (mile-marker 259) formerly known as the Northwest Trading Post. When on the Parkway, we always make a pit stop at Sally Mae’s where you can find homemade jams, jellies, and a variety of mountain crafts.   But the reason I like to stop is for the truffles and fudge.  The good thing is the “Calories don’t count outside your zip code”. The sign says so!

Truffles at Sally Mae’s

Not too far off the Parkway is the quaint mountain town of West Jefferson, well-known for the Christmas in July festival, held during the July 4th holiday every year.  Here we visited the Ashe County Cheese Factory to pick up best-in-the-world hoop cheese and Amish Butter Cheese.

Ashe County Cheese Factory

We enjoyed some wine and beer sampling at the local Carolina Country Wine Club and lunch at Jacks, and couldn’t leave without sampling the various flavored honeys at The Honey Hole.

On to St. Mary’s Chapel to see Ben Long’s Frescoes.

St. Mary’s Church

Fresco is an ancient technique that requires fast painting directly on wet plaster walls (it’s what Michelangelo used to paint the Sistine Chapel). Ben Long, has completed more than 15 major fresco projects in the United States and Italy in the past 30 years. You can also see ‘The Last Supper’ frescoe, by Long at Holy Trinity Church not far from St. Mary’s in Glendale Springs, NC.

Next, at mile-marker 176 we toured Mabry’s Mill. When Edwin Boston Mabry (1867-1936) built his water powered mill he had no way of knowing it would become one of the most picturesque and photographed places in the United States.  Mabry’s original sawmill and blacksmith shop still stand as well.

While there we were able to listen to some old-time banjo pickin’ and singing, and buy some stone ground buckwheat to make pancakes

A Few More Scenes Along the Parkway

Historic People and Cabins

Orlean Puckett Log Cabin

At mile-post 189.1 in Southern Virginia we saw the Puckett Cabin.  This cabin is the former home of John and Orlean Puckett, whose story of strength and goodwill has survived generations.

The story of Orlean Hawks Puckett is a perfect example of the strength of Appalachian women in the 1800’s and the early 1900’s.

Orlean lost twenty-three children, none of them surviving more than a few days, (possibly due to the Rh hemolytic disease). But she  never lost a mother or baby during the more than 1000 deliveries she attended as a midwife, never charging for her services.

We found the historic Brinegar cabin at mile-post 238.  Martin Brinegar and his wife Caroline built this cabin during the 1880’s. Martin died in 1925, and Caroline continued to live there until 1935. They were typical  mountain families, raising crops such as buckwheat, rye, oats, corn and sorghum. Their poultry and livestock roamed free in the mountains.

Caroline Brinegar’s Weaving Loom

Caroline received a four-poster hand loom from her father as a wedding gift. Using wool yarn and linen thread spun from flax grown in her garden, she wove the durable “linsey-woolsey” cloth.

Martin earned cash as a cobbler. Caroline and her children collected herbs such as bloodroot, may apple, and black snakeroot, and sold them to drug merchants in nearby towns.

Brinegar Cabin reminds us of the resourcefulness of mountain people and the development of cottage industries in which people were able to obtain cash for items made at home.


The Blue Ridge Parkway – A Brief History

In 1933, the Parkway  was approved as a public works project  and construction began in September 1935. It is the product of a series of major public works projects which provided a boost to the travel and tourism industry and helped the Appalachian region climb out the depths of the Great Depression. Traveling the miles of serene winding road you will encounter:

  • 26 tunnels,
  • 168 bridges and grade separation structures,
  • Over 369 miles of hiking trails,
  • 14 picnic areas, and
  • 8 campgrounds.

America’s Scenic Byways

If you don’t live near the Blue Ridge, there are many scenic by-ways you can escape to for a weekend, a day, or just a couple of hours to recalibrate.  To find one near you follow this link to an interactive map of America’s Scenic Byways.

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