For our annual visit with Linda’s cousin and son this year, we headed to Franklin, NC. We arranged to start our drive south after work Thursday. Linda was pilot and I navigator and cabin steward. This has more to do with traveling expediently to our motel, than my cheerful service. Nonetheless, a good night’s sleep at the Knight’s Inn in Galax, VA, stages us only miles from the NC boarder and entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, our route for Friday.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a wonder of the Roosevelt era and the Citizen Conservation Corp in the 1930’s. Thousands of young, unemployed men were issued hand tools and given the task of cutting out a few hundred miles of road along the top ridges of the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountains. The northern third of this project, from Front Royal to Charlottesvile, VA now makes up the spine of Shenandoah National Park. After leaving the park, the road begins the Virginia section of the Blue
Ridge Parkway. The southern third runs through Asheville, NC to Cherokee, at the Cherokee Reservation. This is the region we spent about six hours enjoying before the clock beckoned us to return to the highway.
The Obama era and The American Recovery Act detoured us off of the parkway early on to bypass restoration of the rock guard walls. Within 20 minutes we had driven through the villages of Sparta and Laura Springsto re-enter the
parkway. We backtracked to
Doughton Park and the Brinegar Cabinhomestead. We passed the ARA workers with powerwashers, generators, and diesels dump trucks, less romantic that sculpted CCC crews with pickaxes, shovels and wheelbarrows. Martin Brinegar carved out his family’s homestead from the stone and chestnut trees on the land, building small fields, gardens, a cabin, smokehouse with rootcellar, and springhouse. We should all visit places like this to remind us of
what hard labor was required to survive in the mountains, but also how ingenuity and observation provided the liberty to care for oneself.
If you prefer a little more luxury and style, follow us south a little further to the Moses Cone Manor. In addition to the vistas from the grand porch, enter the manor to visit the Parkway Craft Center, one of the showrooms for the Southern Highlands Craft Guild. We have dazzled our eyes and pocketbooks at their location near Asheville before. You should be overwhelmed with what is on the shelves and out the windows at this location. The reason to drive a small car on this trip is to save money. The gas mileage is one way. Only so much room for hauling stuff home from the craft shops is another money saver. We still stimulated the economy a bit.
Noon had caught us with so quickly this morning, and we still had a majority of our drive ahead of us. We bypassed scenic overlooks, stopping for a picnic lunch and when we had
just passed by a large glen of wildflowers. Our prior trips to Asheville were in winter. We timed this year’s journey to coincide with the turning of color into Spring. We enjoyed passing back and forth from winter to Spring several times as we ascending up to passes at 5000 feet and down again to 3000 feet. Leafless peaks of winter, to flowering trees of shadblows to dogwoods to azaleas and trillium all in an hours drive.
The end of this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway descends to Asheville. The closer to civilization we traveled, the more cars and bicycle groups we found going both directions on the road. The parkway continues in a large S-curve, south and west of Asheville, but to arrive at our lodging before dinner, we set this section aside for another trip. Though highway driving traverses the mountains between Asheville and Franklin, the views are still attractive. If you have additional time, you can take the business routes through several main street towns along the way. Franklin, NC is one of these towns. I will describe our adventures there is more detail in a later post.
Linda had found a house rental south of town. Aunt Dobson’s Farm House, is nicely lost along a country road several turns from the main road. Look for the white house under “several large trees”. We were curious about the history of the construction of the house, which had clues to prior layouts. But the current arrangement of rooms is a cozy place to enjoy conversation while preparing and eating meals. With two bedrooms and one bath, no one is encouraged to retreat form the group for long. No better place to catch up on life exists than on the L shaped porch, perfectly set up with four chairs and a rail for your glass of wine. Watch the clouds gather in distant peaks, the birds build their nests in the trees, and the stories glide from one topic to another. The sound of an occasional motorcycle or lawmower is all that will remind that a horse and carriage will not soon pass by.