Drive like a Tourist

Drive like a Tourist

If you look closely, you can see that the speedometer reads 42 mph. (The speed limit on this part of the parkway is 45 mph.)

Ah, the power of words! Writing about fall photos inspired me to do something I have never done as an Asheville resident: search for fall color along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The last line in A Tale of Two Photos got to me: “Now is the time to capture these golden days–whether with camera or words.” Even though my husband had a long to-do list for his day off, I persuaded him that we should hop in the car and go look for leaves. (He pointed out that there were plenty of leaves in our driveway, but he agreed.)

Instead of listening to his suggestion that we hike down in Brevard or up at Craggy Pinnacle, I insisted that we use the recommendations in the weekly Fall Color Report. At that point, the report was six days old, but surely those experts knew more about fall color than my nose-in-a-book husband. We had a limited amount of time, since I wanted to be back to cook dinner for my daughter, who had too much homework to accompany us. That ruled out the Cullasaja gorge, but we could still try for the Black Balsam area, past Mount Pisgah. We grabbed walking sticks, water bottles, cameras, and Bojangles chicken. Off we set!

Our destination was Black Balsam Knob (elevation: 6, 214 feet), which, according to the report, should offer brilliant colors. Since we were in tourist mode, we turned off at several overlooks as we drove west on the parkway: the Bad Fork Valley Overlook, the Pounding Mill Overlook, the Cherry Cove Overlook. My son got excited about the out-of-state license plates, especially when we saw the same cars at multiple overlooks. Having moved to this area when he was five, my husband found it painful to play the role of a tourist, but David soon was happily pointing out beautiful patches of red or yellow or orange leaves. (Despite the name of my site, I’m no tree expert, but we saw mostly white oaks, red oaks, and maples.)

After eating lunch at the Mount Pisgah picnic area, we drove on, stopping at more overlooks to photograph Looking Glass Rock. Not far past Mount Pisgah, however, we noticed that we were seeing more empty branches and fewer golden and orange leaves. My husband said thoughtfully, “You know, I’ve always heard that the 15th to the 20th is the best time for color.” Today was October 21st.

By the time we reached the Black Balsam area, I suspected that we had driven too far: at this elevation, the color had “peaked.” Nonetheless, we parked at the end of Black Balsam Road and started walking down Flat Laurel Creek Trail. Although we saw many red maple leaves on the ground, the limbs of the deciduous trees around us were bare. After hiking a short distance, I looked at my husband and pleaded, “We could hike this trail any time, but I was hoping for a fall-color hike today!”

By now, it was too late to take winding Highway 276 farther down into Pisgah National Forest, where we could have hiked at Pink Beds or Looking Glass Rock. Since we would drive past Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower on our way home, my husband suggested that we hike there. I prefer a path through the woods to an old service road, but the weather was so perfect that I couldn’t complain about the rocky, uneven trail.The last time we climbed this 70-foot tower, David had been too little to go up the steep metal stairs. He insisted that he didn’t want to climb the tower, but, by the time we got there, he had changed his mind. It was a windy day but beautifully clear, and we had amazing views at each stage of our climb up the old tower, built in 1941 and listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. If the photo seems a bit crooked, put it down to my shaking hands.

IMG_2766

View from the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (taken with my iPhone 5)

As we walked back to our van, a young couple passed us on their way to climb the tower. We warned them about the wind, and they just smiled. Headed east on the parkway, we stopped at an overlook or two for more photos. Suddenly, I realized that I had failed to get a picture of one of the many stone tunnels along this section of the parkway. My husband began to drive more slowly, looking for a place to pull off near a tunnel so that I could get out and take a picture. His hesitant driving irked the driver of the car behind us, who started following closely and even honking intermittently. As soon as we could, we pulled into a overlook and let him go around us. These locals are in such a hurry!

Enjoy the slideshow of photos, taken with my Nikon CoolPix L320. Believe it or not, I weeded out some pictures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/101-post-formats/

Advertisements

Meet the Author

IMG_1499

Here’s a selfie I took on the day that I wrote my first post. I’m not an avid biker, but there is a great bike trail at Huntington Beach State Park.

Adjectives swim as I reflect on the questions: who am I? why am I here? Graying. Overweight. Disorganized. Optimistic. Rueful. Although I could censor this self-description, I am using the first words that came to mind because they seem honest. But this isn’t how I should present myself to strangers–which raises another question: am I ready to be here, exposing the gritty workings of my mind? Is writing merely a brain dump for me, and, if so, is there a reason for me to be blogging?

This summer, I stumbled upon blogging.  Wanting to follow someone else’s blog, I ended up creating a blog for myself (it helped that we were on vacation at the time). But when the blogger I was following stopped writing, I didn’t stop.  Why not, I wondered?

P1060184

A couple of days after setting up my blog, I took this picture of the sun rising at Litchfield By-the-Sea. A metaphor for blogging? Time will tell!

I’ve been writing privately on another website for a couple of years. Despite my sporadic nature, I recently passed the milestone of 100,000 words. Private writing is inherently worthwhile, but is it time for me to put a toe into cyberspace? One drawback to my private posts is that I never edit them; sometimes I pursue a promising line of thought, but the words never leave my sanctum. Although I am continuing to journal privately, an occasional foray into the public eye might be good for me (and for my writing, which has become all too stream-of-consciousness lately).

I’d also like to think that something I have posted could improve or enlighten someone else’s day (in a very small way). During my grad school days, I began to feel that there wasn’t a reason for anyone to write anything, ever again: hasn’t it all been said, over and over? Yet along came J. K. Rowling, boldly presenting the world with a lovable and complex young hero, just when I had thought no one could come up with anything new. Aspects of the Harry Potter series are undoubtedly derivative, but the sum–the sum has touched thousands of readers, old and young alike.

P1050124

The last blueberries of last summer on a bush at Craggy Gardens, off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Unlike Rowling, I’m not a writer of fiction, and my pontificating days are mostly over; if I have any profound thoughts, I’ll post them elsewhere. Still, I love traveling, whether it’s a cross-country journey or a day trip to pick blueberries in the mountains. Although I am an uneducated amateur, I also enjoy taking pictures. Rather than cluttering up my Facebook page with another photo album that few will ever view (thanks, Dad!), I will try to chronicle the occasional outing here, to capture the experience for others besides myself.

P1060797

Flowers by a fountain at Fearrington House

I don’t plan to post regularly. For that reason, I am unlikely to continue with the Blogging 101 assignments: today I began to contemplate what a month of blogging assignments might do to my daily schedule. Besides managing a home, I am homeschooling a young lad (I should be giving him a piano lesson at this moment). But I’m here, and this first challenge has helped me figure out why.