Cathy and I drive the northern half of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We have been curious about the Parkway and we decide to spend an extra day exploring on our drive from Hilton Head, South Carolina to home in Toronto, Canada. We start at Fancy Gap, Virginia and head north on a rainy and foggy day.
The Parkway is limited to cars/bikes/hikers with no commercial traffic, and stretches some 450 miles to connect Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenendoah National Park. Maximum speed limits are 45 mph and apparently the Parkway can get crowded, however on our day we saw only a handful of cars. The build started in the mid 1930’s and there is lots of evidence of the Civilian Conservation Core at work building beautiful rock bridges, trails and picnic tables.
A highlight for us is Mowbray’s Mill. The grist and saw mills are authentic, and the mill master tells us though the water wheel is currently frozen in position, that a repair is underway. Once done, he will be able to continue with live demonstrations. He did not commit to firing up the still.
Another thing of note is that there is a lengthy detour around some rock falls on the northern end near Roanoke. Once off the Parkway, we debated whether to detour back for the final section. It is worth it, with some cool ridge driving with steep fall offs on either side of the road, made especially exciting by, at times, no visibility due to fog.
A shout-out to Armstrong’s Restaurant in Verona, Virginia. This restaurant is near where we stayed in Hillside the night before driving the Parkway. It is very local with amazing prices. The hamburger steak and the fried catfish are both very good home style food.