I am 469 miles long to be precise. I am bookended in the north by Shenandoah National Park and in the south by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
To paraphrase Mick Jagger:
"Pleased to meet you, can you guess my name?"
If you guessed the Blue Ridge Parkway you win a taco.
It's called America's Favorite Road but I will refer to it as BRP from now on.
Sharp-eyed readers might recognize that picture from a blog post in late April. Yes, I am recycling it because, well, you will see shortly.
But first I had to travel 900 miles from ADK to the BRP in North Carolina.
I knocked off 300 of those miles two weeks ago. Leaving New York for the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
I stayed at a private campground for a couple of nights to do the obligatory laundry as well as cook up a batch or two of taco meat.
I had to rig up an extra tarp to stay dry while trying out my latest cooking method on some pork cutlets.
Cover for 30 minutes on low.
And you end up with something delicious that kinda looks like prawns.
Luckily it didn't taste like them.
I also finally found some peppers. Not habaneros but some jalapenos. I cut them up and tossed them into a beef batch.
So I had meals covered for a while and all my clothes were clean. I started packing up for an early departure when a fellow camper walked up and asked me if I could help him fix a small bit of damage to his trailer.
No problem. I had heavy duty duct tape.
After getting him patched up and on the road, I went to sleep for a couple of hours and hit the road at 2:20am.
I had almost 600 miles to drive.
The first five hours were spent in darkness dodging deer. Lots of deer up here. And they don't use the crosswalks.
Most of the drive after leaving the mountains was along Interstate 81. The sun finally showed itself around 7:30am, popping up over the mountain ridge that comprises Shenandoah NP.
I had driven through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and into Virginia. Only another seven hours to my destination in North Carolina.
Oh, and you are right thinking that the photo above is not level. I had rolled down my window to take the pic and the wind almost tore my camera from my grasp. I could have straightened it in Photoshop but I felt it accurately reflected my state of mind at the time. Not on an even keel.
But you can trick your mind. Once the sun came up it conveniently forgot about the previous five hours on the road in the dark and thought we were just starting out. So I felt refreshed. That might only be the case for Gemini's however.
Anyway, after leaving I81 and passing through Galax, VA, I finally entered the BRP.
With another recycled photo.
Because this is what awaited me as I climbed back into the mountains.
I could not see hardly anything, driving the last 20 miles at a white-knuckled 20mph. Along the tops of mountains.
The following morning was clear, and I fortified myself with a taco breakfast.
I also discovered that I had indeed found the correct campground, Doughton Park.
Below the campground's name it said "Not Open For Crazy Canadians" but I quickly covered that up.
There are 135 sites here in three loops.
Loop A is on the east side of the BRP and it's 25 sites are for RV's only, which includes trailers. B and C are on the west side.
4, 5, and 16 were good sites.
Loop B is for tents or small trailers. Mostly walk-in. I liked 8, 44, and 45.
Loop C is for tents only. It was closed and might be for next year as well. I still walked it and took photos.
I stayed in A11.
With some friends.
Can't really see them too well, huh?
Well, your camera is your friend. That little button you never use with the +/- on it is for exposure compensation. I ratcheted it up two stops and got a clearer view.
Yes it blows out the highlights but so what. They are not the point of interest. My point of interest was learning not to hang anything from the lantern hook.
There is also a small store and restaurant that were closed at the time of my visit.
And be aware that there are no showers along the BRP except at Mount Pisgah. I went two weeks with just one shower sandwiched in the middle.
Speaking of sandwiches, I made a small batch before I left.
Tacos are my goto food, but a ready-made sandwich is a great quick meal. I keep them in the cooler. In case of rain. Which has happened 80% of the time on this trip.
Anyway, I continued south on the BRP.
More blown highlights. Too much contrast in the photos.
I headed off the BRP briefly to gas up at the quaint town of Blowing Rock.
Every picture tells a story. This one says it all. I like it.
Wound up at Julian Price.
There are 197 sites here spread out in a bunch of loops but only Loop A is next to the only lake on the BRP, aptly named Price Lake. And most of the sites there will only fit tents.
Yep, the leaves are just starting to change colors.
So on the A Loop, 9 and 10 are the hot ticket.
A couple of other good ones are E5 and E6.
They get some sun. I was in E15.
Underneath a big oak tree. When the winds kicked up the acorns falling on my tarp and trailer sounded like rifle shots.
That would be oak leaves and acorns. That would have fallen on my head.
I continued on south the next day. Garnered more views.
One of the unique features of the BRP is the Linn Cove Viaduct. Brother Mike would love it.
Since there was no traffic I stopped and tied a rope to one of the stanchions and climbed down to take a peek underneath.
I climbed back up and continued on...
To the visitor center and the trail that led me to that view.
It was not the easiest trail.
And I flashed back to Giant Mutant Chicken Feet for some reason.
After a quick glance at some colorful leaves wound up at Linville Falls.
There are just 69 sites here, yet it is the one of the most popular campgrounds on the BRP.
I was taken with sites 3, 5, 15, and 47.
47 is a walk-in tent site with tons of room.
I thought about camping here, but continued on to Mount Pisgah.
(After the requisite BRP views)
There are 126 sites at this campground and with my trusty umbrella I walked them all.
I was in A4.
Other nice ones were A10, A31, C4, C17, D21, and D25.
Pisgah is the highest campground on the BRP. A tad over 5000 feet of elevation. So come prepared for the weather in the fall.
Or you could camp a few thousand feet lower at Davidson River, just 12 miles away.
This is a Forest Service campground, unlike the others on the BRP that are run by the National Park Service. I would suggest camping here in the cooler months for the leaf peeping crowd.
Why? You are just a short drive away from the BRP. There are 133 sites, 40 of which are reservable, you have access to hot showers, a cute river, and the town of Brevard is just minutes away. Oh, and there are also electric sites available. 4 on reservations, 13 first come first served.
Several movies have been filmed in this area. You older campers might remember one called "The Last of the Mohicans". The younger crowd might have heard of "The Hunger Games".
In fact, JLaw and I enjoyed a quiet lunch in Brevard talking about the next film in the trilogy. If you do not know who that is then you are part of the older camper crowd.
A few of my favorite campsites, were 4, 5, 8, 13, and 48.
But you cannot go wrong here. All the sites are large and impeccably maintained. I talked to one of the host couples and they consider this a five star campground. I agree. Put it on your list.
And like the NPS, they honor all the senior and access passes.
Oh, and the river looks like this:
Heading up to the BRP from the campground you will find the first Forestry School in the country. They have a Forest Festival Day that I just missed.
There are waterfalls and hiking trails nearby but the parking areas were full so I could not stop.
Back on the BRP. More views.
They really are blue.
Then it was through one of the many tunnels and into the number one most visited National Park in America.
(Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know that now)
There are five main campgrounds here comprising over 800 campsites. Two are in North Carolina and the others are over the mountains in Tennessee. Four of those are reservable, with the exception of Deep Creek.
My first stop was at Smokemont.
There are 142 spots here in several loops, some areas allow generators while the the others remain remarkably quiet.
I was in B37 in the quiet section.
Along with my buddy Fred, the spider.
We shared a scrumptious taco dinner before walking the campground the following day.
The top taco was for Fred.
And he finished it up with the help of, oh, about 19 friends.
I keep tossing his tagalong buddies out of my trailer. Constantly. Don't know how they keep getting in uninvited. They must have a key.
Back to the campground. It is bisected by a small creek called Bradley Fork.
On the west side is the rv loop.
All back in sites, but many on the water, like F34 and F46.
D Loop has mostly pull-through sites like number 32.
A6, B6, and B13 were some of my other favorites.
To get to Deep Creek you have to exit the park, pass through Cherokee, and don't follow your GPS like I did. For a fun day trip.
It will take you along a dirt road that is not suitable for trailers or RV's. Trust me. Better to head to the town of Bryson and enter along a paved road.
Bears. I have met all three species that reside in the lower 48. Browns in California, Grizzlies in Montana, and an up close experience with a Black Bear in ADK. Hey, that Black was after my taco meat. Was not gonna happen. He's lucky I let him off with a warning.
There are 92 sites here split about equally between tents and RV's.
Bring a tent because they are the sites along Deep Creek, which is popular for rafting on inner tubes or any other blow-up device.
1, 15, and 42 are good sites alongside the creek.
Off the river sites I liked were 81, 821, and 86. Especially 82 because of the car.
I left Smokemont the next morning and crossed the Smoky's into Tennessee.
I had figured on stopping at Clingman's Dome, the highest spot in the park.
Wasn't gonna happen.
Pouring rain and low cloud cover.
I still snapped a pic.
Definitely looks smoky. Or just wet.
Elkmont is the largest campground in the GSMNP. (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)
217 sites by my count.
And a store. That is only open from 4pm-6pm. At least at this time of the year.
One particular tent site really caught my attention. So much so that I hung from underneath a bridge to get a good view.
That would be site B2 in Elkmont. GSMNP. It doesn't get any better.
I was in site B19.
Other favorite sites were A14, B2, B10, and D1.
The main visitor center is just a few miles away. Sugarland.
I passed that on my way to visit Cosby for day trip, another GSMNP campground.
But first I had to pass through the tourist town of Gatlinburg.
Gatlinburg is about a mile from the west entrance to GSMNP.
And being a tourist town, the street was festooned with all the shops and restaurants that one could want. Except me. Only one caught my eye.
But the barrel I threw in my car turned out to be empty, just a prop. Such a tease.
So Cosby it was, a 60 mile round trip to check out the 157 campsites.
If you do not mind being 20 miles from Gatlinburg and enjoy some peace and quiet, this is the campground for you.
Except for site 29.
The rest are good and I will have a face to face talk with that bear.
Which I did and now can show you my picks.
(He was a tough one but succumbed to reason and paw twist)
A20, B75, B88, and B93 are good spots. But they are all good here.
I headed back to my site at Elkmont, only to find that stick bugs had taken it over.
On my water jug.
And my trailer.
19 miles away from Ellkmont is Cades Cove. I am thinking south but my sense of direction has gone goofy.
164 sites in a cove. A cove up here in the mountains means a meadow.
It was all of that.
Great sites included A1, B37, B60, C46.
Love those colors in B37! The leaves are just starting to turn.
So what did I do?
I left of course,
Drove another 300 miles to a spot southwest of Nashville. Just to wash clothes and shower. For the second time time in 14 days.
It was a fun drive.
But it did get better. Kinda.
Ended up on another parkway.
But that story is for the next post.
Regards, Park Ranger