Courtesy of Blue Ridge Parkway archives
Craggy Tunnel (MP 364.4), 1952.
The Blue Ridge Parkway means many things to many people. It’s a place where memories are made. Our readers share their own personal accounts of favorite Parkway memories …
On the morning of Oct. 6, 2008, my then 1-year old son and I drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway via the Beaverdam Road access after dropping my daughter off at pre-school. My intention was to hike the Rattlesnake Lodge trail with my son in a backpack, then drive up to Craggy Gardens and back before my daughter was ready to be picked up. The hike was great, a mid-fall morning, no one around. We reached the Rattlesnake Lodge remains, had a snack and then hiked back down. As we left, driving slowly through a tunnel just a stone’s throw from the trail we were just on, we saw several black bears having a mid-morning snack. I quickly took some pictures, feeling slightly shaken but thrilled to have witnessed such beautiful animals.
— Joe Hooten, teacher and writer, Asheville, N.C.
One summer in college I got a job working at Lake Junaluska near Waynesville. We were all working as waitresses, lifeguards, dishwashers—all the different summer jobs. It would be 9 o’clock in the evening and somebody would come down where the summer staff was living and say, “Come on, y’all want to go up to the Parkway?” You could sit up there and hear the wind. There are few places you can go to do that. The most striking thing about it to me was a place you could go and hear total silence. You can be somewhere where you are not bombarded by life.
— Anne Whisnant, Parkway historian and author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History
The hills around the Blue Ridge Parkway hold many a secluded and quiet sanctuary for me. Yet Humpback Rock, a tourist attraction 5.8 miles south of the Interstate 64 entrance in Virginia, is a special place for me.
I had been making the short, albeit daunting, trek to the top of the greenstone outcrop for several years. The struggle to reach the peak never fully abated with time, but the investment was always generously returned by way of the spectacular vista. The Shenandoah Valley sprawled to my left, central Virginia gracefully rolled away to my right. One not-so-lazy August afternoon, I not so randomly decided to make the journey again with my then-girlfriend. It was a difficult climb. She fretted about the heat and lamented her choice of footwear.
“Well, honey, we can turn around, but the reward for sticking through to the end is always well worth it,” I said.
We reached the summit and took a seat to admire the dazzling display, the sun and the Shenandoah Mountains about to become one.
“Is that a red-tail hawk?” I asked in a voice riddled with nerves. I know her casual glance in the direction I indicated was simply to humor me. She looked, I shuffled, and as she turned back to face me, I asked her to marry me.
— Michael Hoovler, systems administrator, Standardsville, Va.
After my divorce, I was contemplating selling my architecture business and buying a new home. Historically, when times got tough, I’d get on my motorcycle and take a good long ride to clear my head. This time I decided to take a really long ride, and attack one of the holy grails of motorcycledom, the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I set out on the trip from Boston in late May with the goal to ride the Parkway’s entire length. Along the way from the Parkway’s entrance on Skyline Drive to mile marker 1, the scenery, the people, the whole experience of being alone, and pushing farther and farther away from where I had come from became increasingly intoxicating.
A few days after I got back from my trip, I sat in my office conference room talking with my marketing consultant, a wise older woman who had known me for 20 years. I gushed about my ride, recounting every twist and turn, and especially about the experience I had at the Snowstand Mountain Lodge, where I got to sit in on an annual acoustic music jam. When the conversation eventually turned to work, my friend held up her hand. “Peter, as your friend, I have to tell you something,” she said. “As you talked about your trip, your eyes were sparkling and you radiated happiness. When we started talking about work, your shoulders slumped, and your whole countenance drooped. It’s time to go, it’s time to move on.” Five years later, I now live in the Blue Ridge Mountains’ shadow just north of Charlottesville, VA in a restored 19th century farmhouse, and am just completing a studio and motorcycle barn.
— Peter LaBau, architect/designer and author, Charlottesville, Va.
My husband and I met through a conference for the local Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition back in 1999. He worked at SAFC, and I was hired to run their conference and celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Weeks Act, the federal law allowing the creation of national forests. Part of the conference display included these informational panels about three turn-of-the-century visionaries and conservationists: Horace Kephart, Jeter Pritchard, and Chase Ambler. My husband and I had some of our first conversations hanging those panels together. When we began dating shortly thereafter, one of our early dates was a trip up to explore the remains of Chase Ambler’s summer place, Rattlesnake Lodge, off of the Parkway. We married in 2002 and had our first son in 2006. We named him Chase.
— Elly Wells, owner of Elly Wells Marketing and Project Management, Asheville, N.C.
I met my wife on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Chateau Morrisette, we got engaged on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Explore Park, and we got married on the Blue Ridge Parkway also at Chateau Morrisette. With her living in Mount Airy, N.C., and myself in Roanoke, Va., we have conducted our three-year, long-distance romance with extensive reliance on the Parkway. My wife has related on more than one occasion that the Parkway itself was singularly responsible for the success of our relationship because of the tranquility and enjoyment that the Parkway affords relative to interstate travel. You would have no doubt of the veracity of her claim if you were aware of the multitude of short-comings and deficiencies that I exhibit.
—Gregory T. Wofford, information technology manager, Roanoke, Va.
Every Sunday growing up, my daddy would take us up on the Parkway. My daddy would say ‘OK, we get to pick a new place to picnic.’ Sometimes we would pull off at the picnic areas or at an overlook, and other times we would just picnic on the side of the road. We would eat fried chicken and drink those little tiny Coca Colas. That was the only time we got to have Coca-Cola, so we just loved picnicking on the Parkway. I got engaged on the Parkway, and I’ve asked for my ashes to be sprinkled on the Parkway. When our grandchildren come to visit, you better believe that’s where we go.
—Becky Anderson, former director of Handmade in America, Asheville, N.C.