Winter Vistas on the Blue Ridge Parkway

These images were created from digital photographs taken in late February,2000 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Mount Mitchell. I created the panoramas using Photovista, a program that 'splices' digital images together, so that I could do a better job of showing you what the Parkway really looks like in the winter.
Parkway from Mt Mitchell

The Parkway climbing towards Green Knob, as seen from Mt Mitchell

Green Knob, which is at the right hand side of this image, has a Fire Tower, just visible as the white dot at the top of the powerline cut running up the side, on its top. In the saddle just to the left of Green Knob, you can see an overlook area which gives an excellent view of the Black Mountains. The panorama below is the Black Mountains as seen from an overlook north of Green Knob, I think the one nearest the left edge of the shot above.

Black Moutains from Overlook

Mt Mitchell from overlookGreen Knob Fire Tower The shot on the right, taken in December from that overlook, shows Mt Mitchell as seen from the Parkway near Green Knob. Note the elevations. The shot on the left shows the Green Knob fire tower from the Parkway. After Green Knob, the Parkway drops down into a valley at 4200 feet before climbing back up to 5200 feet where a road, NC 128, heads off up Mt Mitchell. Towards the left side of the first panorama above, you can see the several sections of the Parkway as it climbs toward Green Knob. That climb starts at about 3000 feet

After 128, the Parkway climbs to about 5750 feet, this is the highest point on the Parkway north of Asheville, before descending to Balsam Gap and then climbing once more to Craggy gardens at near 5700 feet. Here is a shot of North Fork Reservoir, taken in December 1999, from near the highest point on the Parkway.

North Fork Reservior
In February, I did a panorama that includes that same reservoir as seen from just north of the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. Note the slightly rolled up Rohdodenron leaves. These leaves are a good thermometer - this degree of roll means it is fairly warm - about 40F. When it is well below freezing those leaves are rolled so tightly that they look like green pencils!
North Fork Vista
After Craggy, the Parkway does a long downhill; almost ten miles with only one short uphill. This panorama of the Parkway from the Parkway shows one of my favorite views. On a clear day (unheard of now except in the winter!) you can see a long way through Potato Field Gap (that is the name - one of my favorite mountains is named Potato Knob!). Note that the Parkway is fairly level at Potato Gap - I ride about about 12 mph heading north and 25 mph heading south.
Potato Gap
The road to Craggy Gardens Picnic area leaves the Parkway just north of Potato Gap. Here is a panorama showing both the north and south parts of the Parkway at that road. It also shows my bike leaning against an empty sign post. When the Parkway is open, there is a sign there for the picnic area.
Parkway from Craggy Picnic area
The Rock This section of the Parkway, from Bull Gap near Asheville to 128, the road up Mt Mitchell, is usually closed from January through March. In a normal winter there would be some snow in this picture and I wouldn't be able to ride much north of Craggy because that part of the Parkway would be covered with snow and ice. It was covered a few weeks ago, but the warm weather since then has melted almost all of the ice and snow. This section if the Parkway will, despite the warm weather, still be closed for a while: check out that rock sitting in the middle of the Parkway between mileposts 372 and 373! Rock pieces, some of them pretty big, fall on the Parkway in the winter as a result of water freezing and thawing, but this rock is the biggest single rock I've seen on the road. I think it will be a while before the Park Service can remove it, repair the road, and open the Parkway. Of course, as a bicyclist, I like having the Parkway closed. Riding on the closed Parkway is much like hiking in the back country. Peaceful, solitary, quiet, and requiring some caution since, if I have an accident, no one is likely to come along and help me anytime soon.
I once rode up Mt Mitchell in a more typical March where there was still snow and ice covering the Parkway, but only in fairly short stretches. I had to dismount and carry or roll my bike across half a dozen patches of snow and ice, but for some reason, I decided to ride across the last one. Dumb. Water covered ice is very slippery! So I fell down. No big deal at 10 mph. Then I got up and decided to pick my bike up while standing on water covered ice. Even dumber! I still remember the popping sounds my knees made as my feet slid out to the sides of my body. Knees weren't make to bend that way, and, as I fell, I realized that I was five miles or more from the nearest human being on a closed road. If I couldn't walk or ride, it was going to be a very long crawl! That was a scary thought. Fortunately, although I had a hard time walking, I could ride OK. I rode on up to the top of Mt Mitchell and back home again that day, but I've been a bit more cautious while riding the closed Parkway since that experience.