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It was 20 F when I got up, but by the time Don Patterson and I had had a good breakfast at the cafe in Busick, NC, the temperature was in the high 20s. The day was clear and crisp as I climbed the hill on NC 80 to reach the Parkway. When I reached the Parkway, which is less than a mile from Busic, I stopped to look back at the Black Mountains framed by a rock bridge where the Parkway crosses 80. There were small icicles hanging from the bridge
I was soon to see much larger icicles at the entrance to the first of the twin tunnels. The ice patch at the entrance to that tunnel was ten feet wide and so slick that I had a hard time walking my bike across it. I finally made it across by walking on the bumpier ice right under the iciciles. Fortunately, this was the worst ice I encountered on this ride.
It is about 11 miles from where 80 crosses the Parkway to NC 128, the road up Mt Mitchell. It is, as the sign shows, five miles further up 128 to the top of Mt Mitchell. In the 11 miles to 128, there is about two miles of downhill. NC 80 starts at about 3300 feet at 80 and climbs to 4800 feet at Rough ridge before descending a bit over 500 feet in two miles and then climbing another 1000 feet to 128. That means there is about 3500 feet of climbing in nine miles of uphill - a grade of nearly 7%. this is one of the steepest sections of the Parkway. There is another 1200 feet of climbing, with 700 feet of descending in several hills, between 128 and Craggy Gardens. After Craggy, there is 10 miles for almost pure downhill. Then there are a few small climbs and some more downhill going into Asheville.
Here is the view looking south from the Parkway between the Twin Tunnels and Rough Ridge. And here is the Rough Ridge tunnel - the colors of the rocks were quite beautiful. By the time I reached Rough Ridge, I was warm enough that I had removed my vest and opened the zipper part way on my long sleeved jersey. Climbing a few thousand feet really warms me up! tunnel4.jpg
The high point on this part of the Parkway is marked by a fire tower. As you can see from the picture, things go downhill from here. Well, they go down about 500 feet before climbing back up another thousand feet. I didn't put my vest back on for the 40 mph descent, so I was a bit chilled by the time I started the next climb. I didn't stay chilled long!
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The view once I came around the corner below the firetower, was dominated by the Black Mountains. The climb up to 128 is long, but the view in the winter makes up for it. Actually the view in the winter is the only great view these days. Smog now ruins the view from spring through fall, but winter days are still mostly clear. On the second of December, I could see the haze building up in the valleys as I rode the ridges. This image shows Asheville's reservoir which is located just north of Black Mountain. I took this shot about noon. In the summer the reservoir is just visible through the murk.
Approaching NC 128 on the Parkway from the north means lots of nice views of the Black Mountains. I finally came around the south end of the Blacks and saw NC 128 heading up toward Mt Mitchell. road to the right is 128, the road to the left and in the foreground is the Parkway.

The high point on the Parkway north of Asheville is about 5750 feet. It is located a few miles past 128. This is a view of the Parkway in the southern part of Craggy Gardens taken from near that spot.
The photo above was taken just past Balsam gap, and the photo to the left was taken while climbing from Balsam gap up to Craggy Gardens. The photo above is taken looking south towards Dillingham, a beautiful small town in a beautiful valley west of the Parkway. Dillingham is only a thousand feet or so below Balsam Gap. Craggy gardens is about 600 feet above Balsam Gap and two miles 'south' on the Parkway. This is an important stretch for me because, as you can see in the picture on the left. much of it gets no sun in the winter. It is also located at about 5500 feet. This picture was taken at 1:30 PM and the section of the Parkway after that curve is completely shaded. This means that any snow and ice which falls on the roadway stays there for a long time. This part of the Parkway is usually blocked by snow from early January to late March.

Note: All images are linked to the original 1024x768 Agfa 1280 images that they were derived from.