Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunday Hike On the Parkway

Another beautiful Sunday! Not 68 degrees this weekend, only 45 - but definitely too nice to stay indoors. Lucky thinks that any sunny day above 32 degrees is a great day for a hike.

Last Sunday, we chose the low elevation trail to Lake Powhatan, following a stream. This time we decided to head up. The Blue Ridge Parkway is almost in our backyard (lucky us!), and during the winter, sections of it are often closed due to snow/ice. With the recent warm weather, the problematic snow and ice are relegated to the highest elevations, but the Parkway is closed at Ox Creek. This makes for a lovely vehicle-free hike right on the Parkway itself.

The dogs thought this was awesome. It's not every day you get to walk down the middle of the road! You have to keep an eye on Lucky though. He seems to believe that the most interesting smells are the ones just out of reach, over the side of the mountain. It's easy to get distracted taking photos or examining some interesting rock only to look over and...

ACCCCK!! "Lucky! Get back here!"

"But I just need to go one more inch...."
Maybe Lucky was a mountain goat in his previous life. Thankfully he didn't plummet over the edge, and we continued our journey. Walking is such an interesting way to experience the parkway. You notice all sorts of things that you miss when driving. Like trees growing out of solid rock, water trickling down from somewhere high above to nourish their tenacious roots. I was struck by the beauty and silence of the winter woods.

We weren't the only ones with this good idea. Occasionally the silence was broken by Lance Armstrong whizzing by (is it just me, or do all cyclists in colorful spandex look like professional racers?) or fellow hikers with their dogs. Even before catching sight of anyone else, it was obvious that others had passed this way before us. Lady and Lucky soaked up each and every scent.

And then we came to the Tanbark Ridge Tunnel. The trail alongside this entrance heads up to the ruins of Rattlesnake Lodge, an interesting place to explore in and of itself. But today we're heading north on the Parkway, which means through the tunnel.

I have never walked through any of the tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so this was a first. It was fascinating, and fun, and creepy all at the same time! It was dark inside. VERY dark.

I did not think about the Planet Earth show I watched this weekend on caves, the one about the three million wrinkle-lipped bats that deposit guano in enormous mounds that provide habitat for hundreds of thousands of cockroaches. No, I did not think about that.

Okay, almost through, good... whew!

With a little more climbing we arrived at the Bull Creek Valley overlook, a great spot to rest and check out the surrounding countryside.

The marker in the photo above says that the last buffalo seen in this locality was killed in 1799 by Joseph Rice, an early settler. Way to go, Joe.

Time to turn around and head back. The days are getting longer, but once that sun slips behind the mountain it gets pretty dark out here.

Twilight comes to the mountains and we say goodbye to a lovely day. 
Time to go home and watch the Superbowl!


  1. How fun to be able to walk the Parkway. You must have felt like you were Queen of the Mountain.

    The dark tunnel looks spooky. Glad you had Lucky and Lucy with you. Just imagine if Joe hadn't killed the buffalo. One might be waiting for you at the other end of the tunnel.

  2. Wow that's amazing, I would have loved to be there too! We have only been on the northern portion, Skyline Drive, but it was so incredibly beautiful.

  3. Sure is purrty. Did you scream in the tunnel so you can hear an echo?
    Benny & Lily

  4. Great pics and how fun to have the road car-free!

  5. My pack is very jealous! Well, except for my Beagle, Libby. She'd prefer the couch to an adventure any day!

  6. I LOVE that picture of the tree trunks and the misty blue-green background. Awesome!

  7. Fun photo-essay! Sounds like a delightful hike, although 'fess up . . . didn't it feel more than a bit strange to be walking in the middle of the paved road? :-) I loved the next-to-the-last photo of Lady on the road, the sun setting, the shadows contrasting . . .

  8. Thanks everyone, for "coming along" on our Sunday hike via the blogosphere.

    Sam at My Carolina Kitchen - I keep this blog centered on the furry kids, so typically don't write of human family and friends, but don't you worry, I wasn't alone on the hike. I'm not usually a scaredy cat, but theres no way I would've gone into that tunnel alone!! Buffalo or no buffalo! :)

    Deborah - I've always wanted to visit the Skyline Drive portion of the Parkway but haven't yet. Some day...

    Benny & Lily - Yes! and it was so much fun. We screamed, whooped, and hollered "Helloooooo!" You should have heard the echos! Maybe that's what scared away the bats and cockroaches?

    Heather - Sometimes a photo "captures" what I'm experiencing and sometimes it doesn't. That one really captured the feel of the woods - I was thrilled. I'd love to have it on my wall at home, although I'm not sure how it will hold up to enlarging. I need one of those 12 megapixel cameras!

    Darla - It took a good 5-10 minutes to stop listening for cars coming. It was hard to overcome that instinct to stick to the shoulder of the road. But eventually you realize you've got the whole road to yourself! And yes, next to the photo of the winter woods, that one of Lady in the setting sun is my favorite. Another one I'd love to enlarge.