Today’s blog is about our trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, in The Great Smoky Mountains, to reach the highest point. That means you are going to learn more than you probably want to about this parkway and mountains.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was the first national parkway to be conceived, designed, and constructed for a leisure-type driving experience. It connects The Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Running from Skyline Drive, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina, it is the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States.
Begun during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the project was originally called the Appalachian Scenic Highway. Work began on September 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina. On June 30, 1936, Congress formally authorized the project as the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Parkway meanders for 469 miles of which we drove 73 miles today. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The road is carried across streams, railway ravines and cross roads by 168 bridges, 26 tunnels and six viaducts. Elevation ranges from 649 feet at James River in Virginia to 6,053 feet, the highest point on the parkway, at Richland Balsam in North Carolina, which is here:
I was able to stand on the tippy top of the mountain.
The mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina are blanketed with a smoky haze that gives the region an almost magical quality. The Smoky Mountains are home to millions of trees, bushes, and other plants. The atmosphere is filled with finely dispersed droplets of oil, which, in combination with dust particles and water vapor scatter short-wave length rays of light which are predominantly blue in color. The blue light that is scattered from the sky is between you and the mountains causing the mountains to look blue.
When European settlers arrived in the early 1800s, they took inspiration from the Cherokee language when they named these mountains The Great Smoky Mountains.
Tidbit of Information: You will notice there is no “e” in Smoky. Now you can call them the Smokey Mountains, as do many of the locals, especially here in North Carolina, but the more prevalent Tennessee spelling is “Smoky” and that was chosen as the official adjective of the park. Perhaps it was a cost saving measure. The elimination of all of those “E’s” over all those years must have saved a small fortune on signage and printing costs. I mean, that could be millions of “E’s” saved over all of the years since the park was dedicated. And when you think about it, it’s not smoke at all. It’s mist, or fog, or ozone and other greenhouse gases being emitted from the foliage. But the Cherokee named the range Shaconage which roughly translates to the place of blue smoke. (Richard Weisser).